Another castle in the Kent area is Sissinghurst Castle and its estate, which is part of a national trust. One part of the estate includes a Victorian farmhouse that now operates as a bed and breakfast. The bed and breakfast gives visitors nice views of the castle and its grounds. Originally, hundreds of years ago, Sissinghurst wasn’t a castle; it was a Saxon pig farm! Back then, the name was Saxinghurst, with “saxing” referring to the Saxons and “hurst” meaning enclosed woodland.
During the Seven Years’ War from 1756-1763, as the British fought against France and Spain for maritime sovereignty and control of some of the colonies, the farm’s buildings served as a prison for French sailors captured by the British. The French nicknamed the place “le chateau”, which means “the castle”. That probably contributed to how the place got its current name as a castle rather than a farm.
In the 1930s, Sissinghurst was still a working farm, with the castle and outbuildings sitting in the middle of the fields and orchard. In the later part of that decade, Sissinghurst’s gardens were open to the public, but the place continued as a farm as well, with cows milked there during World War II. The grand room developed by the private owners as a place to entertain guests, which is now the library, was once part of the stables.
Sissinghurst continued to operate as a farm for a number of years, despite the gardens being open for visitors. Other parts of the grounds were filled with farm machinery and other signs of the functioning farm. Some of the buildings and rooms that visitors now see were farm buildings as recently as the 1960s. For example, the restaurant was once the granary, while the gift shop was the piggery.
Sissinghurst was privately owned by Vita Sackville-West and Harold Nicolson until the 1960s. When Vita passed away, Harold chose to give Sissinghurst and its grounds to the National Trust for preservation and to be operated for visitors.
The gardens at Sissinghurst were wonderful, but we liked Penhurst just a little better. The gardeners and preservationists make maintaining the gardens and grounds look easy, but we saw a few gardens in our travels that hadn’t been kept up well, and you can really tell the difference. I like the gardens that are broken up by hedges into little clearings you can discover. Amy took most of our trip pictures; she particularly liked photographing gardens.
Sissinghurst Castle & Gardens
A tower at Sissinghurst gave a birds-eye view.