A painting of the gardens at Hever Castle by former Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill has been unveiled along with changes to the layout of the historic attraction to better tell the history of its ownership.
Dating from the 1930s the oil painting, View through an Arch at Hever depicts the Italian Garden at Hever Castle at the time it was owned by Churchill’s close friends, John Jacob Astor V (known as JJ) and Lady Violet Astor.
The painting was recently purchased by Hever Castle from Christies and was unveiled at a press event by Lord and Lady Astor on Wednesday 29 March 2023. Historian Gareth Russell and Chartwell’s Property Curator Katherine Carter also spoke at the event alongside Hever Castle’s Head of Visitor Services, Faye Kelly.
Churchill regularly visited Hever Castle from nearby Chartwell and painted at the historic building due to his friendship with fellow artist John Jacob Astor. Other paintings of the gardens at Hever Castle can be found in the house and studio at the family home of Sir Winston.
The unveiling of the painting also marks part of a re-curation of the Castle to retell the story of the families who lived there, starting with the Astors.
This re-curation follows new research revealed by Architectural Historian and former Chief Executive of English Heritage, Simon Thurley about the previous owners and history of the childhood home of Anne Boleyn.
Visitors will be able to find out more about former owner William Waldorf Astor’s vision for his home as part of a new permanent exhibition on the ground floor of the Castle. Astor transformed the historic building which had fallen into disrepair when he bought it at the turn of the 20th century.
Find out more about the visit of Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (who became Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother), hosted by JJ Astor, where she contemplated whether or not to accept the marriage proposal of the future George VI. Immerse yourself in the atmosphere of a drinks reception in the Drawing Room in 1922 with gramophone music playing.
The new Churchill painting will be on display in the Inner Hall and visitors can also find out about visits from The Times staff and the Second World War effort in the nearby Moat Room (not usually open to the public). This will include footage from Hever Castle in 1943 from the Imperial War Museum.
Visitors can discover the history of the Great Hall via an audio/visual display which includes a scent machine to enable visitors to imagine Peach Melba Pudding being served for a dinner party hosted by JJ Astor. They can also see the impact the floods had on the Castle and the Astor family in the Entrance Hall.
Currently upstairs in the castle is an exhibition following the relationship between Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn (until November 2023). The upper two floors of the castle will be re-curated over the next two years to celebrate and reflect the new research into the castle’s history – with a focus on former owners, the Boleyns and Anne of Cleves.
Both exhibitions are included in Castle admission.
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