Family holiday 2015, Kent day 8

It is our last breakfast together… we spent last night packing and sorting and going through the fridge and freezer, checking, chucking, cleaning. Last night as we sat at dinner together, with rather depleted numbers as some had had to return home to go back to work, we reflected on what a lovely holiday it had been. We talked over places we had visited – since we go off in different groups to see different things, there were places each of us had missed, or wanted to revisit – but as we are coming to the same place again next year we shall be able to do so!

So what were my highlights? First of all being together with my lovely family – my four cousins and partners and children and grandchildren; altogether there have been twenty-five of us, a real gathering of the clan! secondly, staying in the beautiful Hoath House;

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Then the places we’ve visited, including


KENT 2015 (94)Tonbridge,

KENT 2015 (84)Lewes,

… the things we’ve done, for example…

KENT 2015 (115)…scrambled over rocks…

KENT 2015 (48)…visited castles…

KENT 2015 (13)…looked for family history…

… and enjoyed the springtime…

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Can’t wait for next year!

Family Holiday 2015, Kent day 7

The nearest village with a shop and a church to Hoath House where we’re staying, is Chiddingstone; it is apparently named after the big stone on the edge of the village, ‘the chiding stone’. Whether people were chided on it or whether Chidding is a version of the name of a Saxon clan, no-one is sure. The whole village of Chiddingstone is owned by the National Trust, except fr Chiddingstone castle.

The Streatfeild family who own Hoath House were the first owners of the castle, before it was a castle, when it was an ordinary timber-framed merchant’s house on the High Street. This was at the beginning of the sixteenth century, and as you can imagine it has changed considerably since then, and is now a grand and gracious stately home.

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The castle was eventually sold to Lord Astor, the second Viscount Astor just before the second world war, and it was sold again in 1955 to Denys Eyre Bower. (The third Viscount Astor is David Cameron’s father-in-law)

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Denys Eyre Bower was a fascinating man and he made the castle into what we see today; he was a passionate and dedicated collector of all sorts of interesting things, a selection of which are displayed in the castle, including Japanese lacquer, armour and swords; Ancient Egyptian artefacts; portraits of the Stuarts and Jacobites and Buddhist artefacts… and also barrel organs!

The castle is set in wonderful grounds and there is a lake – part of the village was diverted to make way for it when the castle was being built. There was an interesting garden laid out to reflect aspects of the Ancient Egyptian objects displayed in the castle, as well as a rose garden – we visited at the wrong time of year for that!

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Here is a link to the castle site:

Family Holiday 2015, Kent day 6

The house we stayed in this year is absolutely gorgeous; well-kept, well-appointed, lovely in every way. It’s very large but at the same time feels very homely, and I think that comes from it being a family home in the possession of the same people for hundreds of years. It must have an amazing history, but I could only find out a little of it.

Apparently, it was originally known as Batts House, and originality it was a smaller farmhouse, hundreds and hundreds of years old but was extended and refurbished about a hundred years ago. . Part of it is half-timbered, part of it is brick, and it has gables and a ‘half-hipped ended tile roof’…. not sure exactly what that is! It has beautiful leaded casement windows but thankfully for the inhabitants they are very tastefully double-glazed now! All the figments are modern and wonderful quality! As well as the leaded windows there is a lot of old panelling, dating from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and most of this was brought from Chiddingstone Castle where the family previously lived. As well as the panels, there is a wooden screen which was brought from Chiddingsone Church; it had formed part of the family pew!

KENT 2015 (147)Our bedroom was on the middle floor on the far right side. It stretched the width of the house and the en-suite bathroom was next to it, the other window you can see which is slightly open.


Family Holiday 2015, Kent day 5

As you might imagine from the fact that my last three novels have been about genealogy, and also that I write a lot of stories about my own family history, that I am interested in seeing where my family lived in the past.

Going on holiday to Kent was more about visiting my husband’s family roots as several branches of his family on both sides came from this lovely and surprisingly big county. we went on several different trips, visiting graveyards to pay our respects, going to old homes and schools, and going to places where ancestors in the distant past had lived. One of these was the village of Cowden, an old village with many wonderful and interesting buildings.

KENT 2015 (13)The church of St Mary Magdalene

We wandered about the churchyard, but there were no names which rang any bells; one famous resident who now lies here is Roger Hargreaves, author of the Mr Men books who died in 1988. We didn’t know this at the time, and didn’t see his resting place.

KENT 2015 (12)Such a pretty place!

Family Holiday 2015, Kent, day 3

Day three of our family holiday – twenty-five of us on our annual holiday together and today we all went off in different directions. The three of us went to High Rocks which is near Tunbridge Wells. We thought we had been there before and expected some impressive rock faces in some woods… well, I think we had been to a different lot of impressive rocks in a wood, because High Rocks was much, much more! Hugely impressive rocks in a beautiful natural woodland. We loved it – and as we are returning to the same place for our famhol 2016, no doubt we will go there again!

Apparently this area was covered by a massive freshwater lake millions and millions of years ago. As you might imagine sedimentary rocks were formed as a result of the layers of sand and silt laid down over time. As the shape of land masses changed, so what had been hundreds of feet below the surface of the water, rose to become hundreds of feet above sea-level.

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people have lived in this area ever since people first lived in these lands, and there is evidence here at High Rocks going back to Mesolithic times of people being here, hunting, fishing, living… using the shelter of the rocks and caves. As waves of different people came to this area the High Rocks were used in different ways, until today, when we just enjoy them for our leisure activities.

We had great fun climbing over them, scrambling up them, squeezing through the narrow passages. The area is beautifully maintained, but without losing its natural appeal. I had a great sense of history as we wandered about, imagining others who had been here before. There was some very old graffiti – it’s not just a modern problem! The area is now used as a venue for different events, including weddings. There are lots of different activities including climbing, bouldering, and going for a ride on a steam railway! There is a very handy pub at the bottom, just in case you need refreshment!

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Family Holiday 2015, Kent, day 2

The day started as the first day of the family holiday always starts,, with my cousin cooking chipolata sausages for breakfast. we’re usually the first up and enjoy a cup of tea together catching up on all the family news that we didn’t catch up on the night before. My cousins all live in the Cambridge area, we live in the west country, so although we keep in touch by phone, there is still lots to chat about!

After breakfast people head off to do different things, and we go down to Tonbridge which I have never been to before. Tonbridge is on the River Medway and is the site of a river crossing going back to Neolithic times. When the Romans arrived in Britain, they too used the crossing, maybe built a bridge, and they were followed by the Saxons who settled in this idyllic place, and the Normans who secured the crossing by building a castle. In medieval times Tonbridge continued as a market town, and there are still many historic buildings to be seen; more than 150 of them are listed!

The name Tonbridge, originally spelt as it is pronounced, Tunbridge, may have come from meaning the tun or town by the bridge, or maybe Tunne was the name of the local chief… no-one really knows. we found it an interesting little place (its population is nearly 40,000) and we particularly liked the castle. Tonbridge Brewery is about six miles away… sadly we didn’t get to try any of their beer! next time, maybe!!

KENT 2015 (91)The bridge across the river

Family holiday 2015, Kent, day 1

So exciting to arrive a t a new holiday home, all twenty plus of us! My four cousins and their family, and my family, what a houseful! This year, out twelfth we reckon, we are in Kent in a wonderful old property called Hoath House, which has a most interesting history which I’m looking forward to exploring! We don’t know Kent very well, despite my husbands ancestors living there as far back as the fifteenth century… in fact they may well have known the house we are staying in as they lived not far away!

I shall write more about Hoath House another time,… but I will just say that our bedroom was almost as large as our sitting room and dining room at home put together, and the bathroom (en-suite) was bigger than our bedroom at home. it was a gorgeous house, lovely, and we liked it so much we have booked again for next year!

We spent the afternoon moseying about, unpacking, getting settled, doing a little local exploration and getting dinner ready. Dinner was virtually the same as  every first night of every year we have been on holiday… Powters sausages; the only difference was that this year we had them with mash rather than jacket potatoes.

As is customary, the children (the oldest is over thirty!) the children cleared away brought a selection of home-made cakes to the table instead of dessert. When the little children were in bed, some of us walked the mile to the nearest pub, the Rock, while others of us enjoyed catching up with all the family news over a glass of wine.

A great start to what will be a fabulous holiday – again!

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Isn’t it gorgeous?!!