If you ever want to see a beautiful Italian garden without leaving the UK, look no further than Hever Castle. For that matter if you want a beautiful setting for a wedding in an Italian garden, look no further than the Italian Garden at Hever Castle. The gardens here are absolutely stunning!
This is what I learned about……….. the gardens at Hever Castle.
Originally, it’s all about money and lots of it!
John Jacob Astor I was born in Waldorf, Germany on July 17th, 1763. After working with his father in the dairy business, he left Germany at sixteen and moved in with his brother in London. For five years he helped his brother manufacture and sell musical instruments. After the war of 1812, Astor moved to the United States, carrying with him a shipment of seven flutes. He then worked for his older brother, Henry, who was a butcher in New York City. Unhappy with the local trades, Astor began trading furs with local North American tribes and when a commercial treaty between the United States and Great Britain was made, new markets were created. Astor became the exporter of one of Canada’s premier fur trade companies and by the end of the decade, was worth 5 million dollars. Eighty five years later, at his death, Astor was the wealthiest person in the United States, worth billions!
So that is how the empire was built! Moving on………….
John Jacob Astor V was born in New York City in 1886, the fourth child of William Waldorf Astor and his wife Mary Dahlgren Paul. When he was five years old his family left New York to live in England. He was raised on an estate purchased by his father at Cliveden-on-Thames in Buckinghamshire and was educated at Eton College. In October 1914, he was wounded serving with his regiment at Messines during WWI. His right leg was shattered and later amputated. Upon his father’s death, in 1919, he inherited Hever Castle, childhood home of Anne Boleyn, near Edenbridge, Kent, where he lived the life of an English gentleman.
Astor married Lady Violet Mary Elliot-Murray-Kynynmound, (thank goodness she was later referred to as Violet Astor,) on August 26, 1916. She was a widow, with two children. Her husband, Major Lord Charles George Francis Mercer Nairne Petty-Fitzmaurice, was killed in action at Ypres in 1914. Were Astor and Violet drawn to each other after their sad war tragedies? Or were they drawn together by family backgrounds? Or both? I found an interesting tidbit about Lady Violet. It seems Astor was the jealous type and wanted Violet to give up all memorabilia from her life with her previous husband. She consulted, her friend, Vita Sackville-West, who I have previously written about, and they together concluded she should keep the letters her husband had written to her. So Violet hid them between some bricks when the remodeling was taking place at Hever. It’s amazing how small the elite social circles were! Vita’s mother, Victoria, had many affairs during her lifetime and one of them was with William Waldorf Astor, the father of John Jacob. Vita was taken along as a chaperone (as a child) so William Waldorf and Vitoria could vacation in Switzerland together! Those rascally women!
Anyway, back to the gardens, which were laid out between 1904 and 1908, by Joseph Cheal, turning marshland into a beautiful Italian garden to display William Waldorf Astor’s collection of Italian sculptures.
Click on any picture in the Gallery to see a larger view!
Over one thousand men worked on the garden and eight hundred men took two years to dig out the 38-acre lake at the far end of the garden.
Within four years the 125 acres of classical and natural landscapes were constructed and planted.
There is the formal loggia fountain, ( the very first picture shown) inspired by the Trevi Fountain in Rome and many cool and shady grottoes. Also, plenty of places to just sit and take it all in!
In the English Rose Garden there are more than four thousand roses!
There is a Tudor Garden, Blue Corner, and Rhododendron Walk, and Anne Boleyn Walk, with trees planted more than one hundred years ago. Following the stream through the peaceful woodland garden there is the Sunday Walk and Church Gill Walk. There is also the Water Maze, built on Sixteen Acre Island, which is especially popular with children. There is a spot here for EVERYONE! There is so much to see and do at Hever Castle! Check out the many options and events going on all year long! You won’t be disappointed! Until next time in the garden, enjoy!