The ruins of Leybourne Castle consisting of the remnants of a gatehouse and part of a round angle tower dating from the late 13th century. The gatehouse has been partly incorporated into a house of 16th century date which was rebuilt in the 1931. The shell of a chapel remains but it has been modernised and re-roofed and few original features survive. Scheduled. The ruins were converted into a residence in 1926 by the architect, Walter Godfrey. Not open to the public.
This place stands to the N.W. of Maidstone, between Snodland and West Malling; the castle was never of any great size, but there are considerable remains of it. The Lands were given by the Conqueror to his half-brother, Odo the Bishop, and reverting to the Crown at his fall, were bestowed upon Sir William d’Arsic, one of the eight knights of Dover. Temp. Richard I. they were in the hands of the family of Leybourne, who then erected the castle, and it remained with them till the death of Juliana, daughter of Thomas Leybourne, and heiress, who had brought the castle and manor to four husbands, whom she survived .without issue; .whence in 41 Edward III., the whole .was escheated to the Crown, and conferred on the Cistercian Abbey of St. Mary Graces, near the Tower of London, .with whom the property remained until the Dissolution. Then Henry VIII. granted the manor to Archbishop Cranmer, after whom both manor and castle went to Sir Edward North, a Privy Councillor. He alienated them 6 Edward V1., and they passed through many hands, until, in 1724, they came to the family of the Whitworths, and then by entail to that of Hawley, Sir Henry Hawley, Bart., of the Grange, being owner at the beginning of this century.
A great part of the walls may be Norman, but the architecture generally is of Henry III. There is a fine gateway, in ruins, of perhaps Edward III., machicolated, and with a passage under pointed and ribbed arches between two bold drum towers. There is a curious opening above the arch, 3 feet long by 6 inches, like a magnified Post Office opening, the use of which appears to have been for pouring out water, in the event of besiegers applying fire to the gate or portcullis, and provision for an ample supply of water for this purpose was made by a water conduit communicating with the moat and passing below the W.turret to the foot of a shaft, up which buckets could be drawn. A wooden gallery was provided for the defence of the gatehouse in front, supported by wooden cantilevers, the sockets for which are still to be seen.
One of the ranges of masonry which remain seems to have lain next to the Hall, which has vanished, and contained some of the private apartments. A short way northward are the remains of the chapel, which had an arched porch and a passage 20 feet in length. In the sixteenth century a dwelling-house was erected, which was converted during the past century into a farmhouse, the chapel itself forming the dairy. The hoarse was formerly the residence of the Golding family.
In the entrance gateway is a rectangular groove for the portcullis, and the pivot holes of the drawbridge arc still apparent, but the pit of the bridge and the moat have been filled in. The rear of the gatehouse has been destroyed.
The ancient ruin has been well cared for and preserved by. its late owner, Sir
Joseph Hawley. (Castles Of England, Sir James D. Mackenzie, 1896)