Hever Castle is located in the village of Hever, Kent, near Edenbridge, 30 miles (48 km) southeast of London, England. It began as a country house, built in the 13th century. From 1462 to 1539, it was the seat of the Boleyn.
Anne Boleyn, the second queen consort of King Henry VIII of England, spent her early youth there after her father, Thomas Boleyn, inherited it in 1505. The castle passed to him upon the death of his father, Sir William Boleyn. It later came into the possession of King Henry VIII’s fourth wife, Anne of Cleves. The castle is now open to the public as a tourist attraction.
There have been three main periods in the construction of this historic castle. The oldest part of the castle dates to 1270 and consisted of the gatehouse and a walled bailey. It was then owned by James Fiennes, 1st Baron Saye, and Sele. The second period was when the castle, then in need of repair, was converted into a manor in 1462 by Geoffrey Boleyn, younger brother of Thomas Boleyn, Master of Gonville Hall, Cambridge. He added a Tudor dwelling within the walls. The third period of repair and renovation was in the 20th century when it was acquired by William Waldorf Astor.
Geoffrey Boleyn’s grandson, Thomas Boleyn, inherited the castle in 1505. He lived there with his wife Lady Elizabeth Howard and their children George, Mary, and Anne. It is not known if Anne was born at Hever, but she lived there until she was sent to the Netherlands in 1513 to receive an education at the court of Archduchess Margaret. Henry VIII often used the nearby Bolebroke Castle to conduct his courtship with Anne.
The property came into the possession of Henry VIII after the death of Anne’s father, Thomas Boleyn, in 1539. He bestowed it upon Anne of Cleves in 1540 as part of the settlement following the annulment of their marriage. Hever Castle still has one of Henry VIII’s private locks, taken with him on his various visits to noblemen’s houses and fitted to every door for his security.
Hever Castle from the Moat, circa 1850, by David Cox Jr.
The property subsequently passed through various owners, including the Waldegrave family from 1557 to 1715, the Humphreys family to 1749, and the Meade-Waldo family from 1749 to 1903. During this latter period of ownership, the castle fell into a poor state of repair, during which time it was leased to various private tenants.
In 1903, it was acquired and restored by the American millionaire William Waldorf Astor, who used it as a family residence. He added the Italian Garden to display his collection of statuary and ornaments. In 1983, the Astor family sold the castle to Broadland Properties Limited, which is run by the Guthrie family.
The castle was used as the location for a music video by Libera in 2006. The Loggia on the lake was used as the location for a peace conference in the comedy-drama The Great.
Attractions for tourists
Hever Castle is now a tourist attraction, drawing on its links to Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII, its mazes, gardens, and lakes. There is an annual event program with assorted events, including jousting tournaments and archery displays in the summer months, and an annual patchwork and quilting exhibition in September. The castle has also become the venue for a triathlon.
The castle offers three floors containing antique furniture, Anne Boleyn’s prayer books, instruments of torture, and a large collection of Tudor paintings. There is also a museum of the Kent and Sharpshooters Yeomanry.
The remains of the original country house timbers can still be seen within the stone walls of the fortification, while the gatehouse is the only original part of the castle. It has the oldest working original portcullis in England.
The grounds of the castle include a yew maze, planted in 1904. There is also a water maze, opened in 1999, the object of which is to reach the folly at the center without getting wet, while in the children’s adventure playground there is a tower maze. The castle gardens contain a wide range of features, including an Italianate garden, rose gardens, herb garden, and topiary.
You can buy your ticket at https://www.hevercastle.co.uk/