Scattered around Sevenoaks and surrounding villages are a number of these unusual structures, often the only survivals of once great estates. They are the Lodges that guarded the gateways to the estates – the homes of the groundsmen who would open the gates to their masters and guests.
Despite their differences from one another, they are recognisable as distinctive building types.
They are often small in size compared to today’s standards, yet at the same time most are quite ornate and are certainly built to a much higher standard (architecturally at any rate) than other small workmen’s houses of the same era. Design features include a high degree of symmetry and more elaborate workmanship. Sometimes building elements, like chimneys, windows or doors are oversized in relation to the overall building size (almost as if to make them more endearing in the way that the large eyes of a baby might). Their roots lie in the Picturesque movement at the turn of the 19th century and the “cottage ornée” of the 18th century
But does this matter today?
These satellite dwellings are useful in an urban setting as a way of defining neighbourhoods, smaller subdivisions of the town or village. This is true even if the historic country or town house is no longer there.
Let’s look at a few examples:
Montreal was the house Lord Amherst had built on his family estate in Riverhead following his successful campaign against the French in Canada in 1760. This estate extended from Riverhead to Brittains Farm in Brittains Lane, and then west to Bessels Green, Coldharbour Lane and Salters Heath. Some of the estate walls still survive, such as the one running downhill into Riverhead. Other survivals include a commemorative obelisk in Montreal and dilapidated stone summer house at Salter’s Heath, but the most visible reminder today is the Lodge at the old entrance. When Montreal was demolished in the 1930s a small part of the original estate was developed for housing and called Montreal Park. It probably owes a large part of its identity and character to the Lodge at its entrance with its large cedar tree.
Chipstead Place is another house that was partly demolished in the 1930s. elements of it survive – parts of the old house, its ragstone wall, a large estate house (possibly another lodge) near the top of Chipstead Hill. But the most visible reminder is the Lodge at the junction with Witches Lane. Its moves the edge of Chipstead from the top of Chipstead Hill nearly a mile to the east to the outskirts of Riverhead.
Knole House has two sets of paired Lodge houses. The better known set are on the drive leading from Knole to the town Church, while the other pair are on the now closed drive on the north side of Sevenoaks, possibly leading to Bat and Ball. This may date them to the period when Sevenoaks had its only railway station there (between 1862 and 1868). Both sets are designed to make life difficult for he occupants, by making them live in two detached rooms.
The Kippington estate has four lodges. Two are unsurprisingly found at either end of Kippington Road, a third is found halfway along, and a fourth in Oak Hill Road straddling a path from Kippington to Sevenoaks.
The lodge halfway along Kippington Road appears to indicate a sub-domain, a threshold that marks entry to a more intimate realm that includes St. Mary’s Church. However the actual reason for siting the lodge there may be due to the owner finding that the north section of the new parish he was proposing on his site had already been transferred to Riverhead’s parish. An unusual feature is the V-shaped ends.
The fourth lodge in Oak Hill Road straddles the path from Sevenoaks up to Kippington much as a churchyard penthouse might (for example in Penshurst and Smarden). Its origin also appear due to the new church the owner of Kippington had built.
Is there a pattern? Lodge Houses are often very small – impractical for modern families but potentially ideal for couples or single persons. Its surprising that they are not still built – not as clones of an idea of what a Lodge should look like (since oddly enough they all look quite individual), but as visible markers of new neighbourhoods. What would the key elements be?
1. Location – at the entrance of the new housing development.
2. Size – a much smaller house.
3. Appearance – possibly one or more design features accentuated or a little out of scale.