Penshurst Place and Gardens
One of England's finest medieval manor houses with world class gardens
Penshurst Place and Gardens
Penshurst Place is one of the finest surviving medieval manor houses in England with an incredible garden to boot. Penshurst sits in the rolling weald of Kent, the Garden of England.
Ever wondered where the Lord Mayor of London would hang out on his days off in the 14th Century? His country retreat at Penhurst Place of course. You can still stand in the Baron's Hall, completed for the Lord Mayor in 1341. Vast webs of chestnut beams crown the ceiling of one the best-preserved medieval halls in the world.
Penshurst Place is for all the family; you can hire bikes and explore the estate and let the children have fun at the adventure playground. A great family day out is the combination of Hever Castle and Penshurst Place. The house is large and fascinating, and it feels like you are walking back in time when you enter. You can book a day tour from London or stay overnight in the region and see more on our Great Gardens of the South suggested itinerary.
Manor House fit for the Lord Mayor of London
A brief history of Penshurst Place
A grand Manor House
This magnificent house has been the Sidney family's ancestral home since 1552, and it is a treasure trove of paintings, tapestries, armoury, and artefacts. There are also 48 acres of formal gardens and parklands to explore, the miles of planted areas divided into heavenly spaces by walls of ancient yews.
Sir John Pulteney
Sir John Pulteney built an incredible house for its time. Only Archbishops and a few noblemen had anything as grand. The period was the 14th Century, and London thrived, Sir John made money buying and selling wine, wool and food for the Kings table. He worked and lived in London, but wanted a country house.
During the 1330s John built Penshurst, conveniently the house was half a days ride from London. A house built to impress and entertain on a grand scale outdoing the landed classes by a long way. John was a London merchant proving he had style and money, if not a name.
In the later middle ages, the new owners were the Dukes of Buckingham; five generations met violet deaths during the Wars-of-the-Roses. Several 'Buckingham' characters feature in Shakespeare's plays.
The 20th Century
In the 20th Century Penshurst owner William Sidney, 1st Viscount De L'Isle (1909-1991), fought in France and Italy during the WW2. William received the Victoria Cross for attacking German forces at point-blank range with a Tommy gun; it must have been quite a sight. He was shot but continued to fight on. When asked where he took the shot, his reply was always 'Italy'. The Viscount had a sense of humour as he took the bullet in the bottom.
The Philip 2nd Viscount De L'Isle also served in the army and saw action in Northern Ireland. Philip and his wife Isobel live with their family in a private wing of the house.
The Great Hall and house
All great English homes have Great Halls. They offer that wow-factor; it was usually the first room you would enter, making you look up in awe. Entertaining on a grand scale took place in such halls.
The hall at Penshurst is somewhat unique because it is original. It is beautifully constructed, using local sandstone and chestnut. There are life-sized figures carved in wood along the roofline; this level of craftsmanship required great skill. It is not surprising to learn the Kings own carpenter ran the job. The hall's dimensions are an impressive 60 ft high by 40 ft wide.
The house is a giant 'H' shape, typical of the period, with two wings connected by a vast hall. Imagine Sir John Pulteney touring his house for the first time, could he have believed that his wonderful hall and home would last into the 21st Century? By the way, King Henry VIII stayed at Penshurst while visiting Anne Boleyn at Hever Castle.
The gardens at Penshurst have changed much less than other famous gardens. Much of the grounds have not altered since the reign of Queen Elizabeth I. A mile of yew hedges and walls divide the space into garden rooms. Each so-called room has a theme, whether it be an orchard, roses, herb or parterre. Pathways connect the sections, and you are frequently surprised by colours and fragrances as you stroll.
Formed of roses and lavender the Union flag Garden makes a real impact. The Prince of Wales ceremonially opened this patriotic edition in 1984, to mark the 400th anniversary of Sir Philip Sidney's death.
Touring and accommodation
If you have a great love for gardens, you are in for a treat. Penshurst Place is a short drive to Sissinghurst Castle and Gardens, Great Dixter, Hever Castle and Scotney Castle. All different, but all held in high esteem in horticultural circles. Not forget Leeds Castle, the iconic fairytale fortress known as the Queen's Castle.
Penshurst Place is no longer a half a days ride on horseback; it only takes 1hr, 30 minutes on a driver-guided tour. Make the day a full family experience and combine Hever Castle and Penshurst Place. If you have an interest in Sir Winston Churchill, visit Chartwell and Penshurst Place.
There is a wide choice of accommodation in the around London. Manor House Hotels, Guest Houses and Britain's Finest Hotels. South Lodge Hotel and Spa in the South Downs National Park is ideal for touring this region or gardens, castles and England's Wine Country.
If this is your first time to England, we would recommend a custom version of our Town and Country Tour; it covers the famous places and allows you to utilise your private driver-guide by getting-off-the-beaten-path. Our Classic tour of Ireland is a good place to start for the first trip to Ireland, and we suggest the Classic tour of Scotland for your first trip to the bonny Highlands. Merging Wales with England makes for a dynamic experience of mountains, stately homes and cosy country pubs.
The Finest Medieval Manor House in England
Sumptuous Gardens, a Superb Great Hall and fun for the Children
- Award Winning Gardens
- England's Finest Manor House
- Historic Rooms Full of Treasures
- Children's Adventure Play Ground
- Bike Hire to Explore the Estate
The Pond and House
Penshurst Place Purple Border
Penshurst Heraldic Garden
Penshurst Gardens, the Borders
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