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18/07/2010



'Choosing' - a painting of Ellen Terry by George Frederic Watts circa 1864.


my photos

Smallhythe Place ...

If you are ever down Kent way, you must visit Smallhythe Place.

Owned by the National Trust, the property was the once home of Victorian actress Ellen Terry, between the years of 1899 and 1928.

The house itself is early 16th century.



Ellen Terry along with her husband Henry Irving were the golden couple of the stage towards the end of the 19th century.

The story goes, they were driving in Kent when they noticed an old farmhouse, which Ellen announced would be the place where she would like to live and die.

No wonder. The building is strikingly beautiful.



Step through the front door of the house into a box of delights for Thespians, antique and art lovers alike.

With very steep stairs and extremely creaky floorboards, you can see many of her costumes and possessions on display, including an evocative death mask.


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After her mother's death, Ellen's daughter Edy converted the barn into a theatre.

The necessary funds were raised by suggesting that supporters subscribe a pound for a chair to commemorate themselves or a friend.

You can see these chairs all lined up inside the theatre, where talks and theatrical events are staged.
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The cottage grounds include her rose garden, orchard and a nuttery.
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The critic E V Lucas, after a visit to Smallhythe Place, wrote that the house was very like Ellen Terry -
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There was something of wildness in her nature, something wilful and untamed, something almost fey, which assorts well with this brave old house, with these rich beams, these windows giving on to the green valley, this isolation among fields. I thought, when I was there the other day in spring, that it was very like her; like her in its grace, like her in its independence and Englishness, like her in the sunshine that irradiated it, and in the gaiety of its yellow wallflowers.
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The rather beautiful image evoked in these words was lost just for a moment, when this Chinook helicopter thundered overhead!


With the parking being rather limited down by the bridge, we parked up a few hundred yards away in the grounds of St John the Baptist Church.

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15 comments:

funkymonkey said...

I hope I can visit that house some day. What a sense of peace and tranquility there is. I don't think I would want to leave.

Tracey

Milly and Dottie said...

What a wonderful place! It is definitely going on our list of places to visit, maybe for a staff jolly!

Rosie said...

Oh, that looks so beautiful - I'd love to visit one day - the house and gardens look so peaceful and I'd love the theatrical collections and connections too. Thanks for taking us with you on your visit:)

BumbleVee said...

It is indeed a lovely old place...but, honestly...I think I am too spoiled to prefer it to modern houses.... sigh... although, the gardens would be great to have....

did you see Rossi racing over the weekend? Amazing...or....very foolish..... thank goodness he stayed upright ..... whew...I was panicking for him in case he crashed ..again.... what a mess he would make of his poor healing leg in that case.

harmony and rosie said...

It certainly is strikingly beautiful, I would love to go there. And I wish my garden was as manicured as that one!

JuicyFig said...

What a stunning little house! I had never heard if it.
I now have something to add to my list of wants for my ideal house - a nuttery!

Kath
x

periwinkle said...

that cetainly is a gorgeous house, you sure do visit some pretty places

Glo said...

How lovely, Louise :) Thanks for giving such an interesting account and links along with beautiful photos. I'd love to visit there, now that I know about it!

winnibriggs said...

I have just had a visit to Kent doing my family history search. Will certainly look this up next time I visit. A great post thank you for the tour.
Jenny

Amanda said...

I am a bit behind on commenting, sorry! It looks like you had a wonderful time down in Kent - thank you so much for sharing. The house looks gorgeous, although I'm not sure I'd want to see the deathmask *shudder*... and as for those scarecrows - WOW!

Lyn said...

We went a few years ago, it is enchanting.
Love
Lyn
xxx

twiggypeasticks said...

what a beautiful spot, thanks for sharing Louise
Twiggy x

Kathy said...

What a lovely, lovely home - so romantic! A bit too far for me to visit - what a pity!
Love Kathy xxx

Kris said...

What a garden! That's my idea of a garden! Nice house too.

Sphinxvictorian said...

Smallhythe is a little bit of heaven, certainly. I am a tremendous admirer of Miss Terry and I was lucky enough to be able to visit her house a few years ago and was so taken with the beauty of the place and how redolent it was with her presence.

I do feel I should make a small correction to your post, in that Miss Terry and Mr. Irving were never married, though there are some contradictory rumors that they were lovers for a time. But they were indeed the golden couple of the Victorian theatre both in Britain and in the US, as you say! I recommend Michael Holroyd's 2008 bio of both Miss Terry and Mr. Irving and their respective children, especially as it gives a real sense of how Smallhythe became the wonderful memorial it is now.

[Had to delete and repost this comment as I'd made a grammatical error, and didn't catch it in time!]