Chiddingstone Castle

12 members of Essex Thameside Region attended the Kent Regional Day at Chiddingstone Castle in the Wealds of Kent on Sunday 17th August.

In the early 19th century Henry Streatfeild (1757-1829), son of Henry Streatfeild (1706-1762) and Lady Anne Sidney, commissioned William Atkinson to rebuild the house in the Gothic style. However, Atkinson’s design was not completed and, in 1835, Streatfeild’s son, also Henry Streatfeild (1784-1852), engaged the architect Henry Kendal to carry out further work. Although the Streatfields owned the house, now renamed Chiddingstone Castle, until it was sold to Lord Astor in 1938, the family did not live there after 1900. In 1955, the Castle was purchased by Denys Eyre Bower (1905-1977), a former bank clerk and antiques dealer, in order to display his various, Japanese, Jacobean, Buddhist and Egyptian antiquities collections.

Bower was born in Crich, Derbyshire and started collecting at a young age. Bower initially worked as a bank clerk before taking over Cavendish Hood antiques dealers in Baker Street, London in 1943. The redevelopment of Baker Street led to Bower moving to Chiddingstone Castle where he intended to show his collections to the public. In 1957, however, Bower was convicted of attempted murder of his girlfriend and attempted suicide and sentenced to life imprisonment. Released in 1962 after successful efforts by solicitor Ruth Eldridge to prove a miscarriage of justice, Bower returned to Chiddingstone Castle which, with the help of Eldridge and her sister Mary, he continued to open to visitors until his death in 1977. Upon his death, Bower left the Castle and his collection to the nation.

The weather on the day was mixed. Rain and sun. We all met up at Thurrock Services and travelled in convoy to the Castle. On arrival, many Kent Region members were already there and parked up. Richard Gibby was given pride of place directly outside the front entrance to the Castle with another SS100 replica and two Austin Swallow’s – William Lyon’s and William Walmsley’s first attempt of breaking into the car manufacturing market after various successful years in sidecar manufacturing.

The display of all models from the Austin Swallow to the new F Type Coupe was impressive and there were many of each model on display. It was a good day that could have been better had it not rained, but that is something we have no control over.

Doug Warren