Hever Castle in Kent in England is a historical site that is a sure hit with tourists combining history, a 13th century castle complete with moats which was home to Anne Boleyn as a child, gardens, a water maze, a Japanese tea house, boating, an adventure playground for the kids, and even a macabre exhibit of instruments of torture. In addition to all these exhibits and amusements, there is a collection of dollhouses created by Master miniaturist and artisan John Hodgson.
John Hodgson, who has been creating full size classic handmade furniture for more than thirty years, got hooked by miniatures when he created a dining room shadow box for his daughter. While John is known for his gorgeous reproductions of antique furniture with his pieces residing in museums around the world, he has become more famous for his miniature dollhouses on display at the Hever Castle.
The commission to create the dollhouse display took him ten years of work and included a Medieval castle and other miniature displays that date up to Victorian style homes. He started with the Medieval period castle which he researched meticulously to make accurate representations of the rooms of that time. The Great Hall in the Medieval castle displays long tables for the family and household in addition to benches and cupboards in the style of the time.
The exhibit at Hever Castle also includes a Georgian Palladian style home with faced stone blocks and includes gilt torcheres, console tables and mirrors that John made himself first hand carving the pieces then reproducing them in English pewter which were then gold plated with 22 carat gold. He also used this process to produce lighter weight items from resin molds. The fine miniature furniture created in mahogany and walnut displayed in the formal rooms of the home include Chippendale cabinets full of miniature fine china. In the drawing room, ancestral portraits line the gilded walls while musicians play to please the guests. In one of the bedrooms of the Georgian house known as the pink bedroom displays a lovely four poster bed with white silk bedding and canopy, a linen press full of miniature handmade linens, and a chest of drawers with a hair wig ready for the occupant to wear. When the miniature display at Hever Castle was complete, it was opened in style by no less than Dame Judi Dench who also happens to be a dollhouse enthusiast herself.
If you are able to visit Hever Castle be prepared to spend the day as the number of exhibits and activities will keep you and your family busy. The Castle was first restored by William Waldorf Astor in 1903. He was responsible for adding the manmade lake and creating the award winning gardens. It is now owned by Broadland Properties which opened the Castle and grounds to the public.