Pall Mall Gazette - Wednesday 19 June 1889
THE MOTE-HOUSE AT IGHTHAM.
HUGE posters at Sevenoaks station and a paragraph in the advertisement columns of the Field tells us that Ightham Mote is for sale. So yet another old English home is to pass away from a family which has now held it for generations, and the estate is to be broken up into nine lots, eight of which are considered suitable for the erection of "superior residences "! A short year or so ago the archaeological world was shocked to hear that Ockwells, near Maidenhead, was in danger of demolition, and now this other fine old property, though scarcely doomed, we should imagine, to such a fate as that, is threatened with all the indefinite dangers which may possibly arise when such places pass into the market, Whoever purchases Ightham Mote takes upon himself a sacred duty - the duty of maintaining intact, to the best of his powers, a building which, of its kind, is probably the finest in England. Kent is, indeed, fortunate in possessing two such show-places as Ightham Mote and Penshurst-place - the latter our best specimen of the old baronial hall, the former of the half-timbered manor house.
We may best reach the Mote - or, as it is sometimes quaintly called, the Mote House at Ightham - from the Wrotham and Borough Green Station on the branch line between Sevenoaks and Maidstone, Our way lies southwards through the village of Ightham, where are the church - of which more hereafter - and one or two good timbered cottages. The visitor should notice especially the group by the inn. After this we rise gradually for the next two or three miles to the summit of the sandstone ridge which runs parallel to the great range of the North Downs throughout almost all Kent and Surrey. The hedgerows at this season of the year are thick with stitchworts and speedwells, and already the dog-roses are beginning to bloom along the country lanes. Looking back, we trace the long line of the chalk downs stretching towards Maidstone and the valley of the Medway, and in front, as we gain the brow of our own ridge, we look out over the great weald, beyond Shipbourne (which local people call Shibbourne) and Tunbridge, to the distant Forest Range, which rises beyond Tunbridge Wells. Close at hand are the hop-fields, where the young hops have already climbed nearly to the top of their poles, and amongst which the circular oast-houses, with their Egyptian-like fans, give the country a picturesque and characteristic appearance. Presently we turn off to our right and descend into a secluded hollow, in which lies the old house, rising from its sleepy mote, the very picture of "a haunt of ancient peace."
The building dates from three periods, the earliest of which is that of Edward III, the latest the seventh or eighth Henry. Most of the timberwork belongs to this latter time, and is to be found inside the quadrangle; the outer walls are chiefly of stone, though the upper stages of the entrance tower are of crumbling brick. A right of way exists close by the house, and sitting upon the low wall which surrounds the mote, with our legs dangling over the rather stagnant water, we may contemplate the place at our leisure. No one is here to disturb us: the only being in sight is an old man working in a garden, The very swans on the mote are making their toilet in a lazy kind of way, and the shoals of fish which are sometimes visible come slowly into sight and slowly disappear. The walls of the house rise straight from the water, and just where they emerge from it masses of gay wild flowers have fixed themselves in the cracks of the masonry. Round the house, on every side but one, the ground rises immediately into low steep hills; there is no park-land, but the slopes are clothed with wood and hop-gardens.