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Interactive Victorian kitchen exhibition launches at Penshurst Place

The most extensive restoration since the house opened in 1947

One of the largest private collections of antique copper pots, pans and cookware on show

Designed to engage and provoke multi-generation discussion and personal recollections

This Easter weekend launched the interactive Victorian Kitchen Exhibition at Penshurst Place. Now visitors will be able to walk through time and experience history in a different way at Penshurst Place in the Weald of Kent as it opens a new Victorian kitchen exhibition, revealing a part of the house and antique family items that, for many years, have been behind closed doors.

‘The Kitchen at Penshurst’ will officially open on Saturday 1st April, having been dormant for decades. Complete with over 125 pieces of antique copperware and cooking equipment, an assortment of original Victorian furniture, and authentic recipes from a bygone era, it’s sure to be a popular addition for visitors to this authentic stately home.

Located in the 15th Century Buckingham Building, the room – with its high ceilings and flagstone floor – was used as the main kitchen for Penshurst Place from at least the 1800’s through to 1950. Now carefully restored, along with the adjoining larder/scullery, it will provide a snapshot in time of how a traditional kitchen in a large private house would have been used. Meanwhile, eye-catching interpretation panels placed around the room will offer insight into the roles of the various household staff on this historic country estate.

One of the largest private collections of copper pots, pans and much more will be on display in The Kitchen, from the tiniest beehive-shaped jelly moulds to huge warming pans that would have been put inside carriages to keep them warm, as well as an impressive selection of antique china and earthenware. Many carry the insignia of the Sidney family, who have owned Penshurst Place since 1552 – other pieces prove the family’s close connections with royalty, carrying The King’s Crown (George IV’s monogram).

Helping to set the scene, a vast Victorian table in the centre of the room will be laid out ready for cake making, while a cook’s desk complete with menus, cookbooks and shopping lists will provide insight into the types of ingredients that would have been bought and meals they would have prepared within this kitchen in times gone by.

There will be plenty for young visitors to see, do and touch – such as uncovering concealed facts and unfamiliar recipes, creating and sharing their own menu ideas, and sniffing out a selection of herbs and spices to spot which is which.

Dr The Hon Philip Sidney, heir to Penshurst Place, said: “it’s wonderful to be returning the old kitchen to its original purpose, and to be able to share the house’s history of food and cooking. Penshurst Place has a long-standing tradition of entertainment and hospitality, from hosting Henry VIII for a banquet in 1519 to being an award-winning wedding venue today, and it is great that we can open the kitchen up to show how everyone would have been kept fed and watered in the nineteenth century. The range of pots, pans and utensils is awe-inspiring – I’m glad to say that things are a lot less complicated when the family cooks nowadays!” 

Nicky Stitchman, Head of House Visits and Collections added: “Restoring the Old Kitchen has been hugely exciting, particularly as most of the exhibits showcased are original items that would have been in use in the house during the Victorian era. We are lucky to have so many objects to display including some incredible cake and jelly moulds. We hope that the interactive elements will spark lots of conversations between the different generations of visitors who come to Penshurst every year.”

Penshurst Place & Gardens will be open to the public every day from 1st April until 29th October this year, with access to The Kitchen at Penshurst. Exhibition included in the admission price to the house.

Aside from the historic manor house and its stunning gardens and grounds, other popular attractions within the Penshurst estate include an adventure playground and woodland trail; a toy museum; a gift shop and plant centre; plus a wealth of scenic walks and cycle routes around the ancient parkland.

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