History of Chilston Park Hotel
Chilston Park dates back to at least 1100, when 'Childeston' was owned by the Fitzhamon lords of Leeds Castle.
One influential owner of Chilston Park was Thomas Best, MP for Rochester, and a member of a well known Kentish family. During the Bests’ occupation between 1736 and 1819, much rebuilding was carried out. Inside, the rooms on the east side were remodelled to accommodate a staircase hall of Chinese Chippendale inspiration, and outside, the grounds were transformed into a picturesque parkland, complete with its own "natural" lake.
The Bests drained the canal east of the house, but left the pond to the south west of the garden. A sundial in the grounds bears the family's coat of arms and gives quaint bearings to such far-flung locations as Peking.
In 1821, the property passed to George Douglas, the eldest son of Alexander Douglas of Baads, Midlothian, an event which marked the start of a family connection which was to last until the sale of the house in 1983. The Douglas's were related to the Akers family of Lancashire, who were involved in the Caribbean sugar trade in the 17th and 18th century.
The head of the Akers family bore the unusual Christian name of Aretas, which was to travel through seven generations.
Aretas I married Jean Douglas, George's aunt, in 1752, and in 1795 Aretas II wed the daughter of the Reverend James Ramsay, a keen abolitionist, and rector of Teston. A portrait of Aretas II can be seen in the staircase hall.
George Douglas, a bachelor, had an adopted daughter named Margaret Brazier, who in 1830 married one of George's relations, James Stoddart Douglas. He inherited the estate upon George's death in 1836 and in 1873 the Baads estate in Midlothian was left to him. After the death of his wife, Stoddart Douglas married Sarah Jenkin, whose portrait can be seen in the former morning room next to the conservatory.
During her years at the Kentish house, Sarah had a swimming bath built in the woodlands near the south lake. All that remains of her pool, set in a leafy glade, is a trickle of water amongst traces of brickwork.
In 1858, James Stoddart Douglas left Chilston to a distant, but geographically close, relative, Aretas Akers V. He was then living in the converted remains of a Benedictine abbey at West Malling in Kent. Aretas V became the 1st Viscount of Chilston and was the son of Reverend Aretas Akers IV, Rector of Malling between 1824-1856.
In the same year as he inherited the house and estate, Aretas inherited the Scottish property of Baads in Midlothian. He went on to marry Adeline Austen Smith and took her back to his Kentish home. Within a few years, the ancient rooms rang to the sound of children's laughter as they brought the old house to life.
Upon inheriting Baads, Aretas V adopted the surname of his great grandmother Jean, to whom he owed his fortune. For 30 years Akers-Douglas represented the St Augustine's division of Kent in Parliament, eventually becoming home secretary in 1902. Portraits of him at Chilston show a young man with auburn hair and side-whiskers, and later, the corpulent, frock-coated politician he became.