The central feature of the first motte and bailey castle at Hever was the Hall; a rectangular timber structure, usually of three bays with a central hearth and a dais at one end. Around the Hall were various outbuildings; kitchen, stores, barns, stables, the dairy, butchery and workshops.
In 1271 permission was given to strengthen the ‘house at Hever with a wall of stone and lime and to crenellate it in the manner of a castle.’
The present Gatehouse is built of sandstone and would have been the only stone building on the site. It contained a hall, replacing the original timber hall of the motte and bailey castle.
In 1383 John Cobham was granted a licence to further crenellate the Castle.
The moat, walls, towers, Great Hall and end block date to the fourteenth century. The area behind the Gatehouse became an inner bailey containing separate timber framed buildings; the kitchen, stores, stables, bakehouse and domestic offices, all surrounded by a stone curtain wall. The Castle thus changed from its original circular motte and bailey design.
The exterior walls of the Castle would have been whitewashed with a mixture of powdered chalk and water which gave the Castle a more dramatic appearance as well as providing some weather proofing. The front of the Castle would then have been decorated in strong colours.
The house was enlarged by constructing two wings. The west wing contained the Solar and Great Chamber. Below the Great Chamber was the Chatelaine’s Office and the remainder of the ground floor of this wing became the administrative offices for the Castle, Estate and manors.
The east wing accommodated the various domestic offices such as the chaundry (candles), dairy and napery (linen) with accommodation for guests on the upper floors.
Thomas Boleyn had a ceiling built over the Great Hall, end block and kitchen to create a Long Gallery above spanning the whole width of the Castle.
The present Entrance Hall was added to the front of the house to form the Staircase Gallery above linking the two wings of the house and providing access to the Long Gallery.
In 1567 Charles Waldegrave built a tower at the north-western corner of the Castle to provide for a stone stairway between the Morning Room and Anne Boleyn’s Bedroom. The stairway was extended up to the Long Gallery in 1584. He also built another tower, on the eastern wall, to support a small oratory off his bedroom, where he could hear Mass in private.
In 1644 the fireplace was installed in the Morning Room by Henry Waldegrave.
The windows in the north wall of the Long Gallery were bricked up to avoid the window tax which was first introduced in 1696. The windows were reopened in 1898.
The terrace around the inside of the moat was probably constructed in c.1715 to provide a damp course for the Castle. The wooden drawbridge was replaced by a stone bridge to enable a horse and coach to drive to the front door.
Timothy Waldo added to the Estate, which extended to 1300 acres by his death in 1786.
The north-east corner of the Castle collapsed under the weight of a large fifteenth century chimney which had been built on top of the kitchen flue. In 1838 the kitchen was moved in to the Great Hall possibly because the tower was showing signs of cracking. The fireplace was moved to its present site in 1898.
In 1895 Captain Guy Sebright and his wife Olive took a lease on the Castle from the Meade Waldo family and three years later they embarked on the restoration of the building.
The Courtyard and the ground floor were lowered to allow for the conversion of the two wings of the house into the Drawing Room and Library.
On 27th July 1903 William Waldorf Astor purchased Hever Castle. He embarked on restoring the Castle and creating the pleasure grounds with Frank Loughborough Pearson as the architect in charge of the whole scheme. Works in the Castle were completed in 1906 and the grounds in 1908.
Sir Douglas Fox & Partners were the consulting engineers, and examined with meticulous thoroughness as to planning, workmanship and costs. 748 men were employed to work on the Castle, with a further 800 men excavating the 38 acre lake.
Thompson’s of Peterborough carried out the repairs and restoration of the Castle and built the Astor Wing, Italian Gardens, Power Station, Stables, Home Farm, Kitchen Gardens, and Estate Cottages.
Every fragment of the original Castle structure was preserved. Captain Sebright’s modern additions such as doors, locks, windows and glass were replaced by the best materials used in the manner of the sixteenth century. The workmen were not allowed to use modern planes, only the adze and the chisel. Many of the beautiful carvings and plastered ceilings in the Castle were undertaken by Nathaniel Hitch and William Silver Frith.
In 2009 work began on the installation of a biomass woodchip boiler. It provides the estate with over 90% of its hot water and heating requirements.
In 2010 the newly renovated Guthrie Pavilion Restaurant saw the old 1970s building transformed into a modern venue in the classical style to complement the nearby Italian Gardens.
The oldest plans of the lake show the Japanese Teahouse in a prominent position on the peninsula of 16 Acre Island. Although it formed an integral part of the whole landscape design, the original teahouse was demolished to make way for a pill box during the Second World War. The new Japanese Teahouse Folly was designed by Stephen Langer Associates and built by local oak framing company, Scott Partnership in 2013.
The 100 year old sewage system has been replaced by an ecologically sound solution. The old settling ponds have been transformed into a series of wetland habitats and lagoons that not only purify the sewage converting it to water, but also support a healthy and diverse range of wildlife.