Ightham Mote (pronounced “item moat”), Ightham, Kent is a medieval moated manor house. The architectural writer John Newman describes it as “the most complete small medieval manor house in the county.” Ightham Mote and its gardens are owned by the National Trust and are open to the public. The house is a Grade I listed building, and parts of it are a Scheduled Ancient Monument.
Originally dating to around 1320, the building is important because it has most of its original features; successive owners effected relatively few changes to the main structure, after the completion of the quadrangle with a new chapel in the 16th century. Nikolaus Pevsner described it as “the most complete small medieval manor house in the country”, and it remains an example that shows how such houses would have looked in the Middle Ages. Unlike most courtyard houses of its type, which have had a range demolished, so that the house looks outward, Nicholas Cooper observes that Ightham wholly surrounds its courtyard and looks inward, into it, offering little information externally. The construction is of “Kentish ragstone and dull red brick,” the buildings of the courtyard having originally been built of timber and subsequently rebuilt in stone.
The house has more than 70 rooms, all arranged around a central courtyard, “the confines circumscribed by the moat.” The house is surrounded on all sides by a square moat, crossed by three bridges. The earliest surviving evidence is for a house of the early 14th century, with the Great Hall, to which were attached, at the high, or dais end, the Chapel, Crypt and two Solars. The courtyard was completely enclosed by increments on its restricted moated site, and the battlemented tower was constructed in the 15th century. Very little of the 14th century survives on the exterior behind rebuilding and refacing of the 15th and 16th centuries.
The structures include unusual and distinctive elements, such as the porter’s squint, a narrow slit in the wall designed to enable a gatekeeper to examine a visitor’s credentials before opening the gate. An open loccia with a fifteenth-century gallery above, connects the main accommodations with the gatehouse range. The courtyard contains a large, 19th century dog kennel. The house contains two chapels; the New Chapel, of c.1520, having a barrel roof decorated with Tudor roses. Parts of the interior were remodelled by Richard Norman Shaw.