Chilham & Shakespeare


The house known as Chilham Castle was built between 1612 & 1616 by Sir Dudley Digges, Its unique design reflects his family background, steeped in mathematics, & maybe more.
In 2003 Tessa & Stuart Wheeler invited me to begin a study of its history. In 2012, after nearly a decade's research & study, a series of facts hit me, like a series of thunderbolts, highlighting links between Dudley Digges and a family friend called William Shakespeare.


Dudley's step-father, Thomas Russell, was overseer of Shakespeare's will.
 

Dudley's brother, Leonard, wrote a Preface to the First Folio of Shakespeare's works.
The wrecking of the “Sea Venture” on the shores of Bermuda in 1609 – a financial disaster for Dudley, one of the financiers of the voyage, is said (by some) to have inspired the plot for Shakespeare's “Tempest”


Some links between Dudley Digges & Shakespeare centre on Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester – patron of a group of actors at the Globe playhouse.


Leicester's tutor was the mathematician, astronomer & astrologer to the Queen, Dr John Dee, whose writings might have inspired London's first theatre – possible progenitor of the Globe.
Dr Dee was also tutor of Dudley's father Thomas Digges, one of Leicester's protégés.
Another great name linked with Chilham for centuries was Inigo Jones, who before emerging as “Architect Generall to the King” was impresario of theatrical productions for the royal court. Chilham's reputed connexion with this prestigious designer of playhouses & palaces has been cherished by successive owners of the castle, but, mysteriously, the links with Shakespeare have not.


We can only speculate or guess as to why this important aspect of Chilham's history has not been celebrated through the centuries. Perhaps it was suppressed following the abrupt closure of all England's theatres soon after Dudley Digges died.
 

For whatever reason, all this has been ignored at Chilham – until now.

Perhaps these facts, uncovered precisely 400 years after the foundations were laid, provide some explanation for the shape of this fine, ancient house, which, like the playhouses of those days, is a hollow-cored polygon.

 

Michael H Peters