Hever Castle celebrates centuries of history in 2023

August 01 2023 | Attractions

Hever Castle is celebrating some big milestones in 2023:

The castle celebrates its 640th birthday this year, since it was given a licence to be crenallated in 1383.

A pre-existing building on this site descended through the Cobham family until 1362 when it was inherited by John de Cobham of Devonshire

John was a tax collector and a Justice of the Peace in Sussex and Surrey. In 1383 John was granted a licence to crenellate the Castle by Richard II.

In 1392 he was appointed a deputy to Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester, as constable in the Court of Chivalry and accompanied Richard II to Ireland as an Esquire of the Household. John died in 1399 and was buried under the belfry at St Peter’s Church in Hever with his second wife Joan Lewknor and their son Reynold. His will reveals that he provided for £30 to be spent on his funeral and twenty poor men to stand vigil over his tomb for forty days.

The Castle has had an illustrious history, going on to be owned by the Boleyn family with its most famous resident, Anne Boleyn who went on to become the second wife of Henry VIII and mother of Elizabeth I.

Another of Henry’s wives, Anne of Cleves was allowed to lease a number of manors to enhance her status and income as part of the divorce settlement. This included Hever which was given to her at an annual rent of £9-13s-3½d.

Hever Castle was bought by William Waldorf Astor, the richest man in America, in 1903.

Between 1903 and 1908 Astor set about the restoration of the Castle, construction of the Astor Wing and creation of the lake and gardens.

In 1963 Gavin Astor opened the Castle and gardens to the public for the first time – 60 years this year.

Since Hever Castle has been open to the public visitor numbers have grown and last year 419,969 visited the castle and gardens, a record number.

Following the floods in 1968 the cost of running the estate was becoming too expensive and the Castle and some 3,000 acres were sold to the present owner, John Guthrie in 1983.

In the 40 years since the Guthrie family have owned Hever Castle they have made huge investments in the castle and grounds.

Improvements to the gardens include the creation of the Shrub Rose Border on Two Sisters’ Lawn in 1988, the Winter Garden along the edge of the Outer Moat and Sixteen Acre Island in 1994 and the Herbaceous Long Border on Two Sisters’ Lawn in 1995.

The popular and unique Water Maze was constructed on Sixteen Acre Island in 1997 and the new millennium saw the creation of the Millennium Fountain on Sixteen Acre Island.

Two special visitors were welcomed in 2001 when Lady Astor of Hever reopened the newly replanted Sunday Walk Garden and Dame Judi Dench came to plant the first Hever Castle Rose.

In 2007 the very first Christmas event was held, now one of the most popular events of the year with visitors coming to enjoy the lights, festive trail, fairgrounds rides and visit Father Christmas.

A refurbishment of the existing café by the Lake to create the Guthrie Pavilion Restaurant took place in 2010. This elegant lakeside facility is now used not only for visitors wanting refreshments but also as a wedding reception venue and for corporate events.

In 2012 the Hever Castle bed and breakfast opened its doors for the first time, having previously been used to provide accommodation exclusively available to hire for wedding parties and for corporate events. The five star luxury accommodation now offers 27 bedrooms in the Edwardian extension connected to the castle.

To mark the 30th anniversary of the Guthrie family buying Hever Castle the Tea House Folly was designed recapture the idea and purpose of the original Edwardian Tea House which had been knocked down to make way for a pill box during the Second World War.

Hever Castle Attractions Japanese Tea House And Lake

The Guthries’ interest in art has seen investment in portraits and the Castle now has an impressive collection of Tudor artwork, only rivalled by the National Portrait Gallery in London.

New play areas have also been constructed in the past few years with the very popular Tudor Towers adventure playground opening in 2017 and Acorn Dell natural play area in 2018.

More recent changes in the garden include the creation of Faith’s Garden, a prairie style area in the Italian Garden to mark the Guthries’ Golden Wedding Anniversary, replanting work on Church Gill Walk and creation of Meadow Flowers in Lake Walk and on the neighbouring golf course.