Sissinghurst is a lovely little village in the county of Kent in south east England. It is full of pretty pubs, churches, red brick houses and quaint little buildings which are used as shops and banks.
In this part of Kent you can also see houses with very strange roofs.
These are called « Oast Houses ». Originally they were used to dry hops which grow in this area and are used to make beer.
There is also a little castle which was originally built in the middle ages. Since then various owners have added parts to it. At one point it was beautiful and grand enough to invite Queen Elizabeth I to stay there. But later the house fell into disrepair and in the late 17th century it became a prisoner of war camp. The French soldiers who were kept there did their best to destroy the castle. You can still see their graffiti carved inside the castle today.
By 1930 the castle was almost derelict and it was bought by an English woman called Vita Sackville West.
Vita was born in Kent in 1892, the daughter of Baron Sackville.
She led an interesting life, travelled extensively and got married at the age of 21 to a man who was a diplomat as well as a novelist & gardener. They had children, but as she and her husband had “an open marriage” she also had passionate love affairs with several prominent women (such as the novelist Virginia Woolf) throughout her adult life. She wrote many books and poems, but is probably best known as a gardener.
She bought Sissinghurst castle in Kent with her husband when she found she was unable to inherit her father’s house simply because she was a woman (it went to her uncle instead). Losing her family home broke her heart, but buying Sissinghurst made up for it a bit.
As well as the castle they also bought the surrounding farms and land and set about creating some beautiful gardens.
Her husband laid out the garden as a series of different “rooms” each with a different colour or theme and Vita, who wrote regular gardening articles for the Observer newspaper, did the planting. She is renowned for starting the fashion of having a “white” garden.
By 1938 the garden was open to the public, and it has remained one of the most loved and visited gardens in England. It was taken over by The National Trust in 1967
For further information about visiting times & prices visit the National Trust site below.