Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Grand Tudor Estates

As mentioned in an earlier post, Kent has many large houses and gardens and excellent examples of Tudor architecture as illustrated by Hever Castle and Knole. 

(Kent also has an exceptional history that may be explored in a later post.)

Hever Castle is best known today as the birthplace of Anne Boleyn. It has had quite a history aside from this famous person. The gatehouse, outer walls, and moat were built around 1270. The castle was converted into a Tudor-style manor by the younger brother of Thomas Boleyn (father of Anne) in 1462. Anne was born in a small room on the second floor in 1501. I took a moment standing in what could have been the room that Anne was born into appreciate that I have seen the start and end of this remarkable woman's life. 

And of course the most famous man in her life stayed at the castle several times during his courtship of Anne. Henry VIII owned the house after the death of Thomas Boleyn in 1539, and then passed on to various other owners until subsequently passing to the Waldegrave family in 1557 until 1715. As Catholics, the family had a private oratory built on the second floor in 1584 to allow them to worship privately. (1584 was in the middle of Elizabeth I's reign and it wasn't completely safe for Catholics to be open about their faith. I enjoy the irony of the Catholic family building a private space to worship as a result of the effects caused by Anne Boleyn's impact on England.)

The next era in this house's history came in 1903 when none other than the American millionaire William Waldorf Astor bought Hever's castle and estates and restored it for his family's residence. Imagine living in a Tudor manor house, with the heavy dark wood wall and ceiling carvings, yet decorated in 20th century pastel and floral patterned furniture and the modern conveniences of telephones and bells. 

Astor's mark extended to the park and gardens. The Italian Garden was built and designed to showcase the statuary and sculptures Astor collected from Italy, some of which dates to over 2,000 years old. 

Knole was not a planned excursion, but well worth it! Built in the 15th century by Thomas Bourchier, Archbishop of Canterbury, Knole one of the largest private houses in England and a fine example of Tudor-style architecture. The house at one point it may well have been a calendar house which had 365 rooms, 52 staircases, 12 entrances and 7 courtyards. The estate passed from the See of Canterbury, which received it upon Bourchier's death, to Henry VIII in 1537 and then went on to Elizabeth I. She gave it to her cousin Thomas Sackville in 1566, whose descendants the Earls and Dukes of Dorset and Barons Sackville have lived there since 1603.

As for the grounds and gardens, Knole has a large 26 acre walled garden 1,000 acre deer park. 

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