By the time we arrived at mid-afternoon, the sun had decided to disappear and there was a bit of a chill in the air. I’m sure the house and gardens would have looked much better with a pretty blue sky, but at least it wasn’t raining! Pictures of the inside of the house were not allowed so I’ve scanned some from the guidebook (all pictures of the outside and the gardens are ones we took).
Hever owes its status as a place to visit largely due to it being the home of Anne Boleyn before her marriage to Henry VIII. While a pretty enough house from the outside, in the grand scheme of things, it is neither grand nor much of a castle but appears to be a modest sized country house. However, much of what exists today is due to the American William Waldorf Astor who restored the property in the early 1900s and furnished it with many antiques from the 17th and 18th centuries as well as a number of paintings and tapestries.
The original defensive castle was built on the site in 1270 by William de Hever. In 1505 it passed into the possession of Thomas Bullen who had married Elizabeth Howard, eldest daughter of the Duke of Norfolk (who owned Arundel from our visit that morning) and a section in the Tudor architectural style was added (above). In 1540 the house was given to Henry VIII’s fourth wife, Anne of Cleves as part of their divorce settlement. In the years following her death in 1557, Hever passed through a number of different owners and gradually fell into disrepair. In 1903, Astor invested a great deal of money and time to restore the castle as well as adding the “Astor” wing and creating a magnificent garden.
The Gatehouse is the oldest part of the castle and the front portcullis is reputed to be one of the oldest working ones in the country. The drawbridge was restored by Astor and can still be raised.
During the designing and construction of the rooms, Astor insisted that his workmen use, to the extent possible, the same materials and tools that Tudor craftsmen would have used in the 1500s. They were not even allowed to use straight edges and so the work, including the very elaborate ceilings, was done by eye. Truly impressive!!
In an adjacent room is a number of tapestries (including one depicting the marriage of Henry’s sister Mary Rose to Louis XII of France in 1514 (along the left wall) and two illuminated prayer books that belonged to Anne (which include her signature and are kept in the wooden display cases).
(detail of prayer books)
(detail of tapestry - many of the tapestries we saw during our trip are very large and must have taken hundreds of hours to make if not more!)
Also upstairs is the Long Gallery which is more than 93 feet long. The gallery contains an impressive collection of Tudor portraits.
By the time we came out of the castle it was really starting to cool off and we almost decided to skip the gardens – we were glad we didn’t! Laid out between 1904 and 1908, the gardens comprise 125 acres (with more than 4,000 plants) along with a 38 acre lake. The garden includes classical and natural landscapes and a number of ponds and waterfalls. Additional pictures of the gardens are below:
Loggia and Piazza that front the lake
fountain on the back side of the piazza inspired by the Trevi fountain in Rome
view of the lake from inside Piazza