Nikolaus Pevsner called Ightham Mote “the most complete small medieval manor house in the country”. It has an utter charm that begins as one descends the path and sees the timber-framed house surrounded by the moat (the name ‘mote’ is apparently old English for a meeting place, not the surrounding water). The grounds feature beautifully-kept kitchen gardens, a stream that twists its way down to a pond and expansive lawns: it seemed almost a cliché of Englishness when I visited on a sunny summer’s day. The National Trust took the building apart after they received it and they completely reconstructed it. It has a picturesque historic quality, with parts dating back to the 14th and 15th centuries. The only problem for me were the annoying and unnecessary laminated sheets left everywhere pointing out the favourite object of a particular member of NT staff. Somehow these sheets got in the way (especially in the case of one exquisite inlaid tabletop that couldn’t be seen because of the three laminates covering it). They make it harder for visitors to find their own ‘favourite objects’ as everyone is drawn to different often idiosyncratic things. One of the great thing about many historic houses is the immersive sense of history that is not possible in the more ‘objective’ setting of museums and the National Trust needs to be sensitive to the fact that too many laminates that only tell us about the tastes of the present can actually reduce the impact of the experience of the history (and tastes of the past) they are presenting. Surely its more interesting to learn why individuals chose and used particular things in the 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th or 20th centuries than the fact that someone from Visitor Services in 2013 likes a candlestick? Of course engagement is important, particularly for young people and enthusiastic room stewards are important, but it’s something that needs to be carefully balanced with the integrity (and often fascinating stories) of what is being presented. OK - Rant over. Go to the wonderful Ightham Mote and enjoy it for yourself - ignore the silly laminates and choose your own favourite objects.
Perfect Medieval home.