Astor – 20th century


William Waldorf Astor, the richest man in America, purchased Hever Castle in 1903. Upon the death of his father in early 1890, Astor inherited a personal fortune that made him the richest man in America. He grew increasingly disenchanted with America announcing that it was ‘no longer a fit place for a gentleman to live’ and in 1891 moved to England with a reputed $100 million. Between 1903 and 1908 Astor set about the restoration of the Castle, construction of the Astor Wing and creation of the lake and gardens. 

William Waldorf’s son, John Jacob, inherited the Castle upon his father’s death in 1919. John Jacob had represented Great Britain in rackets at the 1908 London Olympics where he won gold in the men’s doubles. In 1922 he became MP for Dover and purchased The Times newspaper where he remained chairman until 1959 when his son Gavin took over. He was created 1st Baron Astor of Hever in 1956. In 1962 John Jacob placed the Castle in trust for his son Gavin and retired to France where he died in 1971. 

In 1963 Gavin opened the Castle and gardens to the public for the first time. Following the floods in 1968 the cost of running the estate was becoming too expensive and the Castle and some 3000 acres were sold to the present owner, John Guthrie, in 1983.

Astor-Coat-of-Arms-016

The Castle

History

The original medieval defensive castle with its gatehouse and walled bailey was built in 1270. In the 15th and 16th centuries the Bolyens added the Tudor dwelling within the walls. The Castle was then owned by a number of families before William Waldorf Astor invested time, money and imagination in restoring the Castle, building the ’Tudor Village’ and creating the gardens and lake.

Heraldry

The coats of arms in the stained glass in the Long Gallery of the Castle commemorate the different residents of Hever Castle since it was built including: Anne of Cleves, William de Hever, Anne Boleyn and Sir John Fastolf. Learn more about the symbolism behind these designs.

Timelines

Discover the history of Hever Castle, its owners and inhabitants as you travel through time from its construction in 1270 to the present day. These easy-to-use timelines enable you to learn more about key events and how the past owners have shaped the estate we see today.

Tours & Trails

Bring 700 years of Hever Castle history to life with one of the following: an audio guide, a private guided tour or purchase a guide book from the Hever Shop when you visit. Enjoyable trails to follow with young visitors to the castle can also be downloaded.

Owners