Lullingstone Castle and its owners the Hart Dyke family have been the subject of several television documentaries and a great deal of press attention in the past decade. Tom Hart Dyke, the son and heir of the present incumbents Guy and Sarah, is famous for his kidnap in 2000 and the remarkable garden that he created following his harrowing experience. These recent events have certainly been dramatic, but a visit to the house offers an interesting opportunity to put them into the context of the family’s long history and the story of their home. 

A huge triptych on the south wall shows the first Hart to own the estate, Sir Percyvall

A huge triptych on the south wall shows the first Hart to own the estate, Sir Percyvall

On the opposite wall hang the portraits of Sir Thomas Dyke (pictured) and his son John Dixon Dyke

On the opposite wall hang the portraits of Sir Thomas Dyke (pictured) and his son John Dixon Dyke

The walls of the State Dining Room are panelled in solid English oak that has darkened over the centuries and family portraits look down on the Jacobean-style dining tables and chairs

The walls of the State Dining Room are panelled in solid English oak that has darkened over the centuries and family portraits look down on the Jacobean-style dining tables and chairs

Beneath a portrait of James II when he was the Duke of York, a florid Victorian sideboard supports a white china dinner service and cobalt blue glass

Beneath a portrait of James II when he was the Duke of York, a florid Victorian sideboard supports a white china dinner service and cobalt blue glass

The library holds a collection of 17th and 18th century manuscripts and books which are currently being catalogued and conserved by DFAS

The library holds a collection of 17th and 18th century manuscripts and books which are currently being catalogued and conserved by DFAS

“People often ask me if we have many staff,” says Guy with a wry smile. “I tell them, well two, and you’re looking at one of them. Gone are the days when a house like this had a full complement of people to look after it, but we do our best and we have some fine volunteers.”

“People often ask me if we have many staff,” says Guy with a wry smile. “I tell them, well two, and you’re looking at one of them. Gone are the days when a house like this had a full complement of people to look after it, but we do our best and we have some fine volunteers.”

The anteroom at the top of the stairs holds an eclectic collection of artefacts including a large parish map of 1802 with every field individually named and showing the two proposed railway lines, a large travelling trunk and a number of items brought back from Africa by another relative as well as a zebra skin that was a recent gift to Tom

The anteroom at the top of the stairs holds an eclectic collection of artefacts including a large parish map of 1802 with every field individually named and showing the two proposed railway lines, a large travelling trunk and a number of items brought back from Africa by another relative as well as a zebra skin that was a recent gift to Tom

The State Drawing Room was constructed in the reign of Elizabeth I with a fine barrel ceiling and remodelled in Queen Anne’s time with panelled walls and carved oak pilaster capitals

The State Drawing Room was constructed in the reign of Elizabeth I with a fine barrel ceiling and remodelled in Queen Anne’s time with panelled walls and carved oak pilaster capitals

The State Bedroom of Queen Anne is entered through a door that leads off the State Drawing Room and features an intricately carved four-poster bed, at the base of which is a leather trunk studded with the Queen’s cipher on the lid

The State Bedroom of Queen Anne is entered through a door that leads off the State Drawing Room and features an intricately carved four-poster bed, at the base of which is a leather trunk studded with the Queen’s cipher on the lid

Light pours into the State Bedroom of Queen Anne. Above the fireplace hangs a painting by Jan Carl Loth which dates from the eighteenth century

Light pours into the State Bedroom of Queen Anne. Above the fireplace hangs a painting by Jan Carl Loth which dates from the eighteenth century

There are more fine textiles in another small side room where the walls display crewelwork hangings created by the Hon. Mary Bell, daughter of Sir William and Lady Emily and who was Maid of Honour to Edward VII’s Queen Alexandra.

There are more fine textiles in another small side room where the walls display crewelwork hangings created by the Hon. Mary Bell, daughter of Sir William and Lady Emily and who was Maid of Honour to Edward VII’s Queen Alexandra

Whilst ascending the stairs, one can look back at the portraits of Guy Hart Dyke’s grandparents, Sir William, who served as a minister in Disraeli’s government, and Lady Emily

Whilst ascending the stairs, one can look back at the portraits of Guy Hart Dyke’s grandparents, Sir William, who served as a minister in Disraeli’s government, and Lady Emily

A door in the corner of the State Dining Room leads into a smaller, more informal dining room. The oval dining table has just four Regency chairs around it and the room feels far more intimate even though it is completely open on one side to the hallway that runs alongside the Grand Staircase

A door in the corner of the State Dining Room leads into a smaller, more informal dining room. The oval dining table has just four Regency chairs around it and the room feels far more intimate even though it is completely open on one side to the hallway that runs alongside the Grand Staircase

  • words:
  • pictures: David Merewether
  • styling: Lucy Fleming

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