We were visiting the Lullungstone Romam Villa when our attention was drawn the Lullingstone Castle said to be a just a short walk (or drive) down a country lane. When we enquired about this place at the Roman Villa, we were told that it was not really a castle as such, but an old manor house, dating back to the 15th century and which was formerly used as a hunting lodge (situated in what was then a fenced-off deer park). The gatehouse dates back to the 16th century, and is believed to be the first of its kind to be constructed of brick, Apparently, there has been a presence on this land since at least the time of the Domesday Book (11th century CE). The manor house sits in 120-acres of land (much of which is now part of the Lullingstone Country Park), immediately adjacent to St Botolph’s Church (which contains some of the oldest stained-glass windows in the UK), and a very picturesque 15-acre lake.
There was ample parking outside the gatehouse, but as we arrived around 4pm, we only had time to explore some of the grounds and the World Garden. The World Garden appears to have grown out of what might be termed horticultural imperialism, with a member of the landed gentry (and current heir to Lullingstone Castle) being captured by FARC guerrillas whilst searching for rare orchids in the Darién Gap between Panama and Colombia. Although these antics are usually glorified in the West (and used to generate publicity for the World Garden), the alleged illegality of these actions is never discussed. Of course, until leaving this attraction and picking up a leaflet, I had no idea of this controversial element. Obviously, we do not support any form of imperialistic endeavour or horticultural theft. Usually, when we attend similar exhibits nowadays, they are usually a co-operation between the UK and the other foreign country’s involved. However, the World Garden itself, does contain some very interesting plants and flowers from around the globe, which we hope were acquired through official channels – this includes black bamboo from Southeast China. Finally, the time of the landed gentry is over (as is the imperialism this class has historically represented and exported), and all that is left for this out-dated stratum of society is for it to open its doors and allow the ordinary people into the heart of their once opulent lifestyle. Charging a small fee for us to look at the quite often ridiculous nature of their existence is always a price worth paying.