Lullingstone Castle is one of England's oldest family estates, dating back to the time of Domesday.
The Manor House was built in 1497 and has belonged to the Hart Dyke family back then until today, and it is very much a family home. It is set within 120 acres of parkland, through which the River Darent runs. The grounds were used in the past as a deer park when the castle was a hunting lodge but are now part of the Lullingstone Country Park. The parkland also contains an 18th-century icehouse with Queen Anne’s bathhouse hidden within.
Lullingstone hosted Henry VIII and Queen Anne as regular guests. Henry VIII was close friends with Sir John Peche, who built the Castle and Gatehouse and was Henry VII’s champion jouster. The interior of the house was designed with Peche’s jousting colours: russet, gold and off-white, in mind. Although restorations have been made, the Hart Dykes tried to stay true to Peche’s original style to keep the family connection. However, the distinctive features of the state rooms, such as the wood pannelling, were added especially for Queen Anne’s visits, and she has her own bedroom in the castle.
The current owner, Tom Hart Dyke, the 20th generation of this family to live at Lullingstone, is a keen collector and enthusiast of plants and has cultivated the World Garden on the estate. The World Garden includes plants from across the continents organised by their place of origin. Hart Dyke has travelled the world in pursuit of these plants, risking his life at times; for example when he was kidnapped in Panama on an expedition for plants in 2000. But this did not stop him. And the garden continues to expand to this day.