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Hever Castle

Hever Castle, which is located in the village of Hever in Kent, has a history spanning more than 700 years. It is to be found 30 miles south-east of London and it was originally built as a medieval country house in 1270. Although it had various owners over the years, it is mostly well-known for having been owned by the Boleyns during the 15th and 16th centuries, and for having been the childhood home of Anne Boleyn, King Henry VIII’s second wife, for whom he renounced Catholicism and created the Church of England.

History of the Hever Castle

There have been three main periods in the construction of this historic castle. The oldest part of the castle dates to 1270 and consists of a gatehouse and a walled bailey. The main feature was the Hall; at the time a rectangular timber structure, consisting of three bays with a central hearth and a dais at one end. Around the Hall were various outbuildings – a kitchen, stores, barns, stables, diary, butchery, and workshops. Hever Castle descended through the Cobham family. In 1384, John Cobham was granted a license to crenellate the castle by King Richard II. He also built the moat, walls, towers and a Great Hall, changing the castle’s design. In 1399, John died and the castle passed on to the Hever family, after which it was further inherited by the Scrope family, the Fastol family, and the Fiennes family respectively.

Hever Castle first came into Boleyn ownership in 1462, when it was bought by Geoffrey Boleyn, Lord Major of London. Later on, it became the property of Thomas Boleyn, father to Anne Boleyn, who throughout her childhood, youth, and courtship to Henry VIII continued to reside there. The King himself also visited the castle on various occasions. This was the second period of the castle’s repair. The house was enlarged with the construction of two wings. The east wing accommodated various domestic offices, having accommodation suites for guests on the upper floors. The west wing contained the Solar, the Great Chamber, the Chatelaine’s Office, as well as a number of administrative offices for the castle and estate. The present Hall was added to the front of the house to form the Staircase Gallery above, linking the two wings of the house and providing access to the Long Gallery.

In 1540, Thomas Boleyn’s brother sold the castle to the crown. Henry VIII later on gave it to his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, as part of her divorce settlement. After Anne’s death, the castle was given to the Waldegrave family, and later on was owned by a number of small nobles. William Waldorf Astor, known as the richest man in America, purchased Hever Castle in 1903, and set about restoring it. This was the third period of the castle’s construction. Astor built two towers, one at the north-western corner of the castle, and one on the eastern wall. He also created the vast and beautiful gardens, the lake, and the loggia flanked by pillared colonnades, as well as the Yew Maze, the Water Maze, the Italian Garden and the Rose Garden.

In 1963, Gavin, Astor’s grandson, opened the castle and gardens to the public for the first time. In 1983, the castle was sold to the present owners, the Guthrue family, together with 3,000 acres of land. These are managed by Broadland Properties, which has enhanced the visitors’ experience by carrying out further improvements.

Today

Hever Castle is now a tourist attraction. There is an annual events programme with assorted events on offer, including jousting tournaments and archery displays. It is also a venue for related exhibitions, as well as displaying Anne Boleyn’s prayer books, various instruments of torture, and a large collection of Tudor paintings. There is a permanent exhibition about the life of Anne Boleyn, as well as a section of the castle dedicated to more recent history, showing pictures and memorabilia belonging to the Astor family.

The picturesque grounds, set in 125 acres of award-winning gardens, include a number of mazes, both for children and adults, as well as a number of variegated gardens and a topiary. There are a number of classical statues in the Italian Garden, over 4,000 rose bushes in the English Rose Garden, a 38-acre lake, cascades, grottoes and fountains.

Further attractions include a number of tours and trails to explore, boating on the lake, and a golf-course situated one mile away. Parts of the venue may also be hired for weddings, meetings, conferences, and other events.

Opening Hours of Hever Castle

Gardens open at 10.30am. Castle opens at 12.00 noon.
Main Season – 28 March – 23 October (daily) – Last entry 16.30, Final Exit 18.00
Winter Season – 24 October – 1 November (daily) – Last entry 15.00, Final Exit 16.30
4 November – 27 November – Monday and Tuesday Closed
Christmas opening times TBA on the official website.
 

Text: Melisande Aquilina