Godinton House Preservation Trust celebrates its 50th anniversary

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Godinton House Preservation Trust celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, opening the house and gardens to the public with the support of volunteers who give their time so generously to ensure visitors to Ashford’s ‘real gem’ have the best experience.



Being part of a community and learning are the two key reasons why volunteers say they choose to spend time at Godinton House & Gardens. Many of the 40 volunteers have been guiding in the house or working in the gardens for more than 20 years with new recruits being welcomed into the team every year. The last owner of Godinton House & Gardens, Alan Wyndham Green, left the estate to the people of Ashford with a wish that the house ‘should retain the warmth of a much-loved country home’.

House manager Chloe West said: “Alan loved meeting people and showing them round his home. Our guides honour this legacy and take visitors through 10 rooms revealing the history of the 14th century property and the Toke, Dodd and Bruce Ward families who lived here.

“The Godinton House management team and trustees feel that our loyal volunteers complete the ‘Godinton family’. The volunteers tend to come in for one day a week and their enthusiasm comes over to visitors who feel they are entering a special place.”

Volunteers include Betty, whose association with the estate goes back to her teenage years when her father Claude Consten was Head Gardener. Betty said: “My family lived in the Gardener’s Cottage and although I left when I married I always continued to visit ‘home’ and kept my connection by bringing friends to visit the house and gardens.

“About 12 years ago, when I retired from being a library assistant in Ashford and Wye, I knew I would still like to be involved in the community so I asked if I could train to be a guide at Godinton House. I learned so much from watching and listening to the other guides and I discover something new every time I am here. That’s one of the main things about volunteering at Godinton, I learn so much, it’s amazing.

“I particularly like the White Drawing Room. I also love all the Royal Worcester porcelain and beautiful clocks – some are centuries-old. It is probably impossible to know about every item in house but it is fun to try. Godinton is such a lovely place that continues to be a big part of my life.”

Former nurse Margaret says she has always been interested in history and started volunteering at Godinton House when she retired from the NHS. Margaret said: “My first introduction to Godinton was several years ago when I came with the Women’s Institute. I discussed my visit with a friend who was a guide at Godinton and she encouraged me to join the volunteers.

“We work in twos – one of us leads a tour in the first five rooms while the other is a ‘back marker’, and we swap for the last five rooms. We try to tailor tours when visitors have a particular interest in something or if they come from overseas we’ll highlight paintings, porcelain or furniture perhaps made in their country.

“One of my favourite pieces is a large 1690 William and Mary marquetry cabinet, made in England during the Dutch period. Alan Wyndham Green rescued it from his friend Michael Duff’s shed in North Wales. Alan said he would love to own it, to which Michael replied ‘make me an offer’ and Alan produced a five pound note from his pocket and the deal was done!

“I also volunteer at Canterbury Cathedral, but that is very different, with about 600 volunteers. Here it is more of a family and many of us have become good friends. Last year we were taken out for the day to Chiddingstone Castle, near Edenbridge. It was a lovely thank you; we also receive a complimentary garden pass so that’s another nice bonus.”

Retired PE teacher Diane has been volunteering in the garden since 2006. On her first visit to the house Diane says she came out onto the terrace, with views of the garden and countryside, and thought ‘this is absolutely beautiful’.

Diane said: “I saw a note on the potting shed door saying ‘Volunteers needed’ so I had a chat with the head gardener and started coming here one day a week.  I knew I would miss my colleagues and the structure of work when I retired so volunteering made sense.

“I enjoy the teamwork. I didn’t know much about gardening, so I have learned a lot – especially when in doubt – don’t do it!

“I love seeing the garden change through the seasons and sometimes when I see an area where I have worked looking particularly good I find that very pleasing. I like to spend time in the wild garden, particularly in spring, when the meadow is so full of colour with wild orchids coming though.”

Carol, a former Ashford town planner, had often visited Godinton House & Gardens before she started volunteering. She said: “My husband John and I moved to Ashford about 45 years ago. In fact, our house was built on land that once formed part of the estate, so we have always enjoyed walking the Ashford Green Corridor, passing the estate, and we would often come into the gardens.

“Many years back I saw a sign in the greenhouse asking for volunteers so thought ‘I would like to do that when I retire’. At first I started to volunteer for Kentish Stour Countryside Partnership and one of the people there introduced me to Godinton’s head gardener.”

“It is a real privilege to work here – we all work in different parts of the garden but my favourite area is the kitchen garden, particularly in summer, when the vegetables are growing. We are assigned a variety of tasks, rarely the same thing, so I learn so much.”

Carol’s husband John has also started volunteering in the garden and says ‘there are so many benefits to volunteering at Godinton’. John said: “It’s a real gem, a major asset to the town, and we all feel it is a privilege to work here. In my view, it is a one of the best gardens in the South East and I especially like the Italian garden – it is so elegant, planted with unusual and fragrant shrubs.

“Carol and I also enjoy the annual Sculpture in the Garden exhibition and we come along to talks and the Christmas Carols, so Godinton is an important part of our lives. I spent my career working as a VAT inspector so I now appreciate the joy of being outdoors. Recently I planted seeds for the first time and found it so therapeutic – and rewarding to see them coming up!

If you are interested in volunteering in the house, garden or education centre please contact House Manager Chloe West at

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