by Janis on 12th October 2021 / 2 comments

Explore the Kent country manor where wild deer roam free

Knole House and its medieval deer park are located in the heart of the Garden of England in the picturesque, lush Weald countryside in Kent. Just a stone’s throw from the historic town of Sevenoaks.

Referring to Knole as an English country house feels like a bit of an understatement, as its striking grandeur and grace deserve so much more.

We drove into Knole Park peacefully, weaving our way through the dappled woodland. As we passed over the brow of a hill, the elegant manor opened out before us. I was taken aback at how magnificent and stately it looked; it was a wow moment for me; I just wasn’t expecting it to be so imposing.

I couldn’t wait to cross the threshold and discover the 400 years of history within Knole House, and of course, Knole’s attractive 1,000-acre deer park.

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Where is Knole

How to get to Knole

- By Train
You can catch a direct train from London Bridge to Sevenoaks Station, which is 1.5 miles from Knole. The journey time is around 25 minutes, buses and taxis serve this station.

- By Car
Knole can be accessed from the A25 & A21. There’s a free car park for National Trust members, or parking charges apply to non-members visiting the house. Pre-book your visit.

A little history on Knole House and parkland

From Archbishops to Royalty

Knole House is managed and cared for by the National Trust and in 1951 became a Grade I Listed Building. The house was principally built between 1455 and 1608.

The beautiful house dates back to the mid-15th century and, in 1456, was purchased by Thomas Bourchier, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Thomas Bourchier obviously wasn’t content with his existing substantial residence of Otford Palace just a few miles away.

A wide path leading up to the gatehouse entrance of Knole House
Knole House

The archbishop instructed that Knole House be enlarged, adding charming courtyards and the lovely gatehouse tower. These continued improvements throughout the estate can still be enjoyed today. Knole House has a mixture of architectural styles, including Medieval, Tudor and Jacobean.

Knole House and its medieval deer park were occupied by four successive Archbishops prior to being passed through Royal hands. Including Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I.

In the early 1600s, Knole became the property of Thomas Sackville and has continued to be passed through the descendants of the Sackville family ever since. Knole House was donated to the National Trust in 1947 by Charles Sackville-West, and much of the house is still lived in by the Sackville-Wests.

A bronze sculpture of a gladiator in a fighting pose in front of one of the towers of Knole House.
Sculpture in Green Court
Nearby to Knole House is Sissinghurst Castle; this was purchased by Vita Sackville-West, who was unable to inherit Knole. The English author and garden designer transformed Sissinghurst Castle & Gardens into an exquisite oasis managed by the National Trust.

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Exploring the Gatehouse Tower at Knole

Eddy Sackville-West’s home
Entering Knole House, we pass through the large wooden doors of the imposing Gatehouse Tower that leads you through to the first courtyard, ‘Green Court’. This delightful symmetrical courtyard is huge and is a lovely place to relax before climbing the Gatehouse Tower.
The first courtyard of Knole House known as Green Court
Green Court

We head up the 77 steep spiralling stairs of the tower, which was home to Edward Sackville-West, 5th Baron Sackville, between 1926 and 1940. Known to his friends as Eddy, he was a novelist and music critic.

There are two main rooms that Eddy lived in during his time at Knole, a music room and his bedroom. The bedroom was reasonably simple with a single bed, fitted bookshelves full of fascinating novels and a lovely old bakelite radio.

Rows of books on teal blue bookshelves in the study of Eddy Sackville-West in the gatehouse tower of Knole house
Eddy Sackville-West’s bookshelves
A 1930's vintage radio on a bedside table in Eddy Sackville-West’s bedroom in the gatehouse tower of Knole house
Modest bedtime reading
The music room was where Eddy entertained his guests, a regular visitor being the novelist, Virginia Woolf. Eddy would play his piano and listen to his music collection on his gramophone.
A 1930's gramophone with its large brass horn in the music room of the gatehouse tower of Knole house.
Eddy Sackville-West’s gramophone
Looking down from the tower to the facade of Knole House with the Sackville’s emblem, leopards, carved in stone on the apexes
Sackville’s emblem, carved stone leopards
It was time to head to the rooftop of the ancient tower and admire the Kent countryside beyond. From the tower’s turrets, Knole deer park unfurled below and around the roofline was the family emblem of the Sackville’s, carved stone leopards.
Looking from the tower, across the Green Court, to the clocktower and gatehouse leading to the Stone Court of Knole House
Gatehouse to Stone Court

Just before we cross Green Court, we visit Knole’s Orangery, which was opened to the public in 2010. This delightful bright gallery with vast arched windows is so peaceful and created in the Gothic revival style.

Prior to the Orangery’s renovation, it was used for garden storage; however, now that partitions have been removed along with pre-existing floors, it creates a lovely open-plan gallery.

The long, narrow, brightly lit orangery at Knole painted in powder blue
Orangery at Knole

Where to stay in and around Sevenoaks

- Knole B&B - A delightful bed and breakfast located within a short walking distance of Knole and the historic town of Sevenoaks. Very comfortable rooms and serves continental breakfast.
- Boho Lodge – This luxury converted stable is located on a working farm within the beautiful Kent countryside. Just a short drive from Knole, Chartwell and Hever Castle.

Visiting the showrooms at Knole

Strolling through grandeur and opulence

Across the Green Court, you are automatically drawn to the enormous wooden doors that lead you beneath the second gatehouse into a collonaded courtyard of ‘Stone Court’.

It’s time to explore the interior of Knole House.

The gatehouse in Stone Court of Knole House
Stone Court, Knole House

The first impressive room we discover is the majestic Great Hall re-modelled in 1605 by Thomas Sackville. The long wood-panelled hall with its ornate crests would have once held lavish banquets, entertaining the great and the wealthy.

All around the walls are large stately pieces of art depicting notable people, many of whom were Knole House owners and their relatives.

The immense ornamented oak screen at the end of the Great Hall at Knole House
The Great Hall
Through the Great Hall, we slowly make our way up the elegant wooden Great Staircase. Encircled with demure subtle murals, a few more of the Sackville’s family emblem carved wooden leopards escorting your steps.
Carved leopards on the Newel's of the Great Staircase in Knole House
The Great Staircase
The long slender Brown Gallery, lined with portraits of dignitaries, in Knole House
The Brown Gallery

You effortlessly follow the guides that lead you into the Brown Gallery. The Brown Gallery is a long portrait gallery lined with an impressive collection of 16th and early 17th-century portraits.

The dark wood-panelled walls are awash with delicately detailed paintings of British royalty and elite and influential figures of society.

Ah, yes, what every country manor should house, a billiard room also adorned with splendid historical art.

The oak-panelled billiard room decorated with portraits in Knole house
The billiard room

If you're intrigued by Kent's weird and wonderful history, or all unusual stories around the county, then take a peek at "Kent's Strangest Tales".

You won't be able to put it down, you can pick it up for your Kindle or in good old paperback.

Kent's Strangest Tales Cover

The three state bedrooms in Knole

From the Spangle, the Venetian and to the King’s

The state bedrooms at Knole are extraordinary, and the beds are some of the oldest surviving Royal beds in the world.

The earliest bed within Knole is the Spangle Bed and was made in 1621 to impress James I. The beautiful, canopied bed is surrounded by silk hangings with delicate silver sequins or spangles stitched in. Hence the name of the bed.

The 17th Century four-poster bed in the Spangle Bedroom with heavy red & gold drapes on each corner
The Spangle Bedroom
Green and red drapes ordain an ornate four-poster bed in the Venetian Bedroom within Knole House
The Venetian Bedroom

The second state bedroom is the Venetian Bedroom. The intricate and meticulous gilding on the Venetian bed was created in 1688 for James II.

The Venetian bedroom is stunning, and the painstaking conservation work that has been undertaken to bring it back to its former glory is splendid.

An ornate four-poster bed, with golden drapes, in the King's Bedroom within Knole House
The King’s Bedroom
The third bedroom is the King’s Room, which was created by Thomas Sackville for James I. The gold and silver bed that elegantly stands in the King’s Room adorned with cupids, and flaming hearts is 350 years old. It was made to mark the marriage of the Duke of York to his second wife, Mary of Modena, in 1673. The Duke of York was then to become James II.

Knole’s centuries of love and care

Take a spin in the Ballroom
Strolling around Knole House is like wandering through an art gallery. There are exquisite statues, intricate wall hangings, imposing sculptures, and almost every inch of wall space has a magnificent piece of artwork hanging from it.
A wide-angle view of the ballroom with its ornate ceiling and features
Knole Ballroom
A portrait handing in the corner of the ballroom of the National Trust Knole house
Incredible art everywhere

The Ballroom was one of my favourite rooms in Knole House. It was re-modelled by the 1st Earl of Sackville between 1603 and 1608.

The room was so elegant, and light and the subtle grey colour used for the wall panelling wouldn’t look out of place today. The care that is given and the level of detail all throughout Knole is stunning.

Continuing onto the long Cartoon Gallery, which is named after the six huge copies of Raphael’s cartoons, designed for the Sistine Chapel tapestries in Rome, they were brought to Knole in 1701.

Hiking the Kent Countryside

Knole is located in Sevenoaks, west Kent. This region of Kent is ideal for hikes as it is close to the North Downs (AONB), an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and High Weald.

To explore the trails in this region of Kent, the Ordnance Survey maps that will help you along the route is no. 147, ‘Sevenoaks & Tonbridge’.

Knole’s medieval deer park

Explore the 1,000 acres of parkland

Knole’s ancient deer park has been home to many beautiful herds of wild deer over the years. As you stroll the estate, you’ll spot majestic stags roaming the woodland and resting in dappled shade.

The 350 strong herds of fallow deer and sika deer are managed by Knole Estate and free to wander around a large part of the parkland. The deer at Knole was first introduced in 1455 by Thomas Bouchier.

A young stag standing in the shade with Knole House in the distance
Buck at Knole House

There’s no doubt you’ll spot a deer or ten; they have become entirely used to sharing their reserve with the public. Although the advice given is not to approach the deer and move away if they come near you. Unfortunately, some visitors feed the wild deer, which have made them become very inquisitive.

It is important that you do not feed the herd as even fruit and vegetables are not their natural diet.

If you visit during April and May, you’ll notice that the deer will be shedding their winter coats and the lighter weight summer coats starting to grow through. You may also spot the bucks begin to cast their antlers ready for the new growth during these months.

A herd of wild deer resting in the shade in the grounds of Knole
Herd of wild deer at Knole
It was such an incredible experience watching the wild deer roam freely. There are very few estates in England where you can now witness this magnificent display, and you truly feel a sense of serenity.

Discovering more of Kent

If you love exploring intriguing historic castles and charming stately homes, then take a peek at our posts on Hever Castle and Ightham Mote. These are both very close by Sevenoaks and make an excellent day out.

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  1. What a terrific read, Janis! I’d not heard of Knole Park before but it’s now added to the To Visit List! I thoroughly enjoyed your article as I kept thinking to myself “oh that’s so interesting” after reading about the many varied rooms inside Knole House, massive fan of those fitted bookshelves in the bedroom and the Orangery too! We shall be keeping a sharp eye open for the deer, they always bring a smile to our faces

    1. Author

      Thanks, Russell, I didn’t realise how large the house was, so I was blown away when we drove up to it. It’s hard to believe how secluded these places can be.

      There’s so much to see in the house, and the National Trust volunteers are fantastic; they love chatting about the Knole.

      The deer herds are incredible; they are obviously very used to people wandering around and don’t appear to care. However, I was still a bit cautious of the ones with antlers.

      I hope you do get to visit; you’d love it.

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