Noble gardens of Kent
PUBLISHED: 09:02 09 July 2013 | UPDATED: 09:02 09 July 2013
Belmont, Godinton and Penshurst Place reveal the secrets of their glorious gardens
Godinton House & Gardens
Godinton House has existed for 600 years and, remarkably, has only seen two major ownership changes in that time. Although the first structure here, a medieval hall, was built by the de Godynton family in the 14th century, it is with the Toke family that Godinton has become most synonymous.
The Tokes were one of the county’s grandest families, with a lineage thought to stretch back to Baron Touque, a companion of William the Conquerer at Hastings in 1066. The Tokes began their relationship with Godinton in the late 1400s when Thomas Toke married the estates heiress.
Over the next 400 years, the family set about remodelling the house and gardens and much of the modern house is attributable to the work they undertook.
Although they had less impact upon the gardens as we see them today, in the late 1700s John Toke did make a large number of alterations which were the beginning of the current landscape.
According to current head gardener Viv Hunt it was the arrival of a new owner, Sir Reginald Blomfield in 1896, that had the greatest impact upon the gardens.
“Sir Reginald was an architect and garden writer. He designed the yew hedge entrance forecourt, terraced lawns, Pan garden, rose garden, tennis lawn and lily pond,” she explains.
“Today’s gardens incorporate Sir Reginald’s designs with the early 20th-century formal designs and the 18th and 19th-century woodland shrubbery, walled gardens, and courtyards.”
In total there are 12 peaceful gardens at Godinton, surrounded by parkland populated by stately oaks and chestnuts.
Over the last century the terraced lawns, bordered by the famous yew hedge and box topiary, have been softened by the addition of long, curvy edged herbaceous borders and ornamental tree and shrub plantings.
“I think that the people who come and visit us here at Godinton are always struck by what varied, tranquil and beautiful gardens we have,” says Viv.
“A particular favourite of many visitors is the intimate Italian garden, which was constructed in the 1920s.”
“The entrance is framed by statues of the four continents and a wonderful Japanese wisteria, which produces a waterfall of lavender flowers in May. But really that’s just one of the many aspects to Godinton’s charms.
“This is a wonderful setting and well worth a visit at any time or season.”
Godinton House and Gardens
Ashford TN23 3BP