Restoration House (Rochester): where Emu & Charles II once lay their head?


Off to merry Rochester I went on the train from London Bridge (well, I was actually a little scared of some of the people I met but I’m just a Northern wuss and not a tough Southerner).  I fought on nevertheless because I knew there be some history in those there streets.  Even Charles Dickens chose one of them to be his inspiration for Miss Havisham’s home, that be the one shown above.

Around the corner from a castle.


not too far from a very big Cathedral.


Restoration House

Restoration House as we see it today is the amalgamation of two medieval buildings which were combined in the late 16th or early 17th century to create a mansion house just outside the south east corner of the city wall of Rochester. It was neither a town house nor a country seat but shared features of both, not least being the political seat of its creator and first owner Henry Clerke. Henry Clerke and his son Francis, both ambitious lawyers, were both elected several times as Royalist members of Parliament for Rochester.

It is also where Charles II may have lay his head on his return from France to England, the house having been decorated in the most fashionable “French” colours of the day in anticipation of his visit.

From early 1660 plans to bring Charles back from exile in France were advancing.  Rochester was the only crossing of the Medway on the road from Dover to London and was therefore a strategic consideration, more so with a large part of the nation’s fleet, much expanded under Cromwell, being moored at Chatham Dockyard nearby (check out the interesting council museum at Rochester for gruesome mock-ups of the prisoner ships).

It is quite possible that Charles did come to this very house.

After Rod Hull (and presumably Emu) lived there and following his bankruptcy, over the past ten years the present owners, Robert Tucker and Jonathan Willmott, (one of whom is a banker I’d guess from the Credit Suisse clock on the bedside cabinet, hence the deep pockets to finance this admirable passion) have paid someone to painstakingly scrape back every bit of “later” paint to reveal the original soul of the house.

Amazingly, the house isn’t listed (I was quite surprised but the room guides insisted, pointing only to some Arts & Crafts murals in one room, which are in themselves listed [the current owners don’t like them so cover some with tapestries!]).

 ‘French Grey’ paint, paint effect ‘marbling’ and ‘japanning’ has been revealed, together with rooms having been opened up to reinstate original ‘French doors’ cut into earlier partitions.  Upstairs in the parlour, paint scrapings revealed an earlier yellow and black scheme, which has been reinstated.

I have borrowed this image from someone who was allowed to photograph inside.  Check out the roof, which has been left with historic “oil and sweat” staining.

It is such a shame that I couldn’t take pictures inside the house as I would have dearly liked to have tried to capture some of the details for further reflection.  That said, one of the owners even opens up his own bedroom to visitors so I can understand why they don’t want their bed sheets photographed by everyone who drops by.

The gardens I could photograph though, including the area which is to be reinstated as a Tudor garden after an original diamond-patterned Tudor wall was discovered on a plot of land next door and the owners fought to prevent developers destroying it.

A watch this space moment and somewhere I’ve already told D we have to go and visit in a few years’ time.

I walked up the high street and visited the few other historic buildings in the town.

Check out the nasty pigeon spikes.

When visited: July 2013


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