Summary

Site is open to the public. Opening may be limited, please check Visitor Information for any restrictions.

This site has the following component area(s):

Hever Castle, Italian Garden

Loading...

Brief description of site

Hever Castle has early-20th-century gardens of multiple styles covering 12 hectares. The gardens are set in a wider landscape of parkland and agricultural land of 272 hectares (177 hectares are registered) and feature lakes, grottoes, walks and ponds.

Brief history of site

Hever was first occupied by the Norman family of de Hever in the 13th century. In 1462 it was bought by Sir Geoffrey Bullen or Boleyn, the great-grandfather of Anne. The site was let from 1750 to 1903. William Waldorf Astor bought Hever in 1903, restoring the Castle and laying out the present gardens and grounds. The gardens were laid out by Joseph Cheal & Son between 1904 and 1907.

Location information:

Address: Hever Castle, Hever, TN8 7NG

Locality: Tunbridge Wells

Local Authorities:

Kent; Sevenoaks; Hever

Historical County: Kent

OS Landranger Map Sheet Number: 188 Grid Ref: TQ477452
Latitude: 51.187 Longitude: 0.112064

Directions:

The site is 6 miles south-west of Tonbridge, 2 miles south of Penshurst. Please see:
http://hevercastle.co.uk/Home/PlanYourVisit/Directions.aspx

Key information:

Form of site: country estate

Purpose of site: Ornamental

Context or principal building: castle

Site first created: 1904 to 1907

Main period of development: Early 20th century

Survival: Extant

Site Size (Hectares): 272

Description

Hever Castle has an early-20th century garden conceived on a lavish scale by the first Lord Astor around the restored and enlarged original of the historic Tudor Castle, once the home of Anne Boleyn.

Hever lies in the moist fertile valley of the River Eden - a tributary of the Medway that joins the main river at Penshurst - at 147 ft above sea level. Sheltered and thinly wooded to the east, extensive mixed woodland to the south and west on the high ground beyond Anne Boleyn's walk. The microclimate of walls in the garden is favourable to an exotic range of shrubs. Average rainfall is 29.5-31.5 inches, with sunshine of 4.25 hours.

The soils are mostly acidic and weald clay in the low-lying areas around the house and lake. There is light Tunbridge Wells sandstone to the south and an outcrop of this can be seen in the quarry beside the Golden Stairs.

The October 1987 storm severely damaged the horse chestnut avenue running north-east from the house. Many other major trees were also damaged, especially along Anne Boleyn's walk. The woodland to the south (Park Wood) was also badly damaged.

A more detailed description of the gardens is given in T Wright's ‘Gardens of Britain No. 4', (see refs) and in the Guide Book available to visitors.

The following is from the English Heritage Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. For the most up-to-date Register entry, please visit the English Heritage website:

http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/professional/protection/process/national-heritage-list-for-england/

An early 20th-century formal and ornamental garden, laid out around a 13th-century castle by William Waldorf Astor, later Viscount Astor, with the architect Frank Pearson and the nurseryman Joseph Cheal, and set within early 20th-century parkland.

LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, SETTING

Hever Castle lies to the immediate north-east of Hever village, some 3 kilometres south-east of Edenbridge. The 177 hectare estate comprises about 47 hectares of formal and ornamental gardens surrounded by 130 hectares of parkland and woodland to the south and east and the golf course to the north. The site lies within the broad, shallow, east to west valley of the River Eden, the valley sides rising gently to the site boundaries to north and south. The site is bounded to the west by clipped hedging and an internal fringe of trees along a minor lane running north from Hever village to How Green. A hedge-lined track (a public footpath), recorded as the East and West Walk on the OS map of 1937, forms the northern boundary, with the golf course continuing northwards beyond it. An estate road and track forms the southern boundary while to the east, a wooded fringe encloses the site from the gently rolling wooded farmland that provides the wider setting for the entire estate.

REFERENCES Used by English Heritage

Country Life, 2 (11 November 1897), pp 266-8; 22 (12 October 1907), pp 522-35; (19 October 1907), pp 558-67; 169 (1 January 1981), pp 18-21; (8 January 1981), pp 66-9

P Coats, Great Gardens of Britain (1967), pp 112-17

J Newman, The Buildings of England: West Kent and the Weald (1969), pp 309-12

Gavin Astor, Hever in the 20th century (1970s)

T Wright, Gardens of Britain 4, (1978), pp 60-5

Hever Castle, guidebook, (no date)

The Gardens at Hever Castle, guidebook, (around 1997)

Maps

Elizabeth Bermingham, A Plan of the Manors of Hever the Estate of Timothy Waldo Esq, 1756 (copy at Hever Castle)

G Astor, Map showing details before and after alterations 1903-07 (in Astor 1970s)

OS 6" to 1 mile: 1st edition surveyed 1869-70, published 1872/3; 2nd edition published 1897; 3rd edition published 1909; 1936/7 edition

OS 25" to 1 mile: 3rd edition published 1908/09; 1936/7 edition
 

 

Description written: October 1997

Edited: November 2003

Owner: Hever Castle Ltd

Site designation(s)

English Heritage Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England Grade I Reference GD1049

Principal building:

Castle Created 1270 to 1557

Designation status: English Heritage Listed Building Grade I

Environment

Terrain: Gently rolling

Visitor facilities

Opening contact details:

The gardens are open between March and December. For further details please see:
http://hevercastle.co.uk/Home/PlanYourVisit/OpeningTimes.aspx

External web site link: http://www.hevercastle.co.uk/default.aspx

External web site link: http://www.hha.org.uk/Property/700/Hever-Castle

External web site link: http://list.english-heritage.org.uk/resultsingle.aspx?uid=1000152

History

The earliest part of Hever Castle was built in the late-13th century and early-14th century by William de Hever, a descendant of a Norman baron who came to England during the Conquest. The central keep, machicolated walls, gateway with portcullis and the two square towers survive today, still surrounded by the original moat with its drawbridge approach. The stone was quarried from the local Tunbridge Wells sandstone.

In 1462 Hever Castle was acquired by the famous Bullen (Boleyn) family and they proceeded to turn the castle into a more comfortable Tudor manor house. There is little surviving record of Hever at this time, but it is presumed to have had a hunting park, farm and formal gardens in keeping with the importance of the Bullens' position at Court. Hever came into Royal hands on the death of Sir Thomas Bullen and then slowly declined in importance.

Subsequent owners included the Waldegrave family in the 16th and 17th centuries and the Meade-Waldos in the 18th and 19th centuries. The small moated manor house became a modest farmhouse for a succession of tenant farmers and was maintained in good repair.

In 1903 Hever Castle and 640 acres of land were purchased by William Waldorf-Astor, recently emigrated from America and naturalised as a British subject. Between 1903 and 1907 he undertook an ambitious and ostentatious restoration and expansion programme for Hever Castle and its grounds. With the architect, Mr F L Pearson, he fully restored the moated castle, preserving with faithful detail every fragment of the original structure. He conceived the idea of creating a Tudor-style ‘village' of houses of individual and random medieval design to house his staff and friends. He also created a second outer moat around the castle. A force of over 1,000 men worked on this conversion project for over four years.

At the same time the gardens were devised and laid out on an equally ambitious scale, drawing on a fanciful mixture of medieval, Renaissance and romantic 18th century styles. The site at Hever is low lying, poorly drained and liable to flooding, and a major drainage scheme was necessary to create as dry a setting as possible for the restored home and the new garden. This involved draining all the surrounding land, diverting the River Eden and creating a large 35 acre reservoir and balancing lake that is now a fine ornamental feature of the gardens.

The lake was created in about 19 months from the signing of the original contract using 800 men, six steam diggers and seven miles of an internal railway system linked to the main line. The lake depth was excavated to 3-10 ft and the bed reinforced with concrete where necessary. The famous nursery and landscape gardening firm of Joseph Cheal was responsible for laying out the 50-60 acres of gardens and grounds at this time.

William Astor became Baron Astor and then Viscount Astor of Hever Castle in 1917. The present Lord Astor is the third in this line. In 1970 a modern range of glasshouses were installed with automatic, labour saving equipment, providing plants for the gardens and surplus stock sales to visitors. The need to increase the income from visitors to maintain Hever Castle and its garden is evident in the attractions and facilities being provided. The success of their policy is evident to anyone going there on a peak day in the summer months.

The following is from the English Heritage Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest. For the most up-to-date Register entry, please visit the English Heritage website:

http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/professional/protection/process/national-heritage-list-for-england/

HISTORIC DEVELOPMENT

Hever was first occupied by the Norman family of de Hever in the 13th century. It passed by marriage to the de Cobham family and then through the hands of several other owners until bought in 1462 by Sir Geoffrey Bullen or Boleyn, the great-grandfather of Anne. After the death of Sir Thomas Boleyn, Anne's father, Hever passed to the Crown and became the home of Anne of Cleeves until 1557. In the same year it was granted to Sir Edward Waldegrave, his son, Sir Charles, carrying out alterations. In 1715, the Lord Mayor of London, Sir William Humphreys acquired Hever, then from 1750 until 1903 it was owned by the Waldo family who let the Castle to various tenants as it was never their main residence. William Waldorf Astor, enobled as Baron Astor in 1956, bought Hever in 1903, restoring the Castle and laying out the present gardens and grounds. The Astors sold the estate in 1983, the northern parkland being purchased by Hever Golf Club plc and laid out as the present golf course in 1990. The Castle and ornamental grounds were bought by a private company, Broadland Properties Ltd who run these as Hever Castle Ltd. The whole estate remains (1997) in private ownership.

Site timeline

1462: Hever Castle is acquired by the famous Bullen (Boleyn) family and they proceed to turn the castle into a more comfortable Tudor manor house.

1903 to 1907: In 1903 Hever Castle and 640 acres of land are purchased by William Waldorf-Astor, recently emigrated from America and naturalised as a British subject. Between 1903 and 1907 he undertakes an ambitious and ostentatious restoration and expansion programme for Hever Castle and its grounds.

1970: A modern range of glasshouses is installed with automatic, labour saving equipment, providing plants for the gardens and surplus stock sales to visitors.

1987: The October storm severely damages the horse chestnut avenue running north-east from the house. Many other major trees are also damaged, especially along Anne Boleyn?s walk.

People associated with this site

Other: Anne Boleyn, Queen consort (born 1501 died 19/05/1536)

Architect: Sir Geoffrey Bullen (born 1406 died 1463)

Creator: Joseph Cheal (born 1848 died 09/06/1935)

Architect: Frank Loughborough Pearson (born 14/01/1864 died 08/10/1947)

Features

lake

Feature created: 1904 to 1907

Creator: Joseph Cheal (born 1848 died 09/06/1935)

A 35-acre lake at the end of the Italian garden.

grotto

walk

Anne Boleyn's Walk has a collection of trees over 100 years old.

walk

A rhododendron walk.

ornamental pond

herbaceous border

110-metre herbaceous border

maze

A yew maze.

fountain

A formal loggia fountain, based on the Trevi Fountain in Rome.

fountain

Millennium fountain.

maze

A water maze.

References

Organisations associated with this site

Kent Gardens Trust

English Heritage Role: Designating Authority

Historic Houses Association Role: Business Association

Sources of information

Castles in Kent

Smithers, David Waldron Castles in Kent (Chatham: John Hallwell Publications, 1980)

Country Houses of Kent

Oswald, Arthur Country Houses of Kent (London: Country Life, 1933)

English Heritage Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest

English Heritage Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest, (Swindon: English Heritage, 2008) [on CD-ROM]

The Buildings of England: West Kent and The Weald

Newman, J. The Buildings of England: West Kent and the Weald (London: Yale University Press, 1976)

The Gardens of Britain 4: Kent, East & West Sussex and Surrey

Wright, Tom The Gardens of Britain 4: Kent, East & West Sussex and Surrey(London: Batsford, 1978)

The Kent Gardens Compendium

Kent County Council Planning Department The Kent Gardens Compendium (Canterbury: Kent County Council, 1996) 82

Contributor or Recorder Kent Gardens Trust

Images

  • Hever Castle, Kent (2005)

    Hever Castle, Kent (2005)

  • Hever Castle, Kent (2005). Tudor Garden.

    Hever Castle, Kent (2005). Tudor Garden.

  • Hever Castle, Kent (2005)  Rose garden.

    Hever Castle, Kent (2005) Rose garden.

  • Hever Castle (2005)  Rock Garden

    Hever Castle (2005) Rock Garden