Grand old buildings
Russell Gardens was originally designed as part of a private country estate known as Kearsney Court. The estate was planned in 1899 for Alfred Leney (1837-1900), owner of the Phoenix Brewery in Dover. The project was sold on to Edward P Barlow, Chairman of the Wiggins Teape paper making business. Wiggins Teape maintained a paper mill in the town up until 2000.
It was Edward Barlow who commissioned Thomas H Mawson (1861-1933), the renowned Edwardian landscape architect and exponent of the Arts and Crafts Movement, to design the gardens.
On Barlow's death in 1912, the property passed to Mr Johnstone, a London newspaper man, and was later used as a nursing home and as a military hospital during World War II. After the war, 10 hectares of the estate were acquired by Dover Rural Council and it was opened as a public park in 1951. It was named Russell Gardens after Alderman Hilton Russell. The building of Kearsney Court is still privately owned.
Kearsney Abbey is another fine example of a former country house and estate. The history of the site can be traced back to the Norman Conquest when it was known as Castney Court and part of the Barony of Saye, whose men maintained and garrisoned the Saye Tower at Dover Castle.
Although never a monastic estate, it takes its name from the impressive Gothic revival manor house built between 1820-1822 by local merchant and banker, John Minet Fector. He used some of the stonework from Dover's medieval old town walls and gatehouses, demolished in the early 19th century, to build a folly in the grounds. Sections of wall, arches, gate piers and bridges within Kearsney Abbey are Grade II listed.
Most of the manor house was demolished in 1950 due to extensive dry rot. However, the former billiards room in the west wing still stands and is used today as a café. The original panelled interior and vaulted ceiling of this Grade II listed building creates the perfect ambience for a morning coffee, light lunch, or afternoon tea.
As part of the 1951 Festival of Britain celebrations an open air theatre was created in Kearsney Abbey. A production of A Midsummer Night's Dream was staged. We're planning to put on theatrical performances as part of the project.