Hever Castle Rediscovered

January 12 2023 | Castle

Hever Castle Rediscovered

We are excited to share with you new information about the history of Hever Castle and two of its owners including the Boleyns and Anne of Cleves. As a result of this fresh knowledge, there will be a number of exciting developments in the Castle over the coming years.

Hever Castle Research Findings

Architectural Historian and former Chief Executive of English Heritage, Simon Thurley recently undertook some research about the historic landmark and discovered that Hever Castle was actually built in 1383 for John de Cobham, not in 1270 for William de Hever as previously thought.

Thurley uncovered more about what Thomas and Elizabeth Boleyn’s Hever looked like and how they as a family used the castle.

The research also reveals Anne of Cleves’ significant contribution to the Castle after the lease was given to her as part of her divorce to Henry VIII. Previously it was believed that Thomas Boleyn added the Long Gallery, but Simon Thurley’s work brought to light that it was actually Anne of Cleves’ vision. Cleves also added the Staircase Gallery on the floor below, connecting the two wings of the house, and remodelled the ceiling in the Dining Hall. These significant additions demonstrate that Anne of Cleves clearly spent a lot more time at Hever Castle than has previously been accounted for.

Thurley’s work also highlights how well preserved Hever Castle is. The gatehouse and battlements are original to the 14th century as well as the unique portcullis mechanism. Thurley goes as far as to suggest that the gatehouse is a “remarkable, not to say unique, sequence of defensive features” and there is “probably no other sequence of medieval defensive timberwork to survive like this anywhere in Europe”.

The Castle was almost continuously occupied between 1557 and 1903.

New Developments in the Castle

As a result of this revolutionary research there will be several developments over the coming season and beyond.

When you visit, you will start to see changes in the configuration and displays in the building to reflect the research findings, starting with the ground floor in 2023 and then moving to the upper floors in subsequent years.

Changes will begin behind closed doors during January and will continue when the Castle reopens for the 2023 season on Wednesday 8 February. All alterations to the ground floor will be in situ by the Sunday 26 March. Disruption will be minor, but we apologise for any inconvenience during this time. More information on plans for the reinterpretation of the ground floor will follow shortly.

Further Updates

You will also observe some small changes to our branding. These will reflect the research findings and what are now the four most significant historical owners of the Castle in terms of their impact on its development. The four families represented in our updated logo will be: de Cobham, Boleyn, Cleves and Astor. This change will also be reflected in the flag that flies over the Castle. The two owners that have been replaced are de Hever, who did not crenellate the house as was previously believed, and Waldegrave who were landlords of the estate but who let the Castle for the entire period of their ownership.

The Hever Castle website will be transformed with updated content that echoes the research and a new look to implement the revised branding and improve the user experience.

The guidebook and audio guides will be updated fully once all the modifications to the Castle have been implemented. In the interim, a publication detailing more about the research findings will be produced.

Further information about all of these exciting new developments will be made available on our website and shared via email and social media.