Denys Eyre Bower (1905 – 1977)

Chiddingstone Castle was the home of Denys Eyre Bower between 1955 and 1977. Denys was a gifted collector who devoted his life to collecting art and antiques, many of which are on display. Denys wanted to share his passion with the public and bought the castle in 1955 to display his collection. At his death, he bequeathed it to the National Trust, but they refused it as it didn’t come with an endowment. A private trust was then created with the mission of preserving his collections in their present setting “for the enjoyment and learning of future generations”.

Collecting was well embedded in Denys’ family as both his father and grandfather were collectors of oriental art. Denys purchased many of his items at auction, taking advantage of the economic downturn of the1920s and 1930s. Japanese objects in particular were not fashionable at the time and Denys would always find good deals. He was in the right place at the right time and his excellent eye for quality led him into amassing a unique collection.

The castle currently holds 8,000 objects, including: Japanese lacquer, armour and swords; Ancient Egyptian aretefacts; Royal Stuart and Jacobite portraits, letters, manuscripts, pamphlets and memorabilia; and Buddhist objects. Other miscellaneous objects comprising barrel organs, tapestries and furniture complete the collection, along with his vast library of books which was opened to the public in 2015.

Denys Eyre Bower’s story is narrated in “Beyond Belief” by Mary Eldridge, which can be purchased for only £3 at the Gift Shop. If you would like to receive a copy before visiting the castle please email curator@chiddingstonecastle.org.uk