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Smallhythe Place, Tenterden

#4 of 14 in Things to do in Tenterden
Historic Site · Hidden Gem · Tourist Spot
Smallhythe Place in Small Hythe, near Tenterden in Kent, is a half-timbered house built in the late 15th or early 16th century and since 1947 cared for by the National Trust. The house was originally called 'Port House' and before the River Rother and the sea receded it served a thriving shipyard: in Old English hythe means "landing place".

It was the home of the Victorian actress Ellen Terry from 1899 to her death in the house in 1928. The house contains Ellen Terry's theatre collection, while the cottage grounds include her rose garden, orchard, nuttery and the working Barn Theatre.
Terry first saw the house in the company of Henry Irving, the manager of the Lyceum Theatre in London's Covent Garden, with whom she shared a famous theatrical partnership for nearly 24 years. The house was opened to the public by Terry's daughter Edith Craig in 1929, as a memorial to her mother. The National Trust supported Craig in her running of the museum from 1939, and took over the property when she died in 1947. It was designated as a Grade II* listed building by English Heritage on 8 May 1950.
Smallhythe Place contains many personal and theatrical mementoes, including two walls devoted to David Garrick and Sarah Siddons. Other exhibits include a message from Sarah Bernhardt, a chain worn by Fanny Kemble, Sir Arthur Sullivan's monocle and a visiting card from Alexandre Dumas. There are also several paintings by the artist Clare Atwood, one of the romantic companions of Edith Craig.

In an adjoining room is a letter from Oscar Wilde begging Terry to accept a copy of his first play. There is also a selection of sumptuous costumes dating from Terry’s time at the Lyceum Theatre. In 1929, Craig set up the Barn Theatre in the house's grounds, where the plays of William Shakespeare were performed every year on the anniversary of her mother's death. This tradition continues to this day.

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278 reviews
  • A place about ellen terry a actress who lived here and did plays there is a theatre you can see plays in though not at the moment  more »
  • Had such a nice visit to this adorable house, lovely people, great atmosphere and excellent cake. The people in the house were so lovely and informative about the house and the lady in the cafe was...  more »
  • Amazing insight into the life of Helen Terry. Really fascinating! The beetle dress restoration is awesome! The Barn Theatre impressed us too, would love to come again to watch a production.
  • Lovely NT property, but we went to see open air theatre. It was superb. We saw Changeling Theatre Group do Shakespeare's "The Winter's Tale. What a fantastic group, wonderfully performed and greatly enjoyed by all. Will go again.
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