Over 5,000 books spanning from the 1600’s to the 20th Century will go on display at Chiddingstone Castle in Kent for the first time, after being specially cleaned and catalogued by volunteers this winter under the guide of a trained conservator.
The library will be opened as a further exhibition room in time for the 2015 visitor season next April. One of the most interesting books from the library is the ‘The Book of the Dead’, which is an Ancient Egyptian funerary text with magic spells that would help the deceased in their journey to the afterlife. This particular book has full colour facsimile illustrations and was published in 1899 by the Trustees of the British Museum. As the book’s cover isn’t in good repair, the book can’t be displayed but groups can request to see the book as part of a group tour when booked in advance. Due to their delicate nature, books displayed in the library cannot be taken from the shelves for closer inspection so a group tour is advised.
There are many beautifully bound books in leather covers with gold lettering. Most of the books are linked to the collections and were used for research by the collector and late owner of the Castle Denys Eyre Bower. Most of the books are about Ancient Egypt, Buddhist religion and art, Japanese history and arts. There are 600 books on Stuart History and 40 of these are Mary Queen of Scots biographies.
Some of the books were bound by Denys, who learnt how to do this while spending time at Wormwood Scrubs Prison after being convicted of the attempted murder of his girlfriend. After being sentenced to life imprisonment in 1957 Denys was actually released in 1962 and was able to return to the Castle after successful efforts by solicitor Ruth Eldridge to prove a miscarriage of justice. Denys continued to open the Castle to visitors until his death in 1977 when he left the castle and his collections to the nation to enjoy.
Under the guidance of a Trust, which was set up to manage the estate and collections, the Castle became a fully accredited museum in 2013. Other books include the illustrated series “History of Kent” by John Kemp and “A History of British Birds” by the Rev. F.O. Morris (1851) also full of beautiful illustrations. There is a first edition of Florence Nightingale’s “Notes on Nursing”. Denys was very interested in the life of Florence as she lived in the village where Denys was born Crich (Derbyshire).
Other exhibitions inside the Castle include Denys Eyre Bower’s study complete with handwritten letters but also his remarkable collections of Ancient Egyptian artefacts, Japanese Swords, Lacquer and armour together with Stuart, Jacobite and Buddhist pieces. Many of the paintings on display are from the reign of King Charles the I. Visitors can also walk through a number of recreated Victorian rooms including a kitchen and scullery.
The Castle’s beautiful grounds are open to visitors and include a grade II listed orangery, a rose garden, a lake and the new ‘Fields of Eternity’ Egyptian garden. For further information or to book a group tour please contact the Castle on TEL: 01892 870347 or visit www.chiddingstonecastle.org.uk
Chiddingstone Castle, Nr Edenbridge, Kent TN8 7AD.
Castle admission prices 2015: Adults £9; children (5 – 13) £4; adult group rate £7.50; family £23.50; under 5’s free. Group visits may be organised by prior arrangement for a minimum of 15 people from Sundays to Wednesdays, inclusive, during the open season and on any day except Saturdays from November until the end of March. Usual opening times apply.
A guide is £50 (maximum of 30 people) by prior arrangement. 11am to 5pm (Last entry 4.15pm). Tearoom and shop. Light lunches and cream teas for groups can be pre-ordered. Ample FREE parking for coaches and cars next to the Castle. Close-by and easily reached from the Castle is Chiddingstone Village which itself dates back to the 15th Century.