The Autumn Meeting returned to a venue not used by the SE centre since 2007. The event included two Scenic Runs, one starting from Godstone in the west and the other from Bluebell Hill in the east, along with a Concours de Elegance and Pride of Ownership competition.
Lullingstone Castle is a historic manor house and has been inhabited by members of the Hart Dyke family for twenty generations. Mentioned in the Domesday Book, the present manor house was started in 1497. Henry VIII and Queen Anne were regular visitors to the house. The house was remodelled to the current arrangement in 1706 and renamed Lullingstone Castle . In 1934 the estate was sold to Kemp Town Brewery, who resold it to Kent County Council in 1938. It was occupied by the Army during World War II. In the mid-1960s Dartford Rural District council laid out a golf course in the grounds and created a public park. The house itself remains in the hands of the Hart Dyke family. The house is a Grade II* listed building which is built in red brick in three storeys. Traces of the original 16th-century building can be seen in the north and east fronts, between which is the remodelled two-storey entrance front. The gatehouse was constructed in the late 16th century and is believed to be one of the first in England built entirely of brick. Only the outer gatehouse remains – the inner gatehouse was demolished in the 18th century. It is a Grade I listed building. Due to COVID-19, the house has not yet reopened for visitors.
The main feature of the gardens was Tom Hart-Dykes World Garden. This was developed by Tom using rare plants collected during his world tour. Tom follows a tradition of Victorian and Edwardian British plant hunters who undertook risks to acquire rare species of plant. In 2000, Hart Dyke was kidnapped by suspected FARC guerrillas in the Darién Gap between Panama and Colombia while hunting for rare orchids, a plant for which he has a particular passion. He and his travel companion, Paul Winder, were held captive for nine months and threatened with death. He occupied himself by creating a design for a garden containing plants collected on his trips, laid out in the shape of a world map according to their continent of origin. In addition to the World Garden, there are lovely woodland walks past streams and meadows.
At the time of the last MGCC visit in 2007, the World Garden had just been completed and since then, Tom has added a fascinating collection of exotic plants, orchids and cacti in the polytunnels. The World Garden plants have all matured and the narrow paths through the ‘Countries’ now give quite a ‘jungle’ experience.
The event entry attracted 95 cars with 17 cars on the east run, 26 cars on the west run, 4 cars in the concours and 20 cars in the Pride of Ownership. The Concours and Pride of Ownership cars provided an excellent display in front of the castle. The east run was 26 miles long and followed part of the Pilgrims way. The west run was 30 miles taking a loop to the south through Tandridge, Edenbridge, Four Elms, Ide Hill past Emmetts Garden to Sunridge, Shoreham and into Lullingstone Castle.
The earliest car was a 1932 M Type. Other models ranged the full spectrum from the TC through to the latest MG5 electric car. Other unusual cars included an MG Magnette mkIV, an MGZTT260 and an MG SV. The weather held through to late afternoon allowing the picnics to be enjoyed as well as the fascinating gardens. The Castle provided an ‘intimate’ location for the gathering of MGs with the setting of the house, gatehouse, church and a huge lake for the backdrop.
During the day a Pride of Ownership and Concours competition was held and you can see the winners below:
First Anthony Clutterbuck – White MGB – EUC8J
Second Richard Thorpe – Yellow MG3 – GJ66OYC
Pride of Ownership
First Bill Outram – White MGA – RSY977
Second Peter Field – White MGA Coupe – 9348N
First Michael Murkin – White MGTF 85th Anniversary – MG10MRM
Second Lee Rose – Red MGRV8 – M22MGR
Third Jeremy Marsh – MGZTT260 – M26OMG
Click the button for the full results and scores…
Report by John Morgan Pics John Morgan, William Opie
Thanks to Andrew Mitchell for main organisation and the run organisers for the great runs in to the event and all the helpers on the day.