Castle owner applies for planning permission to make changes to Anne Boleyn's former home

The front of Hever Castle shows a stone structure castle with plants growing up the walls
Hever Castle, the former home of Anne Boleyn, is in an ongoing planning row over plans to remove historic cupboards inside the Chamber room of Anne Boleyn (Image credit: Hever Castle & Gardens)

Hever Castle, the former home of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of King Henry VIII, is involved in an ongoing planning situation regarding wardrobes inside the property.

Officials at Hever Castle in Kent have applied for planning permission to remove built-in wardrobes in Anne Boleyn's former bedroom to improve understanding of the stately property’s rich history.

The castle’s current owner, John Guthrie, believes relocating the wardrobes would make the home more like "as it would have been during Tudor times”.

1970s wardrobes sub-divided from the Pink Bathroom

The 1970s wardrobes that were installed sub-divide the bedroom from what is known as the pink bathroom (Image credit: Hever Castle & Gardens)

Why is planning permission required for the changes?

Hever Castle is statutorily listed at Grade I, while the grounds and gardens are a Grade I Registered Park and Garden, and the Italian Sculpture Garden is separately listed at Grade II.

Grade I listed buildings are notoriously difficult to make any changes to and most, even slight moderations, require planning approval.

In the early 20th century William Waldorf Astor purchased the castle and carried out extensive works including the restoration of the castle, the creation of what is now referred to as the Astor Wing, and redevelopment of the grounds to create formal gardens and the lake under the auspices of the architect Frank Loughborough Pearson.

The structure was built as a fortified farmhouse by the de Hever family in the 13th and 14th centuries.

In the early 20th century William Waldorf Astor purchased the castle and carried out extensive works

In the early 20th century William Waldorf Astor purchased the castle and carried out extensive works (Image credit: Hever Castle & Gardens)

The medieval castle was renovated with contemporary features

William Waldorf Astor was one of the very wealthy Astor family of New York City and moved to Britain in 1891, became a British subject in 1899, and was made Viscount Astor in 1917 for his contributions to war charities.

He used his massive fortune to restore and extend the castle in the early 20th century and create a separate self build called the Astor Wing.

This was done by the family as renovating a house as big as Hever Castle would be difficult, and the family wanted a separate home to reside in.

The Astor Wing is a Tudor self build in traditional style which is connected to the castle

The Astor Wing was built by the Astor family in the early 20th century for his family to reside in when they moved from America (Image credit: Hever Castle & Gardens)

Why do the wardrobes need to be moved?

Gathering listed building consent is difficult at the best of time but in this case gaining permission has proven particularly difficult.

The planning application states the aim is to “remove modern wardrobes (c1970) within Anne Boleyn’s bedroom (‘The Small Chamber’) to return the room to its original proportions and thus better reveal the significance of the heritage asset”.

The summary of pre-application advice from Sevenoaks District Council concluded that: “Upon reviewing the principal of the proposed development (it) is generally accepted however there are concerns/issues, which will need to be re-considered/ addressed before an application is submitted in order to receive a favourable outcome.”

The wardrobes sub-divide the bedroom from a pink bathroom and the room currently has a gown worn by Anne Boleyn on display inside

The Small Chamber of Anne Boleyn is one display in the castle, which is available for people to visit (Image credit: Hever Castle & Gardens)

What will the final home look like?

The current owners have also chosen to make changes in other areas of the house, including renovating a bathroom.

The planning application states: “The unexpected, vibrant pink, bathroom installed by Lady Irene Astor in the 1970s and occasionally seen on ‘Hidden Hever’ tours, is to be relocated to another building on the estate in due course.

“This will leave the shell of a Tudor room behind that will become the final room of the proposed Boleyn suite, presented as the Boleyn’s Closet.

“Tudor Closets were multi-purpose private rooms of business, study and devotion. It can be made into the culmination of the suite.

“The contorted access means that in high season this would be more of a glimpse in, but in less busy times visitor as could enter and look from a roped-off section.”

A pink bathroom with pink bath and table next to the bath

The pink bathroom is planned to be moved to another building on the estate to allow for changes to be made to the existing house whilst also retaining the historical merits to the property (Image credit: Hever Castle & Gardens)

The plans would "relocate the fittings to a suite within the proposed reconstructed part of the Astor Wing" and the current owners feel this would leave the room "as it would have been during Tudor times”.

The website for Hever Castle & Gardens describes the property as “what every child wants a castle to be: crenellated, moated and haunted” and the planned changes could make the castle even closer to this description.

A final decision has yet to be reached on the planning application for the property.

Sam Webb

Sam is based in Coventry and has been a news reporter for nearly 20 years. His work has featured in the Mirror, The Sun, MailOnline, the Independent, and news outlets throughout the world.  As a copywriter, he has written for clients as diverse as Saint-Gobain, Michelin, Halfords Autocentre, Great British Heating, and Irwin Industrial Tools. During the pandemic, he converted a van into a mini-camper and is currently planning to convert his shed into an office and Star Wars shrine.