Scotney Castle

Has been described as a Certain Masonry Castle

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameScotney Castle
Alternative Names
Historic CountryKent
Modern AuthorityKent
1974 AuthorityKent
Civil ParishLamberhurst

Remains of castle dating to 1377 and reduced to ruins c 1840; ruins of C17 house attached. Scotney Castle was situated on an island in a lake-like moat which was separated from the River Bewl to the south by a narrow embankment. Entrance to it was from the north by a drawbridge first to another island and then by a defended bridge connecting the two islands. The castle is similar in form to Bodiam Castle - a fortified house surrounded by a large moat. The old castle itself was pulled down in the Elizabethan period and an Elizabethan House was built on the site. This again has fallen into ruins, except for a small fragment which is lived in by the bailiff. Single surviving Medieval round tower has an Elizabethan dwelling house built onto it. Much of this is roofed and furnished, but it is not occupied. Adjoining it is a completely roofless ruined area, maintained as a sort of garden feature. Base of stone curtain and trace of towers also survive but part of the circuit has a later brick wall built on top of it. (Kent HER)

Originally an irregular quandrangle castle situated on two islands which was probably constructed in 1378 by Roger de Ashburnham, Conservator of the Peace in Kent and Sussex. All that remains of the castle is a single round tower (the Ashburnham Tower) which was originally one of 4 angle towers. The emplacements of the other 3 can still be seen but the curtain wall survives only as a revetment to the surrounding wet moat. (PastScape–ref. Pettifer)

Old Scotney Castle is a good example of an earlier, medieval monument adapted as a manorial residence in the Tudor period, and as landscaped ruins in the Victorian period. Despite some disturbance by modern gardening and landscaping, it survives well. Although few of the buildings of the quadrangular castle remain upstanding, much of their original extent will survive below ground in buried form

These remains will contain archaeological and environmental evidence relating to the monument and the landscape in which it was constructed. More of the manor house remains upstanding, and one wing, a Grade I Listed Building, survives almost intact. The adaptation of the typical manor house form of the Tudor period to fit within the confines of the quadrangular castle is of architectural interest. The transformation of the old castle remains and Tudor manor house in the early Victorian period into a picturesque ruin within a landscaped garden visible from the new country house, is also of interest. It offers a good and late example of the widespread 18th and early 19th century phenomenon of Romantic Antiquarianism - the creation of an attractive, managed 'wilderness' around the focus of a deliberately ruined building.

The monument includes three adjacent islands set in a moat within a former loop of the River Bewl. On the more northerly island are the remains of a quadrangular castle built around 1377-80 for Roger Ashburnham, of which one, round, corner tower (roofed and incorporated within the 16th century wing of a manor house), sections of the curtain wall and the base of the gatehouse are still standing. These remains are Listed Grade I. The second island lies to the south west and was originally connected to the main island by a defensible bridge. This ancillary island supported stables and other service buildings, now surviving as ruins and buried remains. Nothing is recorded on the third island, apart from some recent statuary, however it is suggested that this island may be more recent. Old Scotney Castle has an unusual arrangement, because most castles of this type were constructed on a single, moated island.

The castle was extensively remodelled in the late 16th and early 17th centuries to form a stone and half-timbered manorial residence, of which the south wing survives as a roofed building and is in use as a museum. The remainder of the castle and its outbuildings on the second island were landscaped into ruins and gardens when the new Scotney Castle was built on an overlooking hillside to the north west for Edward Hussey in c.1840. At this time, parts of the manor house range were taken down in such a way as to retain features of decorative interest and to increase the romantic character of the scene. Some brick-built, garden walling survives from this phase, and the third, small island, on which a Henry Moore sculpture is now sited, may also originate from the 19th century landscaping. In recent years, the gatehouse has been rebuilt, and a modern brick buttress inserted inside the north west corner of the ruined wing of the manor house. A lean-to, one-storey store has also been built against a free-standing wall of the ruined wing. (Scheduling Report)

Gatehouse Comments

Sat within a large park and almost certainly a new build designed as a decorative stately home and hunting lodge in a designed landscape. It is highly picturesque which is exactly what the original builder intended. It may always have been intended to be viewed from above and the 'new' Scotney Castle may well stand on the site of medieval residential buildings. It was, as a matter of course, built in the high status military architectural style but not as a fortress. NB. Harvey lists Scotney castle as both in Sussex and in Kent. It is was moved to Kent with border changes sometime in the mid C19, but was originally in Sussex. Most authors will describe it as being in Kent.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law

Historic England Scheduled Monument Number
Historic England Listed Building number(s)
Images Of England
Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceTQ689352
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  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 314
  • Emery, Anthony, 2006, Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales Vol. 3 Southern England (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) p. 404-6
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  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
  • Gould, I. Chalkley, 1908, in Page, Wm (ed), VCH Kent Vol. 1 p. 431-2 online copy
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  • Eric D. Johnson, 2015, 'Moated Sites and the Production of Authority in the Eastern Weald of England' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 59 p. 233-254
  • Martin, D., Martin, B. and Clubb, J., 2012, ‘An archaeological interpretative survey of the old Castle, Scotney: part II’ Archaeologia Cantiana Vol. 132 p. 111-51 online copy
  • Martin, D., Martin, B. and Clubb, J., 2011, 'An archaeological interpretative survey of the old castle, Scotney, Lamberhurst: part 1 - the medieval period' Archaeologia Cantiana Vol. 131 p. 321-43 online copy
  • Goulding, R. and Clubb, J., 2010, 'Castle in the garden: an Architectural History of Scotney Old Castle' National Trust Houses and Collections Annual p. 4-11
  • Binney, Marcus, 2007 June 07, 'Scotney Castle' Country Life
  • McAvoy, F., 1987, 'A note on an excavation at Scotney Castle, 1986' Archaeologia Cantiana Vol. 104 p. 377–80 online copy
  • Kenyon, J.R., 1981 'Early Artillery Fortifications in England and Wales: a Preliminary Survey and Re-appraisal' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 138 p. 209
  • Hussey, C., 1956 Sept 6, Country Life Vol. 120 p. 470-3
  • Hussey, Edward, 1920, Country Life Vol. 48 p. 12-19
  • Hussey, 1902, Country Life Vol. 11 p. 688-92 (slight)
  • Hussey, Edward, 1887, 'Scotney Castle' Archaeologia Cantiana Vol. 17 p. 38-45 online copy

Guide Books

  • 1979, Scotney Castle Guide Book (National Trust)
  • Hussey, Christopher, 1957 (2edn), A History of Scotney Castle (Tunbridge Wells)
  • Hussey, Christopher, 1955, A History of Scotney Castle (Tunbridge Wells)


  • Bannister, Nicola R., 2001, Scotney Castle Estate, Historic Landscape Survey (National Trust Report)
  • English Heritage, 1994, Scheduling record: Old Scotney Castle
  • Field Archaeology Unit Institute of Archaeology, 1987, Scotney Castle, Kent: An Archaeological Survey of the Castle and its environs (unpublished document)