"A word on the spot is worth a cartload of recollections"
James Maggs, Southwold diarist 1797-1890

Monday, 20 December 2010

Penshurst Place

On Sunday I took a train down to Leigh, in Kent, and set off to walk through the snow to Penshurst. The walk takes you up a short hill and onto a ridge with views into a valley to the south. Soon a great house comes into sight, lying in the valley surrounded by fields and low hills.

I'm not a great frequentor of stately homes but the old house at Penshurst is fascinating. Parts of the house are medieval, but it was extended in the time of Elizabeth I. Other parts were added later but the house retains its ancient character. The great hall (below) was built in 1341 and is completely unaltered.

In the grounds is an old oak tree. Ben Jonson claimed that it was planted at the time of the birth (in the house) of Philip Sidney, the Elizabethan poet, in 1554. The tree is now known to be much older - nearly a thousand years old. It may have been a sapling at the time of the Norman invasion of Britain in 1066. Certainly the oak was already at least a century old when the original house was being built in the twelfth century.

Here's a short video I took on my walk:

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