Published: 16:16, 08 April 2021
| Updated: 16:18, 08 April 2021
An exquisite Kent castle is set to hit the market at £15 million as an "exceptionally comfortable family home".
Set within 300 acres of land near Canterbury, Chilham Castle boasts 14 bedrooms along with an indoor swimming pool, tennis courts, a card room, library, vineyard, and two additional cottages.
The property, arguably Kent’s most magnificent private country home, was bought by its current owners in 2002.
Stuart Wheeler, who earned his fortune from running a shares spread-betting company, purchased the then run-down 17th century property and grounds before spending millions on a three-year “cellar to roof” restoration programme with his wife Tessa, a former society photographer who died in 2016.
The comprehensive works were carried out with the approval of English Heritage, under the watchful eye of famous interior designer Christopher Gibbs.
Mr Wheeler, who died last summer following a battle with cancer, previously told how the house had been “in a sorry state” and described the cost of the work and maintaining the building and grounds as “cripplingly expensive”, admitting he had considerably underestimated what needed to be done.
But the Grade I-listed castle and grounds, which once sold for a mere £98,000 at auction in 1949, now stand as a testament to the Wheelers' passion for the historic home.
Mrs Wheeler was a keen horse rider and developed the estate as a centre of equestrian excellence, and the couple also threw the grounds open for numerous village social and charity events, raising thousands for good causes.
A castle has stood on the site for more than 800 years, since 709 when Wihtred, King of Kent, built a fort there.
Over the centuries, it has been inhabited by kings including Saint Louis, King of France; King Edward I; King Edward II; and then lastly in 1539 when it was bought by King Henry VIII.
King Henry granted the estate to Sir Thomas Cheney who slowly dismantled it to build a home on the Isle of Sheppey.
It was then sold to Sir Thomas Kempe whose granddaughter Mary married Sir Dudley Digges, who ultimately triggered the journey of the current house which he built between 1612 and 1616.
Since then, 10 families have lived at Chilham Castle, all of whom have made their own alterations to the property.
But it was Sir Edmund Davies who bought the castle in 1918 who shaped much of what is seen today, employing internationally renowned architect Sir Herbert Baker to remove some of the Georgian and Victorian adaptations, making it more akin to the original house.
Sitting on the edge of the historic village of Chilham, close to the Great Stour river in the heart of the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), the castle commands incredible views.
After entering the estate through a gate flanked by two entrance lodges, its drive sweeps up to a large gravelled parking area.
The castle itself is entered through an impressive front door and lobby.
The ground floor has a range of formal reception rooms including the morning room, library, study, card room and dining room, along with a kitchen, family areas, domestic offices and a 1920s marble indoor swimming pool.
On the first floor sits a striking drawing room, along with a master bedroom suite complete with its own sitting room, dressing room and two bathrooms.
Sprawled across the same floor are five further en-suite bedrooms, and a TV room.
The second floor holds a large studio room along with two en-suite guest bedrooms and two three-bedroom wings with family bathrooms.
The castle also features a two-bedroom staff flat, along with extensive domestic offices and large cellars.
Most of the rooms boast views across the historic parkland and stunning gardens - which feature lawns, a large kitchen garden, and glasshouses.
The grounds also feature two AstroTurf tennis courts, a three-acre lake with a boathouse, a former cricket pitch, and a vineyard planted with Taittinger grapes.
The estate also has a stable block, paddocks and large barn, along with two Grade-II listed lodges - with two and three bedrooms respectively - which have recently been renovated, and have previously been let out.
In addition to these, there are two further cottages near the main house that will be available for sale separately.