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King Henry VIII's Kentish roots
Henry VIII
Henry VIII was a frequent visitor to the county

Henry VIII's connections to the county began when he was just a young child.

In 1493, at the tender age of three Henry was appointed Constable of Dover Castle and Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports.

Hever Castle was the setting of King Henry and Anne Boleyn's courtship and after the wedding they had their honeymoon on the Isle of Sheppey.

King Henry VIII also had links with Leeds Castle, Manor Gate House Penshurst Place, Walmer Castle.

Hever Castle

Hever Castle
King Henry's bedroom at Hever had a special lock fitted for the visit

Henry VIII had many links to Hever Castle, apart from it being home of one of his wives, Anne Boleyn.

Sir Thomas Boleyn, Anne's father, was an ambassador in France, and Anne, her sister and her mother were all Ladies in Waiting to Henry's first wife, Catherine of Aragon.

Henry would have come the castle to court Anne and many argue that Hever Castle played a part in the formation of the Church of England. The Roman Catholic church wouldn't allow Henry to divorce Catherine and marry Anne, so he had to break away from Rome to be with Anne.

Henry was paranoid about being assassinated, and travelled with a locksmith. His locks would be fitted to his bedroom where ever he stayed, and then removed when the royal party moved on, and affixed at his next resting place.

Henry's room at the castle, was probably Sir Thomas's bedroom the rest of the time, and being the best room in the house, his host was expected to give it up for his king. It is very likely that a bed would have been especially built for Henry's stay. All the residents of the castle would have been moved to the outhouses to make room for Henry and his large entourage. No expense would have been spared for the monarch's visit.

The Isle of Sheppey

Henry often stayed at Shurland Castle with Thomas Cheyney, who almost bankrupted himself to pay for the visits.

The building is on the site of Shurland Castle, sometimes called Sheppey Castle which was built by the de Shurland family who came over to England in the wake of the Normal conquest. The stone for the castle had to be brought to the island and the stone for the walls around the gardens was taken from Chilham Castle.

The castle passed into the Cheyney family and Thomas Cheyney became squire to Henry VIII after he came to the throne.

Thomas Cheyney shared a love of jousting and rose rapidly in Henry's favour. He became Sheriff of Kent and Lord of the Cinque Ports and ended up as a Privy Councilor, and was the most powerful man in Kent, especially after he was given former church land on the Isle of Sheppey and north Kent.

Henry Cheyney, son of Thomas, disposed of his father's Kent properly, in favour of his mother's estate in Bedfordshire, and that was the start of the downfall of Shurland Hall.

Walmer Castle

Walmer Castle
Walmer Castle was built to defend England

Walmer Castle

is part of a chain of forts all along the south coast built by Henry VIII.

In 1539 Henry VIII commissioned a whole series of coastal artillery forts, including Walmer and Deal Castles, and the now lost Sandown Castle. They were built in around 18 months to defend England from the French and Spanish.

Walmer offers a view right the way across the Channel to France, on a clear day and would have been a key part of Henry's defence.

Henry would have visited to inspect his country's defences and it is known that he stayed down the coast at Deal Castle.

The Manor Gate House

The present day Manor Gate House in Dartford used to form part of a much larger manor house built for Henry's use between 1541 and 1544.

The site was originally Dartford Priory, but when the nuns refused to acknowledge Henry as head of the church, he took over the Priory and demolished it to make room for his new manor house.

The last royal owner of the manor house was Elizabeth I, who only stayed there a few times, and it was during her time that the building started to be demolished. It was then owned by several rich owners, and most of the material was reused, some of which when to build the buildings in Whitehall in London.

Penshurst Place

Penshurst Place
The Baron's Hall at Penshurst Place shows off its medieval history

King Henry first visited Penshurst Place as a guest of the Duke of Buckingham, but soon he became the owner of the property.

Built in 1341 Penshurst Place's Baron's Hall has been described as "one of the grandest rooms in the world", because it's probably the oldest, biggest and best preserved medieval hall in England.

At the time of Henry VIII the 3rd Duke of Buckingham owned Penshurst Place and in August 1518 he entertained King Henry with his entourage of around 200. The original trestle tables can still be found in the Baron's Hall and it is estimated that the Duke spent the equivalent of £1 million entertaining his King.

The Duke boasted that because he was so wealthy and had royal blood, he would be an obvious successor to the throne as Henry had no heir by this time. The King heard of this, immediately had the Duke accused and found guilty of treason. He was executed in London, and his property was forfeited to the throne.

King Henry used Penshurst as a hunting lodge. It was an ideal spot for Henry to live being just over the hills from Hever Castle where he was courting both of the Boleyn sisters, Mary and Anne.

Leeds Castle

Leeds Castle
Henry spent just one night at Leeds Castle

Henry was responsible for transforming the fortified medieval castle into a royal palace. He spent huge amounts of money on the castle, and the building was a statement of wealth, especially his use of glass, which was very much a status symbol in Tudor times.

Henry changed the downstairs rooms to become grand reception rooms introducing fire places into the main rooms, which originally had high vaulted ceilings. He added the second floor into the same space and created a whole suite of rooms upstairs for his then first wife, Catherine of Aragon. A new chapel and stables were also built on the central island.

All this work was done for a visit in May in 1520 when he was on his on his way to France, with an entourage of over 5000 people. He spent only one night at Leeds Castle and in 1553, Henry's son gave the castle away.


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