Meet Castle Supervisor at Hever Castle: Owen Emmerson
Owen, please can you tell us a little bit about your role as Castle Supervisor at Hever Castle?
I look after the day to day running of the castle. This involves unlocking the castle; looking after the fantastic team of stewards; and more recently, co-curating an exhibition with Hever’s conservation assistant, Alison Palmer, about the films and television programmes that have been shot here. It is my dream job.
What is the best thing about your job as Castle Supervisor at Hever Castle?
I have been visiting Hever since I was four years old. It was because of my love for Hever that I became fascinated with history and went on to study the subject at University. I am now working here while finishing my doctoral research. I love spending time each day locking the castle. It almost feels like the building is a living being at times: its wooden structure creaks and sighs back into place after a busy day. I admit enjoy having the castle to myself for a short while each day.
What events do you have coming up for the summer?
What do you think makes Jousting popular?
I think Jousting is so popular because it is such a vibrant way for visitors to access the past. The sound of 16-foot wooden lances shattering on metal; the smell of horse sweat; the tremor in the soil beneath your blanket as hooves thunder towards each other. Just as it must have several hundred years ago, the crowd share the feelings of anticipation as they cheer on opposing knights in both a Joust Royal and in stomach-churning foot combat.
As Castle Supervisor at Hever Castle you greet some of the thousands of people who visit Hever Castle each year. Which famous people have toured around the castle and its grounds?
Dame Judi Dench and Gloria Hunniford enjoy visiting Hever Castle. Gregg Wallace was married here in 2016 and Rachel de Thame opened our Garden Exhibition. In summer 2018 JB Gill from Cbeebies opened our Acorn Dell play area for the under 7s.
Why is Hever Castle such a unique place to visit?
While Hever Castle is charming yet compact, and the gardens are exhaustive, visitors often get the sense that they could very comfortably call Hever home. It also has a unique history. Hever is the only surviving witness to Anne Boleyn’s early childhood, and no other place that can claim to be Anne’s sanctuary. Places like the Tower of London bore witness to Anne’s darkest days, but it was at Hever that Anne returned to in order to escape Henry VIII’s advances. It was also at Hever that Anne took the decision to marry Henry which literally changed the course of history. Anne’s motto as queen was ‘The Most Happy’, but I feel that it was at Hever Castle that she was happiest.
Stats and Facts from the Castle Supervisor at Hever Castle:
Tell us some interesting statistics about the gardens at Hever Castle?
We are set in 125 acres, and we have nine gardeners who look after the estate. We have over 4,000 roses and 7,000 annual bedding plants. Last year we started a flower meadow along Hever Lake, and we opened ‘Faith’s Garden’ – both must-see additions to the already magnificent grounds.
Which is the most popular area of the Castle?
The dramatic Long Gallery is often cited as visitors’ favourite room in the castle. It has recently been re-curated by the historian Dr David Starkey, and now features a collection of Tudor portraits, which Dr Starkey claims is one of the best collections outside of the National Portrait Gallery. As Castle Supervisor at Hever Castle my favourite room is the Book of Hours room, which contains two of Anne Boleyn’s prayer books which she has signed.
What has been filmed at Hever Castle?
The new exhibition that I co-curated – Hever Castle on Stage and Screen – charts the many films and television shows that have been shot at Hever Castle. It celebrates 50 years since the Oscar-winning movie Anne of the Thousand Days and we are so fortunate to have two dresses on display from when Genevieve Bujold played Anne Boleyn in 1969. More recently, Star Wars: The Phantom Menace was filmed at Hever’s Lake and Loggia, and the film Inkheart was also shot here. The exhibition runs until November.