Steeped in history and framed by a sea of roses in summer, Smallhythe Place is a 16th-century cottage and was a peaceful haven away from Ellen Terry’s busy career as the leading actress of her age. Now a museum of her life, Smallhythe Place houses hundreds of diverse artefacts from Ellen’s personal and professional collections, including costumes, jewellery, hand-written letters and the famous Beetlewing Dress.
The charming thatched 17th-century barn in the grounds was transformed into a theatre by Ellen's daughter Edy Craig. Edy was a prolific theatre practitioner herself and in 1929, a year after her mother’s death, she opened the Barn Theatre with the intention of holding an annual performance to commemorate her mother’s life.
In order to fund the transformation of the barn into a theatre, many of Ellen and Edy’s friends and family sponsored a chair; their names are soldered onto the chair backs and are still used today. The barn continues to host a diverse programme of plays, talks and exhibitions that take place throughout the year.
Set amidst a sea of ever-changing colour, the garden is a tranquil retreat capturing the romantic spirit of Smallhythe Place as it was during Ellen’s time here. Stroll through the grounds and discover the traditional rose garden, orchard, nuttery and ponds, all of which are home to an abundance of wildlife. Our conservation and historical research has helped develop the garden and diversify the flora and fauna; work that recently won us the Silver Gilt award from Kent Wildlife Trust.