The Vines House

A 17th Century Town House adjacent to Restoration House

A History of The Vines House

Built in 1694 on the footprint of a Tudor hall house, The Vines House was distinguished by an impressive porch and doorcase, fully panelled entrance hall leading to a grand fenestrated staircase with far reaching views. This staircase connected the fine dining parlour to the extraordinary Japanned Room with ambitious painted decoration of exotic Chinoiserie, Turqueries, Italianate landscapes and simulated marbling. The history of The Vines House is connected to the fortunes of Restoration House and it was built on the footprint of a Tudor hall house, the original Old Hall of RH. Expanded to the north with a new Great Hall and Great Chamber that was the house where Sir Francis Clerke welcomed Charles II in 1660 but by 1692 his son, also Francis Clerke, had died without issue and RH (as it became known) was sold, subdivided, and the Old Hall demolished to make way for this lavishly panelled and decorated townhouse, now the Vines House.

Until as late as the 1980’s the present Italian Garden was the garden of VH, a theatrical space set out on 3 levels, enclosed by high walls, including the magnificent Tudor Wall, and with its own natural water supply. However, the fortunes of both VH and RH declined and by the C.19th the wide terraces and plat had been planted with fruit trees and the whole converted to market gardening. This indeed was Kent ‘the Garden of England’ with transportation by barge from the Medway to the Thames thence the London docks.

The bounty of this garden was guaranteed by the freshwater spring, for which reason the site was originally settled, certainly by the C.15th but probably much earlier. The spring filled a reservoir where the 2 neo Georgian houses now stand, the water being piped through hollowed elm trunks, and sold to the City of Rochester.  A large brick chamber under the paved terrace by the conservatory represents part of this water capture and management, perhaps as an ice house.

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