The private apartment of the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports – a position held by Queen Elizabeth The Queen’s Mother from 1978 to 2002 – at Walmer Castle in Kent will open to the public for the first time, English Heritage has announced. A favourite seaside retreat for The Queen Mother during her 24 years as Lord Warden, the apartment will open to visitors on Saturday 23rd March.

With furnishings evocative of a bygone age, the Lord Warden’s apartment at Walmer Castle transmits an air of cosiness and intimacy. The Queen’s Mother is known to have loved her annual summer trips there, often with corgis in tow, and even with her own curtains to be put up for her visit. A vase of flowers from Walmer’s stunning gardens was always in place to welcome her.

Created to enable Crown control of the powerful five ports (“Cinque Ports”) of the southeast coast, the Lord Warden was one of the most coveted and influential offices in medieval England. Walmer Castle, with its idyllic spot on the Kent coast, became the official residence for the role holder in the 18th Century. Today it is a purely ceremonial position most recently held by Admiral of the Fleet, Lord Michael Boyce, former chief of the defence staff, until his death in 2022.

Queen's Mother Apartment

Now visitors will be able to tour a selection of rooms in the apartment, including the sitting, dining and master bedroom, which were used by The Queen’s Mother, Lord Boyce and other 20th Century Lord Wardens and their families, and which until now have been locked away behind a ‘secret door’. 

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’s 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.”

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 and much-treasured collection belonging to Sir Robert Menzies and which depict places connected with his political career, including his time as Prime Minister of Australia.

Queen's Mother

The apartment was separated into a private space in the 1960s to allow the main part of the castle to remain open to the public while the Lord Warden was in residence.  The post and therefore the space is currently vacant following the death of Lord Boyce in 2022 and before his successor is appointed by King Charles III. Some rooms in the Castle are currently closed to allow for a major conservation project to take place, however visitors can still see Wellington’s bedroom and the famous wellington boots.

The list of previous Lord Wardens reads like a roll call of some of the most distinguished and influential people in English history, including 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.

The Lord Warden’s Apartment opened on Saturday 23 March and remains open throughout 2024.

For more information about Walmer Castle and to purchase tickets, visit:

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