Towards the end of the 16th century whilst under the ownership of the Wyatt family the castle was badly damaged by fire, remaining largely derelict until 1905 when it was restored by Sir Martin Conway. In 1951 the castle became home to a convent of the Order of Carmelites. In 1965 the castle was used as a location for “Castle De’ath” Episode 5, Series 4 of the cult series The Avengers. The castle is currently the private residence of the psephologist Sir Robert Worcester and Lady Worcester.
The castle is not open to the public.
The family of Wyatt (spelt in various ways) was originally from Southange, Yorkshire, and of good standing (temp. Edward III.). Sir Henry was a staunch Lancastrian, who suffered imprisonment, and some say torture, in the Tower (temp. Richard III.), and an old legend in the family recounts how he was preserved from starvation by a cat, which brought him occasionally a pigeon from a neighbouring dovecot that he bribed his keeper to cook for him ; pictures of this knight are said to have always a cat represented with him. He was one of the councillors appointed for the management of affairs during the minority of the young King Henry, in whose reign he distinguished himself at the Battle of Spurs, where he was made a Banneret on the field ; he filled the offices of Keeper of the Jewels and King’s Ewerer to Henry VIII., and in 1527 entertained his Sovereign at Allington Castle, which estate, together with that of the Mote, also near Maidstone, he had purchased.
His son was Thomas Wyatt, the poet and wit, born 1503, who, though a courtier all his life in the capricious favour of Henry VIII., and at his dangerous court, yet managed to die in his bed. A former admirer of Anne Boleyn he was, and said to be too friendly with her, yet just before her death he was knighted by Henry, and made High Sheriff of Kent. After a difficult embassy to the Emperor Charles V., from which he returned with honour in 1539, he was ill-treated by the tyrant, and on the fall of Cromwell, who was himself arrested at the Council Board, having been committed to the Tower he was tried but acquitted in July 1541. The king then made him keeper of the royal messuage at Maidstone, and allowed him to retire to his home at Allington, where he was at length able to enjoy the varied delights of country life, of which he writes so warmly in his poetry. But this not for long, for the next year Wyatt was sent by the king to meet a foreign embassy unexpectedly arrivecl at Falmouth, whither he hurried in a rapid journey that proved fatal to him. Seized with fever at Sherborne, he was unable to proceed, and died there after a few days, in October 1542, in his thirty-ninth year. From his friend and brother-poet, the Earl of Surrey, we have many notices of Sir Thomas’s talents, and several of his bon mots are related, by one of which he is said to have almost originated the Reformation in the mind of Henry, when, in allusion to the king’s compunction for his marriage with Katharine of Aragon, he said it was a pity that a man could not repent of his sins without the permission of the Pope of Rome.
By his marriage with Elizabeth, daughter of Lord Cobham, he left an only child, the second Sir Thomas, who inherited his father’s spirit and courage. In the Protestant conspiracy against Mary and her Spanish marriage, which came to a head in January 1554, Sir Thomas Wyatt undertook to raise the readily moved county of Kent, where the county gentry were mostly under his influence, and where his uncle, Lord Cobham, was known to be his supporter. He called a meeting of his friends at Allington Castle, the result of which was that the rising was fixed for January 25, and that clay was ushered in with the pealing of bells and the issue of a proclamation by Wyatt, to the effect that the Spaniards were corning to take the realm and that all loyal Englishmen should rally to prevent it. Then he left the castle—which he never saw again—and raised his standard at Rochester, where next clay he took possession of some of the royal ships in the Medway.
In London, where the feeling against the marriage was very strong, the Queen had only the City musters to rely on, and the retainers of her councillors and other peers ; but Soo of the former were promised at once, and the Duke of Norfolk was sent in advance of them, with some gulls and a small force, to check Wyatt at Gravesend. Norfolk proceeded to Strood, opposite to the Rochester bridge, and planted his guns there, when word was brought that the London bands (” Whitecoats ” as they were called) had deserted, with their captain, Bret, to the enemy, whereon Norfolk and his supporters fled from the scene, leaving their guns and stores for Wyatt to capture. This he did, and with them and his force of 2000 men, took the extraordinary measure of proceeding to storm his uncle, Lord Cobham’s, house of Cooling (q.v.), in order to compel his adhesion to the insurrection. The castle was taken after a fight of several hours and was pillaged, and Lord Cobham and his sons were carried away by Wyatt, who proceeded to London and came to Southwark, where he demanded the custody of the Tower and of the Queen’s person.
Mary’sposition was critical : she sent away the Spanish ambassadors, and, riding to the Guildhall, she harangued the citizens in a speech, “in her deep man’s voice,” which had a great success, the corporation vowing to support her with 25,000 men, who were enrolled next day ; £100 being offered for Wyatt’s capture. Then a reaction set in, and Wyatt met with a favourable reception at Southwark, where, however, he found the drawbridge cut off in the long street leading thence over London Bridge, and guns laid to receive him ; and he therefore moved his forces in order to march round by Kingston. Here he found thirty feet of the bridge cut away, and it was not till the night of February q that after repairing the bridge with lighters and planks, he was able to cross and proceed, with some Isoo men, towards London. Meanwhile a panic prevailed here, and at 4 A.M. on the 9th the train-bands were drummed up to muster at Charing Cross. The Queen was implored to leave Whitehall for the Tower or Windsor, but she declared her intention of remaining at the palace. By 8 A.M. more than 10,000 men were under arms in the open fields to the west of the town ; and at the old Cross, which stood at the top of St. James’s Street, a battery of guns was drawn up, while a strong force of mounted gentlemen advanced to Hyde Park Corner. Delaying foolishly at Brentford about a broken-down gun for two hours, which were all-important to him, Sir Thomas brought his tired troops at 9 o’clock straggling along the road where Piccadilly now is; and here, in what is now Park Lane, were drawn up a troop of horse, who, after the half of Wyatt’s force had passed along, fell upon their line and captured all the rear half.
Sir Thomas, however, with Knyvett and the two sons of Lord Cobham, pressed on, and overpowering the battery at the Cross, passed clown the street where Pall Mall is, and approached Charing Cross, while part of his column went round to Whitehall. Here a frightened guard had taken refuge within doors, and Mary had herself to come forth to infuse any spirit of resistance into the knaves. Anything was possible at this moment for a well-managed attack, but the rebels contented themselves with shooting a few arrows at the palace, and then went on to overtake their leader at Charing Cross, where they found themselves beset by a strong body of archers, and :titer a sharp fight the whole party was dispersed.
Wyatt and about 300 men still pushed on up the Strand, the lines of troops and the crowd opening to let him pass as far as Ludgate, where the gates were closed against him. His case was now hopeless and desperate, and he dismounted and sat clown on a bench outside the Belle Sauvage Inn on the hill side, and then with only twenty-four men—for the rest had been hustled or had deserted—retraced his steps to Temple Bar, where he was forced to yield himself, together with Knyvett, Bret, and one of the Cobhams. Thence they were brought to Whitehall Stairs, and the Queen beheld them borne off in a barge to the Tower.
Sir Thomas was executed on April it, declaring, before his death, both the Princess Elizabeth and Courtenay, Earl of Devonshire, to be innocent of any participation in the plot.
Allington then became vested in the Crown, and Elizabeth in her eleventh year, granted the castle on lease to John Astley, Master of her Jewels, whose son, Sir John Astley, dying s.h., the property passed to Jacob, created Lord Astley by Charles I. at Oxford ; from his descendant it was bought by Sir Robert Marsham, and thence was added to the estates of the Earl of Romney. The Astleys left it in order to live at Maidstone, and then the old fabric fell into decay, and its park, disparked, was turned into arable land.
Buck’s drawing (published 1774) shows the castle standing in a low-lying and wooded country, close to a bend of the Medway flowing on its S. and E. sides ; between the river and the ruins is the walled moat, nearly encircling the castle. The great entrance gatehouse is at the W. end, flanked by two lofty circular towers, and at the opposite end, outside, is a strong circular water-tower, commanding the river. The castle formed a large parallelogram, divided into two courts ; that on the N. being the latest built—perhaps by the Wyatts. On the river side the walls are high, and are defended at intervals by circular buttressed towers; at the S.W. angle of the inner court is an old round tower, which served as a keep, being probably the one said by Grose to have been built by Sir Stephen de Penchester, and called “Solomon’s Tower.” The hall and chapel were in the S. front. The two courts are separated by low buildings and an arched entrance ; and a great part of the structure has been used in converting a portion into a farmhouse with gabled roofs and porches, as shown in Grose’s drawings. (Castles Of England, Sir James D. Mackenzie, 1896)