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The origins of this enormous Kentish ragstone house are obscure, but it is believed that an estate has been in existence here since the 12th century. The Knole house seen today was rebuilt and furnished in three bursts of activity each separated by about one hundred years. At the beginning of the 17th century Thomas Sackville, 1st earl of Dorset, transformed the late medieval archbishop's palace into a Renaissance mansion. Later that same century, his great-great grandson the 6th Earl, acquired Knole's unique collection of Stuart furniture and textiles through his office as Lord Chamberlain. Finally towards the end of the 18th century the 6th earls great-grandson the 3rd Duke, added Old Masters bought on the Grand Tour to Italy, together with portraits commissioned from contemporary English artists such as Reynolds and Gainsborough. Visitors to the house today will see little changed from this period.
Knole Park is one of the few Tudor deer parks in England to have survived the past 500 years and the only one in Kent. The park has changed little since Thomas Sackville's death in 1608 except mainly from the devastation wreaked in October 1987 by the Great Storm, when 70% of the trees in the park were lost.
The 1000 acres of Knole is home to an 800 strong herd of Fallow and Japanese Sika deer who do a good job of keeping the grass short even on the golf course. There is also a 24 acre walled garden consisting of both formal and informal (wilderness areas), which provides views of the seldom seen rear aspects of the house.
Knole is located in Sevenoaks in Kent off the A225.