Queen Mother’s private apartment opens to public for first time

The public will get a peak into the lives of key figures such as the late Queen Mother and Winston Churchill

Lydia Patrick
Friday 22 March 2024 11:43 GMT
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The Queen Mother was the longest serving Lord Warden
The Queen Mother was the longest serving Lord Warden (English Heritage)

A private lodgings once home to the likes of Queen Elizabeth, Winston Churchill, and the Duke of Wellington will open to the public for the first time ever.

The sprawling seaside retreat of the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, a position held by Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother from 1978 to 2022, at Walmer Castle in Kent, will open to visitors from Saturday 23 March.

In medieval era, the Lord Warden was created to allow the crown control of five critical ports – Cinque Ports – of the southeast coast and was one of the most esteemed offices in England.

Today, Lord Warden it is solely a ceremonial title which has been held by members of the Royal family or prime ministers. Most recently, Admiral of the Fleet, Lord Michael Boyce former chief of the defence staff held the title up until his death in 2022.

The bespoke apartment within the impressive stone castle boasts a selection of rooms including a sitting room, dining room and master bedroom which are locked away behind a concealed door – all providing a rare snapshot into the past lives of some of the great British figures from history.

Walmer Castle in Kent will be opening its doors to the Lord Warden’s private apartment
Walmer Castle in Kent will be opening its doors to the Lord Warden’s private apartment (English Heritage )

Kathryn Bedford, English Heritage’s Curator at Walmer Castle, said: “This is a rare opportunity for a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the never-before-seen private apartment at Walmer Castle.

“I think visitors might be surprised by the simplicity of how modern Lord Wardens, including The Queen Mother, have lived in the Castle with their families and staff but I’m sure they will quickly appreciate the beauty and elegance of Walmer and see why it has become a favourite retreat for politicians, aristocracy and royalty.”

Inside the Queen Mother’s private apartment at Walmer castle
Inside the Queen Mother’s private apartment at Walmer castle (English Heritage)

The Queen Mother was the only woman to hold the office, and the longest serving Lord Warden so far, she loved her annual trips to the castle, often with her corgis in tow and with her own curtains to put up during her stay.

She was delighted to have been gifted the idyllic castle gardens on her 95th birthday, where she enjoyed the tranquillity of nature.

The Queen Mother declared at the time: "I have been given many presents before, but never a garden."

Items not seen for decades, including family photos of the Boyce family and artwork will be on display for the first time.

Inside the Queen Mother’s private apartment at Walmer castle
Inside the Queen Mother’s private apartment at Walmer castle (English Heritage)

Visitors will have the chance to observe a treasured collection belonging to Sir Robert Menzies which depicts places connected with his political career, including his time as Prime Minister of Australia.

In the 1960s, the apartment was split off as a private space from the rest of the castle, enabling the public to visit the fort while the Lord Warden was in residence.

Since the death of Lord Boyce in 2022, the quarters have been vacant.

Some rooms remain closed for renovation work however Wellington’s bedroom homing his famous Wellington boots are on display for tourists.

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