Queen Mother’s private seaside apartment opened to the public

Image: The Walmer Castle apartment (English Heritage)

Locked behind a ‘secret door’ until now, the public can visit an apartment also used by Sir Winston Churchill and the Duke of Wellington.

The late Queen Mother’s seaside apartment has been opened to the public for the first time.

Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother owned the apartment as Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, a position she held from 1978 to 2002.

The apartment at Walmer Castle on the Kent coast, previously locked away behind what English Heritage called a ‘secret door’, was used by the royal for annual summer trips, often with corgis in tow.

Now visitors will be able to tour a selection of rooms in the apartment which were used by The Queen Mother, and more recently in the same ceremonial position by Admiral of the Fleet, Lord Michael Boyce, former chief of the defence staff, until his death in 2022.

Entrance to The Walmer Castle apartment (English Heritage)

The apartment was separated into a private space in the 60s to allow the main part of the castle to remain open to the public while the Lord Warden was in residence. The post and the accompanying apartment remains open through 2024, until a successor is appointed by King Charles III.

The list of historic Lord Wardens includes Sir Winston Churchill, William Pitt the Younger and the Duke of Wellington, who died at Walmer Castle in 1852. The Queen Mother was the only woman and the longest serving to hold the office.

Walmer Castle (English Heritage)

Private items not seen for decades will be redisplayed, alongside family photos of the Boyce family and artwork, including a selection of paintings from a private collection belonging to Sir Robert Menzies and which depict places connected with his political career, including his time as Prime Minister of Australia.

Kathryn Bedford, English Heritage’s Curator at Walmer Castle, said visitor “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.”