Three times a lady - Women with Kentish Connections

PUBLISHED: 00:16 01 March 2011 | UPDATED: 18:58 20 February 2013

Three times a lady - Women with Kentish Connections

Three times a lady - Women with Kentish Connections

With Mothering Sunday just around the corner, we explore the role of three women with Kentish connections and their links with the National Trust

The list of historical names associated with National Trust houses, gardens and countryside areas in Kent is an illustrious one.

From Sir Winston Churchill and his beloved hideaway at Chartwell in Westerham to Marconi and his radio telegraphic experiments at South Foreland Lighthouse near Dover, many of historys important scenes have played out against the backdrop of National Trust-owned landmarks across the county.

However, as Mothering Sunday approaches, the National Trust has been looking at some of the Kentish women, mothers themselves, who have also been linked to its properties in Kent.

Dame Vera Lynn: singing The White Cliffs of Dover

While Dame Vera Lynn never lived near the White Cliffs of Dover, now owned and managed by the National Trust, her famous recording of the song dedicated to the cliffs helped make this stretch of Kentish coastline one of Britains most iconic landmarks.

She recorded the song, written by Nat Burton and Walter Kent, in 1942 as part of her morale-boosting performances to British troops serving in the Second World War. Dame Veras daughter Virginia Lewis-Jones was born four years later, in 1946.

The lyrics of The White Cliffs of Dover looked forward to a time of peace when wildlife would flourish in the area. Today, the cliffs offer a rich habit for numerous species and are of great interest to geologists. The chalk grassland behind the cliffs supports a huge number of plants, while the cliff faces themselves and the surrounding scrubland offer roosting spots and shelter for many species of birds.

The National Trust in Kent attracts women and men of all ages and interests to its houses and gardens today. This year, it looks forward to welcoming even more people through its doors and particularly encourages families to come along and celebrate the accomplishments and love of their own mothers.

Ellen Terry: a Victorian actress who loved Smallhythe Place

One of the most successful actresses of the Victorian age, Dame Ellen Terry was a leading Shakespearian player, who performed with actors such as Sir Henry Irving and Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree.

Known by many as The Queen of Theatre, Ellen bought the half-timbered early 16th-century Smallhythe Place in Tenterden in 1899 and it soon became a refuge from her busy career.

After Ellen Terrys death in 1928 her daughter Edith Craig, also involved in the theatrical world, turned a barn in the grounds of Smallhythe Place into a theatre, which still puts on public productions and exhibitions today.

In a fitting tribute to her famous mother, Edith gave Smallhythe Place to the National Trust in 1939.

Vita Sackville West: a lady of Knole and Sissinghurst Castle

This acclaimed English poet and writer was associated with not one but two of the National Trusts great Kentish houses. Vita was born at Knole in Sevenoaks in 1892 but lost out on its inheritance to her male cousin, Charles Sackville West. She married Harold Nicolson and moved with him and their two sons to Sissinghurst Castle near Cranbrook in the 1930s.

During her marriage, Vita enjoyed a series of extra-marital affairs with both women and men. Probably the most prominent was with fellow author, Virginia Woolf.

Vita loved and displayed a great talent for gardening. Together with Harold Nicolson she oversaw the creation of a truly splendid garden at Sissinghurst Castle, now an internationally acclaimed destination for gardening pilgrims from all over the world.

The National Trust took over the management of Sissinghurst Castle in1967, five years after Vitas death, and has recently added a working vegetable garden to its many attractions.

The garden re-opens for the spring season on 12 March 2011.

To find out what else is happening at the National Trust in Kent and beyond in March and early April 2011 and for all supporting web links for properties mentioned in this feature, visit the website at

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