17-19 Crow Lane Rochester Kent ME1 1RF
So called for the fact that Charles II memorably spent the night here on his way back from France to resume his position on the English throne, this is in fact two houses in one, each dating from the late sixteenth century. It famously served as the model for the recluse Miss Havisham's Satis House in Dickens' Great Expectations, though he apparently never set foot inside, but it's a truly fascinating place in its own right, not least for the fact that it has passed through so many and varied hands over the years and is a private home to this day. Its previous resident, the comedian Rod Hull, lived here for ten years and saved it from ruin (he is said to have kept the upstairs Great Chamber permanently set for Miss Havisham's wedding party), but it almost bankrupted him and he sold in 1994 to the current owners Robert Tucker and Jonathan Wilmot, who have painstakingly restored it in every detail, populating the house with sensitively chosen period furnishings and paintings and building the garden up again from scratch. Each room has a story, usually beautifully told by the knowledgable and eager custodians. Among a small but high-quality collection of mainly English paintings, there are portraits by Joshua Reynolds and his pupil George Gardner, a number of canvases by Gainsborough, including a couple of very early wood panels done as a teenager and the last painting he ever did (a gift for his pall-bearers, no less), and a copy of a Rembrandt self-portrait. Outside, the garden measures getting on for an acre and is made up of both a formal area, divided by box hedges and a flower and vegetable garden beyond. To the right you can see a stretch of recently discovered Tudor wall, which was recently controversially saved from demolition by Restoration House's owners, who are installing a Renaissance-style water garden on the site of what would have been a new housing development. Watch this space...
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