Whitstable Castle has been central to the life of the town for many years. It is home to Whitstable’s only public park, which is open to the public free of charge seven days per week. Whitstable Castle reopened in autumn 2010 after a lengthy restoration project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Canterbury City Council.
The main building has an interesting history. It originated in 1790, the seaside holiday home of Charles Pearson, a London entrepreneur. Pearson was involved in building the Canterbury to Whitstable railway (with George Stephenson). Pearson built a hotel close to the end of the railway line, which is today The Pearson’s Arms Public House.
Another colourful owner of Tankerton Towers (as it was then known) from 1836, was London millionaire businessman Wynn Ellis. He was a flamboyant and well-known figure and a Liberal MP. He installed his mistress, Susan Lloyd, at the house, while his wife remained at their London home in Cadogan Place.
Upon his death in 1875, Wynn Ellis’s possessions were sold by Christies and his ‘Old Masters’ bequeathed to the National Gallery. However, they were found to be skillful copies and relegated to the store rooms at the National Gallery, where they remain to this day.
His son (the Rev Arthur Graystone) later inherited the house and a huge fortune. The family has an imposing mausoleum in the churchyard at All Saints Church.
In 1935, Whitstable Urban District Council bought the castle and used it as civic offices. In 1975, at the instigation of the Whitstable Society, it was cleaned up and reclaimed by the people of Whitstable for community use.
The Castle was the recipient of a Heritage Lottery grant in 2008, allowing £3m to be spent restoring this important community amenity.
The gardens are now open for the enjoyment of the public. The Castle hosts many classes, community meetings, parties, weddings and events. The Orangery tearooms are open to the public for coffees, cakes and lunches, with a wonderful view over the Whitstable Bowling Club Green to the sea beyond.
Educational tours and visits are welcome. Contact Kathy Moulton on 01227 281 726. Opening times and updates about events can be found on the Whitstable Castle website www.whitstablecastle.co.uk