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Home > New Search > Higham Park (Highland Court), Kent

Higham Park (Highland Court), Kent  England 
Bridge, Kent, England

Circa Date: 1768

Status: Fully Extant

Special Info / Location/ Date

Special Info
Phonetic Pronunciation of House Name

District Today
 Historic County
 City / Town / Village

Start Date
Completion Date
Circa Date

Click on thumbnail for a larger view

The Main Hall
The Music Room

Designed   Italian Water Garden (1901) and Canal (1903) for William Gay
Date   1901-03

Extant / Listed / References

Extant Type
Fully Extant
Extant Details

House Listed As 
Grade II*
Gardens Listed As  
Not Listed
Country House:  Yes

Vitruvius Britannicus
Vitruvius Scoticus
J.B. Burke (Burke's Visitation of Seats)
Country Life
J.P. Neale (Neale's Views of Seats)
Access / Ownership / Seat

Open to Public Please note: Houses listed as being open "By Appointment" are usually country house hotels, B&Bs, or schools.
Historic Houses Association Member
Phone Number If calling from the U.S., delete the first "0" in British numbers.
Fax Number

Current Ownership
Current Ownership Type
Individual / Family Trust
Primary Current Ownership Use
Private Home
Current Ownership Use / Details

Seat ("Seat" is loosely defined as any family that occupied the house for a period of 2 years or more)
Today Seat of
A Past Seat(s) of
De Hegham family, circa 1320. Thomas Culpepper, 16th century. Sir Anthony Aucher, 17th century. Ignatius Geoghegan, 18th century. James Hallet, 18th century. Charles Hughes-Hallet, 19th century. William Gay, 20th century. Countess Margaret Zberanska, 20th century. Count Louis Vorrow Zborowski, 20th century. Sir Walter Whigham, 20th century. Patricia Gibb and Amanda Harris-Deans,
Possible (Unsure) Seat of
History / Gardens & Park / Movies

Earlier House(s) / Building(s)
House Replaced By
Built / Designed For
House & Family History
The Higham Estate was ceded to the De Hegham family by Edward II in 1320. The family, then courtiers to the King, held lands south of Canterbury stretching as far as Wingham to the east and Upper Hardres to the west. These vast estates passed in 1534 to Thomas Culpepper of Bedgebury, famous author and herbalist during the reign of Henry VIII; evidence of his early experimental plantings can still be found today (2004) within the kitchen gardens at Higham. Culpepper was later beheaded after an alleged affair with Catherine Howard, wife of Henry VIII. The property was later occupied by Sir Anthony Aucher and then passed on to his son, Sir William, who died without issue in 1726. Sir William's sister, however, had a daughter who in turn married Ignatius Geoghegan; this couple made Higham their home and during their ownership they commissioned (1768) the building of Higham's Neoclassical four-column façade as we see it today. Finished in Portland stone, which was quarried in Cornwall and shipped in huge quantities, the columns were intricately shaped and carved by hand on site. In July 1765 the nine-year-old Mozart visited Higham and played in the Music Room. The young child prodigy was touring Europe with his father, Leopold, who decided to pay a visit to Higham Park, then famous for its horseracing track and a great favorite with the nobility. In 1781 James Hallet purchased the Higham Estate. Jane Austen, along with her sister Cassandra, visited Higham -- their outings are mentioned in Cassandra's jottings. In 1823 Higham again changed hands, this time to James Hallet's nephew, Charles, who assumed the surname Hughes-Hallet and married Frances Anne, daughter of Sir Edward Katchbull, the 8th Baronet of Mersham Hatch. The Rev. James Hughes-Hallet lived in the House from 1846 (portraits of his family, painted by Sanges, were exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1854). The London banker William Gay purchased the estate in 1901; Gray was a great collector of rare plants and orchids and under his ownership Higham's Edwardian gardens were completed as seen today (2004). During Gray’s residence the Italian Water Garden, designed by Harold Peto (completed 1903), and the Portico (completed circa 1905), were added. In 1910, following the tragic death of her husband (a Polish count), Countess Margaret Zborowski, the wealthy granddaughter of William Waldorf Astor (she owned seven acres of Manhattan), purchased the Higham Estate for £17,500 (equivalent to approximately £1.4 million in 2010 inflation-adjusted values using the retail price index). Her intent, to provide a stable English family home from which to educate and bring up her son, was sadly short-lived; after spending £50,000 on refurbishments, the Countess died three months after purchasing Higham (she suffered ill health throughout her life). Her son, Count Louis Vorrow Zborowski, at just 16, inherited great wealth and burning ambition - to follow his late father's great passion as a racing car driver. During the 1920s Higham became the unlikely venue from where the world's most ambitious racing cars were both conceived and built. The world's first aero-engine racing cars (Chitty-Bang-Bang 1 of 1921 was the first racing car of Count Louis; it was a chain-driven lengthened Mercedes chassis with a 2.3 liter six cylinder Zeppelin Maybach aero engine), later immortalized by Ian Fleming's fantasy book and film “Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang,” were the brain-child of Count Louis (the young Fleming is believed to have been a regular visitor to the Count's motoring events, traveling from London on the Dover bus 007; and later in life as a house guest of Walter Whigham, the chairman of merchant bank Fleming & Company). The Count’s well-chronicled racing exploits, then typical of the amateur status of drivers during the early part of the 20th century, were undoubtedly responsible for attracting the aristocracy to the sport in later years. Count Louis's racing green, for example, is now universally accepted as the standard livery for classic British racing cars. The Count died at just 28, racing for Mercedes-Benz at Monza in Italy. The latest creation from his workshops, the Higham Special, was passed on to his friend Parry Thomas, who later took it to the Pendine sands in South Wales where it broke the World Land Speed Record. The car, renamed Babs, now has its own museum at Pendine. The Count's virtually unlimited resources (he was the 4th richest under-21-year in the world when his mother died in 1911 and left him a huge fortune of approximately £11 million – worth approximately £874 million in 2010 values) and interest for all things mechanical meant that he could also exercise his passion for speed in other directions. The now famous Hythe and Dymchurch Narrow Gauge Miniature Railway was born at Higham and originally circled the landscape gardens. With his friend, Captain Howie, the Green Goddess engine would pull its carriages to such a speed that it would regularly topple off its track. The Higham Park estate was sold in 1928 to Sir Walter Whigham, a merchant banker and governor of the Bank of England. Sir Walter was married to a French countess from the Saligoncic Fenelon family (the Moët dynasty); they changed the name of the Estate to Highland Court during the 1930s, remodeled the staircase in white Italian marble to resemble the Ritz in Paris, and built the stable block in 1932. It continued under this name while under the control of the War Office during the Second World War (1939-45) and during its tenure as the Gynecology Department of the Kent and Canterbury Hospital (from 1950). The House was listed Grade II* in 1980 and the Highland Court Hospital was closed in 1981, with the Estate being unoccupied and subsequently falling into disrepair. In September 1995, after 18 months of negotiations, the House was purchased by local cousins Patricia Gibb and Amanda Harris-Deans for £1.5 million, having sold their existing houses to raise the necessary funds. The cousins resumed the original name and immediately began a painstaking and comprehensive restoration, which continued for 10 years. In late 2005 the 87-room 24,000 sq ft house and 25 acres were sold for in excess of the £4 million guide price to a private couple, and is no longer open to the public. (We are grateful to Patricia Gibb for kindly contributing much of this history of Higham.)
Collections This field lists art objects that are currently or were previously in the collection of the house.

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Gardens & Park
Garden, Park, Follies and Outbuildings
The Italian Water Garden's 250-ft canal is reputedly the longest in England, and was designed by Harold Peto in 1903. A classical temple in the grounds (blown-up in the early 20th century by the 21-one-year-old owner of Higham, Count Louis Zborowski) was rebuilt in the early 21st century by Patricia Gibb and Amanda Harris-Deans.
Chapel & Church

Location for Movies / TV

Author   NA
Year Published   NA
Reference   Telegraph Property, Aug 28, 2004, pg. 6

There are no documents associated with this house.

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