Making the most of the current spell of warm weather it seemed a good opportunity to have a look at Hever Castle in Kent (www.hevercastle.co.uk), the childhood home of Anne Boleyn (decapitated 2nd wife of [good?] King Henry VIII). Like it’s near neighbour Penshurst Place, Hever Castle dates back to the 13th century and is a mere 30 miles from London, not that you’d know it as it is surrounded by beautiful leafy green countryside.
The front of Hever Castle looks a bit like a film set prop
Hever has had several owners through the centuries from the Boleyn (Bullen) family, Anne of Cleeves, the Waldegrave family and the Meade-Waldo family who allowed it to fall into a poor state of repair and leased it to various tenants before being purchased in 1903 by the American millionaire William Waldorf Astor. Hever became the Astor family home (until 1983) and was subjected to an extensive $10m dollar (at 1903 prices) restoration and renovation programme which included the addition of a 100 room extension for guests in the style of a Tudor village.
Hever Castle and the “Tudor” Village guest extension
Today the castle can be hired for weddings and functions. In fact on the day we visited the Loggia was to be the venue for a wedding, and I must say I can’t think of a more romantic place to marry!
The Loggia at Hever Castle with the 38 acre Lake beyond
The internals of the castle are interesting – again no photography, but they have “the look” of a medieval castle even though much of the panelling, carving and plasterwork is the result of Astor’s renovations. There is a fair bit about Anne Boleyn including transcriptions of letters apparently exchanged between the King and his consort, and in an upstairs room alleged to have been Anne’s bedroom a carved bedhead is hanging on the wall. This piece of ornate carved timber proudly proclaims itself (by carved inscription) that it “once formed part of the bed of Anne Boelyn” Hmmm, but who am I to argue!
The inner courtyard of Hever Castle
part of the Rose Garden at Hever
Walking round the gardens you are treated to many visual delights from vibrant coloured flowers to ancient Roman statuary (Astor was a collector) all placed in delightful settings such as the Italianate Garden, the sunken garden with its tranquil pond and the fantastical fountain (almost like a miniature Trevi Fountain) at the back of the Loggia facing the lake.
Pond in the sunken garden and the fantastic fountain
Steps in the herb garden and wonderful poppy seedhead shaped Urns
Armillary Sphere and topiary chess pieces and cheeky erotic Roman sculpture
Pond garden and the odd looking Buddhas Hand plant
Wildlife is everywhere at Hever, the moat being home to some massive fish as well as a serene looking swan and a harrassed mother duck with her cute fluffy ducklings.
A swan glides by while this fluffy brood run to keep up with Mum
On a hot day quite the best place to be was the grotto with its damp high wall and bog planting. All along the wall were a series of cherubic faces weathered by a century of water tumbling over them. This one took my eye particularly with its innocent face and devil horns surrounded by pond weed type foliage.