Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sissinghurst Castle

Tuesday I went on an AWC bus trip to Sissinghurst Castle in Kent.  It's not technically a castle, but there's been an estate on this site since at least 1235, when it was owned by John de Saxingherste, a pig farmer, which is where the name originated.  The 'castle' was built around 1550 by Sir John Baker, and was visited by Queen Elizabeth I for 3 days in 1573.  It remained in the Baker family for many generations until it fell into ruin.  It was used as a prison for French soldiers during the Seven Years War (1756-1763) and was destroyed around 1763.
People don't visit Sissinghurst to see what's left of the 'castle' -- just a few outbuildings and a tower -- but for its famous gardens.  The decaying estate was purchased by Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicolson, both of whom were writers as well as avid gardeners.  They restored some of the buildings, but put most of their energy into the gardens, with magnificent results.  Sissinghurst was donated to the National Trust by their son in 1967, although members of the family still reside on the estate.

The weather was cool and grey and threatening to rain, but we were still excited to tour the estate and see one of England's most famous gardens.
What's left of the original house
Our guide tells us about the estate's role as a prison
Portrait of Vita in the Library

It's still a working farm, with sheep and a vegetable garden
The Tower
View from tower of the Granary and Oast Houses (and cafe & gift shop)
View from the tower of the Cottage Garden
View from the tower of the White Garden

Lime Walk

Cottage Garden
Moat Walk
Herb Garden

Nancy and I were asked to pose for a photo in our
colorful raincoats.  She's a bit taller than me...
Oast Houses, for drying hops
A model of what the original house looked like.  Now only the long
building on the right and the tower remain.
Vita and Harold had an interesting relationship.  They were both bisexual and had an open marriage, but were devoted to one another and had two sons.  Vita famously had a relationship with Virginia Woolf, and a small exhibit in the oast house contains a printing press that once belonged to her.
Virginia Woolf's printing press
The sun finally made an appearance on our way home, illuminating the yellow fields of rapeseed flowers on either side of the road.  (Rapeseed is used to make rapeseed oil -- or as we know it, Canola oil.)
Rapeseed fields
A lovely end to a lovely day!


  1. I went to Sissinghurst a decade ago and thought it so pretty. Looks like everyone had a great time!

  2. Lovely photos. Thanks for sharing them.


To prevent spam and other inappropriate messages, all comments are moderated before being posted.