Monday, 21 February 2011

Hever Castle: A Family Affair

20th February – 20th November 2011

Discover more about Hever Castle’s past owners in a fascinating new exhibition “Hever Castle: A Family Affair”. The exhibition runs from 20th February to 20th November in the Long Gallery and gives a rare glimpse into life at the romantic castle near Edenbridge over the centuries. Set in the peaceful surroundings of the Kentish countryside, the double-moated castle has been the backdrop to some of the major turning points in British history.

Information boards illustrated with rare photographs and documents, interspersed with portraits, trace the castle’s development from its construction by William de Hever in the 13th century to the present day. The exhibition complements the important collection of portraits and treasures on view in the castle and grounds to shed new light on the role many of its owners played in shaping England’s past.

Hever Castle is best known as the “childhood home of Anne Boleyn”. Her great grandfather, Geoffrey Boleyn, bought the castle in 1462 and constructed a desirable Tudor dwelling within the walls of the original Norman structure. It was here that Anne first met Henry VIII and received several of his love letters before their ill-fated marriage which ended with her execution.

Henry VIII’s fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, also owned Hever Castle after Henry made it part of her divorce settlement. It is not known how much time Anne spent at the castle, but a surviving letter she wrote to Mary Tudor, the King’s sister, is signed: “from my poore house of Hever”.

A succession of well connected families owned Hever Castle through the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries including the Waldegraves and Humphreys. It then fell into disrepair under the Meade Waldo family who leased it to a series of tenant farmers.

The timely purchase of the castle in 1903 by William Waldorf Astor, the richest man in America, saw the castle restored to its former glory. He used only the finest architects and craftsmen to refurbish the castle and build the Tudor inspired Astor Wing to accommodate his guests. He created the award-winning Tudor, Rose and Italian Gardens to display his Italian statuary, some of which are over 2,000 years old. And it took 800 men over two years to hand dig the 38-acre lake overlooked by the magnificent loggia. The care, time and money Astor spent on these ambitious projects are a testament to his love for Hever Castle and its romantic history.

The current owners, the Guthries, purchased the castle in 1983, some twenty years after it had been opened to the public. They have continued the tradition of maintaining the castle and grounds, both to preserve it for future generations and to enhance the attraction for visitors. Their important collection of Tudor portraits has been described by David Starkey as “one of the best collections after the National Gallery.” Dame Judi Dench, who lives not far away, has said Hever Castle is one of her favourite British landmarks which she visits with her family “in all weathers and all seasons to recharge our batteries.”

A range of themed souvenirs will be available in the Hever Gift Shop to commemorate the exhibition including a new range of fine bone china decorated with the coats of arms of the Hever, Boleyn, Waldegrave and Astor families.

Opening hours: Gardens open at 10.30am; Castle opens at 12pm.

20 – 27 February: Daily; Last admission 4pm; final exit 5pm

1 – 31 March: Wed - Sun; Last admission 4pm; final exit 5pm

1 April – 31 October: Daily; Last admission 5pm; final exit 6pm

2 – 20 November: Wed - Sun; Last admission 3pm; final exit 4pm

Admission Prices: Adults £14.00; Seniors £12.00; Children £8.00; Family ticket £36.00

Telephone 01732 865224 or visit

No comments: