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Owletts in Cobham and other North Kent National Trust sites to open once a month


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A family who fought to protect its ancestral home from near permanent closure to the public has won.

The National Trust announced that Owletts in Cobham, near Gravesend, and several other period properties were to close to visitors bar one "heritage" weekend this year.

Camilla Baker, the great-granddaughter of British architect Herbert Baker, lives in the grounds with her son Henry
Camilla Baker, the great-granddaughter of British architect Herbert Baker, lives in the grounds with her son Henry

But after a petition was launched asking for the public's support to keep the properties open, that decision has now been over-ruled.

Built in the late 17th century, Owletts is an early example of a large Kentish Yeoman's house which is uniquely still occupied by its ancestors.

Leading British Empire architect Sir Herbert Baker, who was born there in 1862, went on to restore the period property, filling it with his own furniture works.

It was gifted by him, along with its contents, to the National Trust in 1938 but on the proviso that the Baker family – who have lived on the estate since 1793 – stayed on as tenants at a reduced rent.

Since then, the descendants have continued to live and volunteer in the grounds, and run regular local and school events dedicated to its history.

Prior to the pandemic, they also regularly opened some rooms to the public and hosted picnics and afternoon teas on the lawns. Owletts was open every Sunday from 11am-5pm from the start of April to end of September.

Owletts in Cobham will now open once a month. Picture: Gravesham Borough Council
Owletts in Cobham will now open once a month. Picture: Gravesham Borough Council

However, Owletts was suddenly removed from the Trust's handbook last year and is currently listed on Google as "temporarily closed".

The Trust then announced it intended to reduce access between April and September to just two days per year on a "trial basis" in an effort to recover lost revenue during the pandemic.

Since the campaign, which had amassed nearly 4,000 signatures, it has now been decided the site can open once a month during the season.

Camilla Baker, 46, is the great-grand-daughter of Herbert, and resides in the grounds with her six-year-old son Henry.

She said: "It is better, it is not brilliant but it is better. It has made us aware that these things are not always going to be here.

"It is a real testament to how much people want things in their local area. We want things on our doorstep.

Camilla Baker is a local primary school teacher but lives and helps run events on site at Owletts
Camilla Baker is a local primary school teacher but lives and helps run events on site at Owletts

"It is really good that we are opening. We will take the small win. We do it for love, it is a great place. I am really just happy it will be open.

"The only problem is, if it is only once a month and you miss it, it is a long wait until the next date."

Owletts will be opening on the last Sunday of the month between 11am and 5pm starting on May 29 until September.

Also affected in the local set was St John's Jerusalem and Cobham Mausoleum, on the ridge between Strood and Cuxton, but they have also been told they can open monthly.

The Baker family volunteers at the ancestral home
The Baker family volunteers at the ancestral home

St John's Jerusalem will be open between 2pm and 6pm on the second Wednesday of the month and Cobham Mausoleum between 12.30pm and 4.30pm on the first Sunday.

A spokesman for the Trust said: "Owletts is a special property in the National Trust portfolio, and it has been heartening to see the renewed public interest in it.

"We are really pleased to be able to open all these North Kent hidden gems to the public and we are very grateful to the current tenants and our volunteers for their contribution to welcoming visitors to them."

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