See also Godinton Gardens
Godinton House has existed for 600 years. In all that time it has seen only two major ownership changes. The house has been added to and changed over the centuries while at the same time retaining many original features. Part of the foundation is a mix of Roman and medieval brickwork.
The gabled house, constructed of mellow brickwork, is set off by a surrounding yew hedge. The north front dates mainly from medieval times and was built in the 14th century as a hall by the de Godynton family. It was constructed of timber with an open two-bay hall and two bays of a two storey cross wing on the east side. The central hearth required smoke louvers in the roof. The roof and its chestnut tie beam and crown post are still in place. Of particular note in the interior of the house are the carved panelling, the collection of furniture and paintings, and the porcelain.
By 1539 the house had expanded to include a parlour, new parlour, chamber within the parlour, and a great chamber. The house gradually became a quadrangle with a central court. This still survives along with some half-timbering. The greatest change occurred in the 17th century under the owner Captain Nicholas Toke (1588-1680).
Four shaped and stepped gables were added to give the mansion a grand appearance. Extras such as bow windows and fine lead rainwater hoppers embellished the house still further. The court was reduced in size when Toke stole from it to add the chestnut wood great staircase, considered to be one of the most elaborate carved staircases in southern England. In the great hall Toke added a plaster ceiling set between wooden ribs. He installed the carved chimney piece in the First Library, dated 1631. The elaborate carved piece is complimented with a slate surround.
Further changes didnít occur until 90 years later under John Toke (1738-1819). He purchased property on the edge of the estate and also altered the north front of the house, adding a porch. He refronted the south front and added sash windows. The dining room was changed into a Georgian style room. As High Sheriff of Kent he would have needed to entertain in the style of the day. Johnís son, Nicholas, was enamoured with the romantic style and enriched the house with carved work, panelling, and an elaborate 17th century fireplace in the great hall.
The house changed hands a number of times and not much was done until 1896 when a new owner G. Dodd had work done on the gardens and interior. He changed the school room into the white drawing room done in the Queen Anne style. He also created the china room, now the gallery room, and added a new wing to the west end of the house in 1897.
A tour of the house takes in the following rooms and some of their highlights:
Entrance passage: watercolours on view as well as portraits.
Dining room: late Georgian design, Geirge III and Regency pieces; mahogany William IV dining table; Regency lamps; Grainger dessert service of 1815; portraits.
Great Hall: late 14th century tie beam and crown post, carved chimneypiece, marble fire surround, 17th century furniture, Jacobean oak chests, long-case clock, family portraits.
Parlour or priestís room: ecclesiastical nature of some fittings, not its use, reflected in the name; Queen Anne walnut cabinet with Charles Vyse figurines.
Gallery room: 18th century needlework pictures, Abusson carpet, furniture collection, French gilt ormulo clock; Sevres porcelain.
Great Chamber: most original interior; carved chimney-piece and friezes of 1632-1638; Queen Anne cabinet; 1750 clock; George III pianoforte; 18th century porcelain; portraits.
Mr Wyndhamís green bedroom: Regency style gentlemanís bedroom, 1815 four poster bed.
Staircase and landing: one of the highlights of Godintonís interior; dates from 1628; stained glass is 16th century Flemish and 15th century English; 1690 Dutch wall lights.
First library: 1631 chimney-piece and carved friezes; Dutch marquetry furniture; Delft jars.
Inner or second library: books on house history; Sheraton style display cabinet of 1890 contains Worcester porcelain.
Chinese room or garden hall: made in 1920 from a breakfast room in order to display Chinese collection; hand painted Chinese wallpaper; lacquer furniture in Chinese Chippendale style; Chinese bowls.
White drawing room: 1896 Queen Anne style with white painted panels; Rockingham vases; watercolours; pie crust Chippendale table; early Worcester porcelain; inlaid Italian commode
This is one of the most interesting and fascinating houses in southern England. Itís one of our favourites. Be sure to visit when it and the gardens are both open.
Godinton House and Gardens
Near the village of Pluckley on Godinton Lane, Ashford, Kent
Tel. 0 1233 620 773
Open: gardens, March-end Oct, daily, 2-5.30pm; house, April-first week Oct, Fri-Sun And BH, 2-5.30pm, last house tour at 4.30pm; tea-room same as house
Tea-room; picnic area; parking
Website: Godinton House and Gardens
Insider Tip: Godinton is one of the most interesting houses in southern England. Be sure to visit when it and the gardens are both open. Allow time for a visit to Great Chart church in the village. It dates from the 15th century and has stained glass from the same date.
Photos © by Barbara Ballard and courtesy Godinton House
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