Explore the childhood home of Queen Anne Boleyn and enjoy award winning gardens
The little castle is famous as the childhood home of ill-fated Anne Boleyn. Bought by William Waldorf Astor in the 1900s, he was then the richest man in American. He lavished millions on the property, transforming a dilapidated old dwelling into a fairy-tale home.
The interior has Tudor features and 20th-century craftsmanship; the wood panelling is stunning and the gardens award-winning. Astor built a complete village with over 100 rooms of accommodation for guests. King Henry VIII was a guest of the Boleyn family back in the 16th-century while making overtures to his future wife.
Hever Castle, is nestled in the rolling hills of Kent surrounded by pretty villages and wonderful historic houses, castles and show gardens. You can include a visit to Hever Castle with Chartwell, Churchill's home or Penshurst Place, a medieval house with world-class gardens. The tour combinations are endless in this region.
Sublime gardens, unique heritage and a place to stay
A brief history of Hever Castle
The castle dates back to the late 13th century and consisted of a large gatehouse and walled bailey. Two hundred years later, Sir Thomas Bullen (Boleyn) added a comfortable house within the thick walls. King Henry VIII visited with his vast entourage while courting Anne Boleyn.
In 1533 Henry and Anne wed. Their marriage lasted only a thousand days, and Henry's government tried Queen Anne for treason and beheaded in 1536. The main motive was that the couple were unable to produce a healthy boy and heir. Henry took this as his punishment from god and solved the problem by accusing Anne of said offence.
William Waldorf Astor
William Waldorf Astor said that 'America is no longer fit for a gentlemen' and felt England was the place to be. A statement that did not endear him to his fellow American's. Money poured into the estate along with Williams energy and an eye for detail. Elite artisans built new Tudor ceilings, staircases and panelling, the results are remarkable.
Gold sandstone was taken from Ide hill, the same quarry that produced the original castle. The same stone was used to construct an entire village of slightly undersized houses. This technique effectively made the old fort look larger than it was. Although attractive, the main building didn't have the space to accommodate guests, constructing the village solved this problem.
Astor moved a public road, changed the course of the river and had dug a 35-acre lake and added a 30 acre of garden. The Astor family sold the estate of 3,500 acres with contents in 1983.
The gardens are a real highlight of a visit to Hever and are one of the finest show gardens in the world.
The Italian gardens cover four acres and showcase Astors' collection of ancient urns and statues made from stone and marble. The walled rose garden is home to 4,000 roses, planted in sections of colour. On warm days the fragrance hits you as your enter, you can't help but linger and inspect all the varieties. The Tudor garden is formal with hedging and herbs are grown as they would have done in the past. The dahlia border in August is stunning, over 400 plants dazzle visitors with their vibrant colours.
The inner hall has a series of historical portraits. The Tudor story is told through the pictures, that include Mary Boleyn, Anne's sister, who Henry first had an affair. Queen Anne herself and King Phillip of Spain, whose second wife was Mary Tudor, Henry and Anne's daughter. Your guide will give you the abbreviated story before continuing on your tour.
The dining room was the original Great Hall, and Astor's craftsmen created an elaborately carved minstrels gallery and linenfold panelling, wood carved to look like linen. An original 16th-century tapestry hangs on the wall. The locks on some of the doors are of note; they are replicas of the locks King Henry took with him wherever he went. They added that extra layer of security in Henry's private chambers.
None of the workmen during the 1900's restoration were allowed to use a straight edge, everything was judged by eye, the result is an authentic-looking old castle. There is a mix of old and new, there are antique features, such as panelling, furniture and decorative objects. The bedrooms have period four-poster beds with English oak furniture. The whole design is liveable and feels of the time. William Waldorf Astor's restoration is on point and makes for an enjoyable visit.
Garden mazes originate from the intricate patterns of knot gardens. The twisting pathways with high hedges were an exciting way to exercise and maybe find someone you liked in a private spot. Hampton Court Palace has a famous labyrinth dating from the 1600s.
There are two mazes at Hever; one is a traditional yew hedge offering you the challenge of finding the centre and a water maze. Take a wrong turn in the water maze and your get water sprinkled over you. Children love it, and a perfect game for a hot summers day.
Touring and accommodation
If you have a great love for gardens, you are in for a treat. Hever is a short drive to Sissinghurst Castle and Gardens, Great Dixter, Penshurst Place and Scotney Castle. All different, but all held in high esteem in horticultural circles. Not forget Leeds Castle, the iconic fairytale fortress known as the Queen's Castle.
Stay at Hever Castle; the Tudor village is a luxury Bed and Breakfast. You will be staying in William Waldorf Astor's beautifully crafted guest accommodation. South Lodge Hotel and Spa in the South Downs National Park is ideal for touring the region.
You can visit Hever Castle on a driver-guided day tour from London. The combination of Penshurst Place and Hever Castle is a fabulous day out, especially if you enjoy historic houses and gardens. Another great day tour is our suggested Chartwell and Hever Castle. Chartwell was the former home of Sir Winston Churchill. Our Great Gardens of the South itinerary can be customised to match your pace and interests.
A Delightful Tudor Gem in the Kent Countryside
See Award Winning Gardens, Yew Hedge Maze and Tudor Interiors
- Accommodation Available at Hever Castle
- Traditional Yew Hedge and Fun Water Maze
- Adventure Playground for Young Child
- VIP Tours Available
- See Miniature Model Houses
The Astor Rooms
Rose Garden at Hever
The Sunken Garden
View from the River
The Nymph Fountains
Ancient Urns from Italy
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