The first record of a town at Sevenoaks dates to the 13th century when it attained its charter as a market town. Since then, the architecture in Sevenoaks illustrates the town’s history through various building styles and materials. Over the last few hundred years, Sevenoaks shows off its history from the medieval Knole House to the modern High Street. We explore this architectural history through some of the more notable buildings in Sevenoaks.
Medieval Sevenoaks: Knole House, Sevenoaks School and Riverhill House
First stop on the history of architecture in Sevenoaks is Knole House – one of 5 largest houses in the England. Originally built in the mid-15th century, it has been extended and refurbished over time. The latest conservation project finished in 2019. It has a Grade 1 listing and was initially an archbishop’s palace. A stone’s throw from the town centre, this late-medieval Stuart building dominates the town.
Knole House and its grand park are not the only buildings that survive from that period. Sevenoaks School, dates back to the 1400s and is the second oldest non-denominational school in the UK. The current school is housed in a series of buildings, the oldest and most notable of which were constructed in the 18th century. These include the Old School and Almshouses built in the Palladian style, famous for its symmetry and classicism, and reminiscent of Ancient Greek and Roman architectural styles.
Riverhill House is an excellent example of a ragstone manor house. Ragstone is a hard sandstone or limestone, abundant in this part of the South East of England. Riverhill House was built when Queen Anne was on the throne. The architectural style is all about simplicity and is similar to Palladian design in its symmetry. Riverhill house was and remains in private ownership to this day.
Sevenoaks High Street and its 6 centuries of architecture
The Conservation Area that encompasses Sevenoaks High Street is a walk through 6 centuries of architectural history. One of the earliest examples is the 16th-century timber-frame building known today as the Old Post Office. This Conservation Area also includes Knole House, which as we have seen is illustrative of 17th-century architectural design.
The 18th-century Chantry House, The Red House and The Old House are surviving examples of dormered attics with brick bands, deep eaves cornices and decorative brickwork which defined the architectural style of that time. Behind the Old Post Office, you will find 3 cottages, dating to the 18th-century. With their white weatherboards and wooden casement windows, they are a change from the grander styles on the High Street.
Victorian shop fronts, remaining examples of this 19th-century style, are still visible even after modern conversions have altered their interiors along the High Street. Walking further north, the styles begin to blend a variety of more modern designs. A assortment of styles, materials and building heights are more dominant at the northern end of the High Street. While they may be less cohesive architecturally, they fuse classic and modern interpretations of the varied styles of architecture in Sevenoaks. As with any main shopping street, architectural style is most visible above the street-level shop fronts.
Architectural styles from the 20th-century
There are two notable examples of 20th-century design. To the north-east of Sevenoaks lies the Wildernesse Estate. While the first homes were built on this land in the early 1300s, the main Wilderness Estate grew following the sale of the historic Wildernesse House mansion. Today, over 150 detached homes are on the estate, many of which are designed in the Arts and Crafts architectural style. This shows the desire to return to simplicity and craftsmanship and of making the most of local materials.
The other is the Stag, notable 1930s cinema and theatre and today a hub of cultural activities for the town.
Did you know?
The Stag may be a theatre today, but it started life as the Majestic Cinema in 1936. It went through a number of extensions, changes and modernisations. As the golden age of the movies grew, so did Majestic Cinema until the 1980s. After that, it became a theatre, then an arts and conference centre and a community arts centre before being redeveloped into a theatre again. Today, it enjoys a revival as a revamped cinema and theatre.
Making changes to your home
Moving into a bigger space is not always possible. Extensions and renovations to maximise your existing space are the next best thing to a larger home. Even if you live in a conservation area or your home is a listed building, there will be things that you can do to grow your living space. We have been helping homeowners make the most of their space for 25 years and are confident that we can help you too.
Talk to us about what you need
If you want to make changes to your home – converting a loft or adding an extension – talk to us. We have the skills and experience to help and can do the same for you. Find some inspiration in one of our case studies or get in touch for an initial chat.
The Stag Sevenoaks: https://stagsevenoaks.co.uk/
The Wildernesse Estate: https://www.wildernesse-estate.co.uk/
Sevenoaks District Council: https://www.sevenoaks.gov.uk/
National Trust: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/knole