Ightham Court is a Grade II* Listed Building

only 5% of buildings in the United Kingdom are registered under this grading.

Ightham Court is located approximately 8km to the east of Sevenoaks on the north side of the A25. It is a small manor house with gardens and woodland with some features surviving from the layout dating between late 17th Century or early 18th Century.
Ightham Court's land occupies a rural location surrounded by both farmland and woodland.

History of ightham court

Ightham Court was previously known as Court Lodge. The Manor of Ightham centred on Ightham Court and was held by Hamo de Crevequer and remained in the family until 1302. The medieval manor house is thought to have been situated close to the present Ightham Court, possibly at the moated site in the Wilderness Woodland, just north of the present house (TQ 55 NE 11). The current house was built by the Willoughby family in the mid 16th Century, either by Sir Thomas Willoughby, who was Chief Justice of the Common Pleas in 1538, or his son Robert.

Around the 17th Century or at the start of the 18th Century, a formal, structured garden was created. Thanks to Johannes Kip, we have a copper engraving published in 1728 showing the main house facing west to Fen Pond Road behind a small walled garden and a circular carriage drive. The house is next to some stables and barns to the south. There is also a walled kitchen gardens to the north. The engraving also depicts formal gardens with a circular pond and fountain to the east. There is a summer house at the south-east corner as well as raised terraces on the north side. To the south are additional kitchen gardens. To the north of the formal garden there is a large wooded area which was known as The Wilderness (sometimes Court Lodge was also referred to as the Wilderness). According to the fashion of the time, it was usual for these wildernesses to be viewed as areas of contemplation. It is not surprising then that there is an island with a moat and extensive fish ponds. Behind the formal gardens of the house there is an L-shaped area of ornamental trees, most likely an orchard. The area behind this is surrounded by further fields and woodland to the south and east.

Ightham Court historical ownership

Dutch James Family Tree

Robert Willoughby sold the property to William James, the third son of a Roger James(Roger Jacobs) of London, and being of Dutch parentage, who came to England in the latter end of the reign of King Henry VII. He was a descendant of Jacob Van Hastrecht of the Netherlands and by 1600, the house stayed in the ownership of that family for over 300 years. The original coat of arms of this family of Haestrecht was, Argent, two bars crenelle, gules, in chief three pheons sable; which arms, without the pheons, are borne by the several branches of James, quartered with, Argent, a chevron between three fer de molins transverse, sable.

He was about 30 years old and his young wife Jane, was the only daughter and heiress of Henry Kule, a wealthy merchant of Bremen, Germany. William the II was born soon after their arrival to Ightham, followed by another 5 children. In 1611, he and his brothers were granted arms by James I: argent a chevron between three mill rinds traverse sable, crest a garb, argent banded vert. At Ightham Church, the Jacobean box pews were erected by William James for his family and the recent arms acquired are repeated as part of the motif carving for decoration purposes. Ightham Church still has the silver chalice which he presented to the church hallmarked, "London 1616" and an inscription in Latin as his gift.  

According to Edward Hasted who wrote "The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent", Volume V, (1798), Wiliam I's successor, Sir William James II, sequestered loyalist estates during Cromwell's interregnum and was three times a Knight for Kent. He was succeeded by Sir Demetrius James, born around 1629 (who died in 1678), and his son William James III was elected Sheriff of Kent in 1732.

William James III, married well and brought royal blood into the family. In 1697 he married Anne, daughter and heiress of Sir Thomas Wyndham of Trent, Somerset. She traced her descent from Thomas Plantagenet, fifth son of Edward I, by his second wife, Margaret, daughter of King Philip III of France. It is this William James who is mentioned as Lord of the Manor of Ightham in Harris' History of Kent, published in 1719 and included the illustration of Court Lodge, engraved by the Dutchman, Johannes Kip.

Harris also mentions that the large Manor of Wrotham was in the possession of the "Worthy William James" and describes the findings at the "Camps" of a large quantity of broken pieces of brass, assumed to be from old weapons or from armour; his father too stumbled upon a discovery of a hoard of British silver coins which he was allowed to keep in accordance with his rights to the treasure trove.

The house was then passed down to William James IV. He became Captain at fifty-four in command of the Bromley Company. The Regiment was put in full-time service and remained so until the War ended. It was then moved all over the area in Kent and with parades and exercises, their main duty was the guarding and maneuvering of French prisoners especially at Sissinghurst Castle. On his death in 1781, he passed his estate onto his second son, Colonel Richard James. He ordered a number of alterations to be made to the house. It is believed that this may have been carried out by the architect Samuel Wyatt (mentioned in Country Life, 26 June 1958). Although Colonel James died childless in 1807, he left Court Lodge to his first cousin once removed, Demetrius Grevis. He changed his name to Grevis-James.who was residing at Ightham, passed his estate onto his second son, Colonel Richard James. He ordered a number of alterations to be made to the house. It is believed that this may have been carried out by the architect Samuel Wyatt (mentioned in Country Life, 26 June 1958). Although Colonel James died childless in 1807, he left Court Lodge to his first cousin once removed, Demetrius Grevis. He changed his name to Grevis-James. For more information, please visit The Dutch James Family of Ightham Court.

On the Second Edition Ordnance Survey map of 1895, the property has changed from Court Lodge to the current Ightham Court. The sales particulars of 1905 for Ightham Court offer more information on the gardens. It details, "The grounds surrounding the house include extensive lawns on the west, north and east sides. One with a small pond stocked with goldfish and an aviary and machine house. Three produced walled kitchen gardens, fruit garden and orchard. Extensive glasshouses... Picturesque wilderness (with rookery) containing some remarkable timber trees including very fine specimens of oak, ash, beech, lime, chestnut etc., near the middle of this wilderness is an island surrounded by an ancient moat with a summer or tea house on it. The Moat is kept at a level by a pond close at hand, which is fed by springs and is connected to the garden by pipes feeding several cisterns and the fish pond on the lawn. Nearby is a similar Island or Tumulus surrounded by a moat now dry. There is an ash plantation growing hop poles." The total acreage surrounding the house is 95 acres, 2 rods, 28 poles. There is no change on the 1909 Ordnance Survey map.

Ightham Court changed hands from the Grevis-James family by marriage to Colonel E W Grevis Bailey. After his death in 1920, the house was sold and the estate was then divided up. In 1944, the Court was purchased by Colonel Ralph and Lady Gweneth Cavendish (mentioned in Country Life, 26 June 1958). It changed hands again in 1984, following which a major restoration programme was undertaken. The site remains (2015) in divided ownership.

Roman finds

Pottery has been found to the west of Ightham Court and also nearby an incinerary urn about 8" tall, filled with burnt bone and ashes has been dug up. It has a Samian patera stamped DIVIX I, reversed over the mouth.