Today, 19 May, marks 482 years since Anne Boleyn, second wife of King Henry VIII, was beheaded at Tower Green (at the Tower of London) around noon. As today also marks the day of the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, this post is being scheduled before the wedding ceremony takes place at 12pm BST (and before guests turn up around 9am). I had already planned to blog on Hever Castle on 19 May when I visited Hever in August 2017 and was surprised the royal couple chose the 19th of all days! Those planning to visit Hever Castle today will be able to watch the wedding and celebrate the “happier times” in Anne Boleyn’s life.
Hever Castle in Kent was the childhood home of Anne Boleyn. It had been in the Boleyn family since Anne’s great-grandfather, Geoffrey Bullen, acquired it in 1462. Hever Castle had been in the hands of many families before the Boleyns moved in. The last family was the Fiennes; Sir Roger Fiennes had built Herstmonceux Castle (which I plan to blog on later this month) in 1441 and his nephew, William, later preferred Herstmonceux over Hever. Although we do not know Anne’s birthday or the year of her birth (possibly 1500 or 1501 or even later), we know that her family moved into Hever Castle around 1505 when her father inherited it from her grandfather. After spending the rest of her childhood and adulthood in Burgundy and France from 1513-22, Anne returned to England to serve in Catherine of Aragon’s household. Anne was banished to Hever Castle in 1523. It was at Hever Castle where she received Henry VIII’s love letters and even the king himself during their courtship. The new permanent exhibition in the Long Gallery shows the life of Anne Boleyn from childhood to adulthood in wax figures.
The moated Hever Castle we see today is a mélange of architectural styles from the 12th-20th Centuries. Much of the restoration and Tudor-inspired Edwardian additions are thanks to one of Hever Castle’s owners, William Waldorf Astor, who bought the castle in 1903. As I am only focusing on Anne Boleyn for this post, the photos below are focused on what would have been around during her time, including objects related to her.
I enjoyed imagining where Anne Boleyn could have walked at Hever Castle and I’m thankful that the castle still stands today (thank you Mr Astor!).
- Check the What’s On page to see when there are special events such as jousting. Hever Castle really comes to life when there are events that take you back in time.
- Check Hever Castle’s social media to see when the flowers are in bloom and get your cameras ready!
- Getting to Hever from London without a car is a hassle so do make sure you spend the entire day if you plan to go. The gardens alone will require an entire afternoon to explore!
- As train delays and cancellations are common (it happened to me twice and I nearly couldn’t go in August), check train times and plan to take the earlier train rather than a later train.
- Wear a good pair of shoes for walking all day.
- Make sure your camera/phone is charged and bring an extra battery if you can as you’ll be taking many photos.
- Buy your ticket online if you’re certain you can get to the Castle. You wouldn’t want to purchase your ticket online only to find that there are no trains to take you to Hever!
- There are plenty of places to grab something to eat at Hever Castle but I usually take some snacks with me just in case.
- Depending on when you arrive at Hever Castle, plan to visit the Castle first when it opens at noon (get in the queue!).
- I highly recommend the Miniature Model Houses (English country houses from the Tudor-Victorian eras) after Hever Castle. The website recommends 30 min for the visit which I would agree with. Once you’re done, you’re ready to explore 125 acres of Hever Gardens.
- Try the Yew Maze and even the Water Maze (it’s mainly for children but it’s fun)!
- There are boat rides available for hire on the 38 acre man-made Hever Lake (dating back to 1904). Sadly, I didn’t have enough time to go on a boating trip.
- There is a KSY Military Museum before you reach the Castle which you can visit if you have time.
- There aren’t many places where you can shoot some arrows for a small amount so I decided to take my first archery lessons at Hever Castle. If you decide to try archery, make sure you bring some £’s with you.
- The shop has a new collection of china! The design is based on Anne Boleyn’s Book of Hours and features a prayer from Anne Boleyn.
Directions from London (for those without a car) to Hever Castle:
Take the train from London Victoria or London Bridge to Edenbridge Town Station or to Hever Station via Oxted or East Croydon. If you get off at Edenbridge, you can take a taxi for three miles. Otherwise, it’s a mile-long walk to the castle so you’ll need a map and you’ll need to keep your eyes peeled for cars!
- Castle & Gardens: £17.25 (at the gate) / £16.25 (online) / £43.15 (annual membership at the gate) / £41 (annual membership online)
- Gardens only: £14.50 (at entry) / £13.70 (online) / £36.25 (annual membership at entry) / £34.45 (annual membership online)
- The grounds open at 10:30am and Hever Castle opens at 12pm
- Last entry is 1.5 hours before the closing/exit time
- Check the Opening Times page for closing times throughout the year