There are actually two castles at Scotney Castle, near the settlement of Lamberhurst, in Kent; the Old Castle and the New Castle. Today the property is owned by The National Trust, so we had a chance to visit the Scotney property on my “English Garden Tour.” We will walk first, down the hill to the ruins of the featured medieval, moated manor on a small island, on a small lake; Old Scotney Castle. The lake is surrounded by a sloping wooded garden with collections of rhododendrons, azaleas, wisteria and roses. The ruins of the castle, gardens, moat and lake are beautiful in the bright sunlight of day. But, what do they look like at night?
Since we are nearing Halloween I thought I would look and see if any of the castles or estates we visited were indeed haunted.
So lets sit by the crackling fire with our cup of ale, and let the night play tricks on our mind. The country side is crisp and the early mornings bring a swirling marsh mist, but as dusk falls nature comes alive and the senses are heightened! Pray tell us! What went on at the Old Scotney Castle?
This is what I learned………… about the ghosts at Scotney Castle.
In 1137 the owner of the estate was Lambert de Scoteni. The family name gave the castle it’s title. (Hence Scotney Castle)
In 1259 Walter de Scoteni was persuaded by William de Valence to give poison to the Earl of Gloucester and his friends, when they dined at a banquet at the manor of the Earl of Gloucester’s. Many people died, however the Earl escaped death, but did lose his hair, teeth and fingernails! Walter de Scoteni was hanged, and some say his ghost walks the castle remains, where eerie whisperings and ghostly footsteps are heard.
In 1378 Roger Ashburnham built a castle, the construction being roughly a rectangular fortified manor house with towers in each corner, designed to withstand attacks by the French on English towns in the south of England. Eventually, the castle became the ancestry home of the Darrell family.
Catholicism was illegal in the 16th century. Thomas Darrell added “priest holes” to the castle to be used for hiding priests fleeing capture. Father Richard Blount, a Jesuit missionary and the family priest at the castle from 1591 to 1598, conducted secret services for the Catholics in Kent. At Christmas in 1598, Father Blount’s presence was betrayed. The authorities took up residence in the castle and conducted rigorous searches of the manor and property. During a terrible storm, and with help from the servants, Father Blount escaped his hiding place and jumped into the moat. He was never caught. Is the ghostly figure…..dripping wet…..that of Father Blount returning to the castle to dry off and carry on with his services?
In the 18th century Arthur Darrell lived in the castle and was a smuggler. Some say he killed a revenue collector and threw his corpse in the moat around the castle. Darrell fled the country and died abroad. In 1720 his body was returned to the estate for burial. It is said that as the coffin was lowered into the ground a tall stranger in a black cloak whispered, “That is not me they think they are burying.” The stranger was never seen again. Did Arthur Darrell fake his own death so he could continue smuggling? Ever since that moment people have described seeing the ghost of the revenue collector rise from the murky depths of the moat, covered in weeds, and taking to a pathway which leads to the front door of the old castle. He is said to bang on the door seeking the long gone spirit of Arthur Darrell.
In 1924, Darrell’s iron studded coffin in the Scotney Chapel at St Mary’s Church in Lamberhurst, was opened by the sexton. The coffin was filled with rocks! That discovery fueled the story of tax collector ghost at Scotney Castle!
Today the ruins are closed off to the public after teatime. I for one am glad! So taking liberty with some of my pictures of the castle, I have created their ghostly look at dusk. Let’s have another cup of ale! Could Walter Scoteni, Father Blount and Authur Darrell be banging on the door to get inside to take a bath? That’s was all I found inside the castle’s ruins!
See you tomorrow in the gardens and castle grounds on a bright summer day! You will see how beautiful the Old Castle and grounds really are! In the daytime! Enjoy!