Just since the first of the year a new program on PBS has come onto my radar. It is “Downton Abbey” which appears on Sunday evenings. The real star of the show is Highclere Castle in Berkshire which is seventy miles west of London.
It is the home of the 8th Earl of Carnarvon whose great grandfather discovered the tomb of King Tut. The origins of the castle date back to the 14th century and it was transformed to the current grandeur in 1838. It has been home to the Carnarvon family continuously since 1679. Highclere sits on a parcel of land that is five times larger than New York’s Central Park.
Here is the current Earl of Carnarvon and Lady Carnarvon. She met him when she was invited to the castle for a hunting party.
This is the main hall. Before 1838 it was an open courtyard. During the renovation in 1838 it was enclosed and skylights were installed at the top.
In this private lounge, you see just a small fraction of the priceless artwork.
The room has leather wallpaper from Spain that is hundreds of years old.
This is the sitting room often used by the ladies of the house when the men withdraw to the smoking room. It is also used by the Canarvan family for drinks before dinner when they have castle guests. This room is often used in Downton Abbey.
From Downton Abbey on set are Laura Carmichael as Edith and Maggie Smith as Violet.
The castle can be rented for weddings and special events.
The estate boasts several “follies.” In architecture a folly is a building constructed primarily for decoration. This one is named after the goddess Diana.
Here is another folly on the grounds. The current Earl has had all of them restored.
During World War II the castle was a convalescent hospital for officers. At the time the lady of the castle was Almina. She was the only child of Alfred de Rothschild, and an heiress whose fortune saved Highclere. She also was a very kind and giving woman who helped nurse many soldiers back to health.
There are over 40,000 books in the library.
The Highclere music rooms has beautiful carved moldings.
Back in the 1950’s many country houses had to be bulldozed because the owners could no longer afford to keep them in repair. Four years ago, the Canarvon family was looking for ways to make serious repairs to their castle. Because Highclere has been used as the set for Downton Abbey for three seasons, the Earl has been able to make repairs. They accomplished putting on a new roof and have been able to update the interiors so that every season it gets even more beautiful. The castle is opened to visitors for a few months of each year. Over 60,000 people are said to pay $30 per person to see the inside. There is also a gift shop which also helps with the one million dollars in upkeep that is requried each year. The current butler works in the ticket office when he is not helping the family. Now, there is a staff of around twenty instead of the more than sixty that used to work there.
What I would like to point out is that Highclere, home to the Carnarvon family for generations, has collections of paintings, furniture, accessories that have been added slowly. Most of us don’t live in a castle, but we do have items that belonged to parents or grandparents. Proudly display items that are old. They give your home a “soul” and a patina. You don’t need to have matching end tables with matching lamps next to a sofa that matches a love seat .Everything does not need to be taupe. The decorating magazines would have us believe that your home must look like it is ready for a magazine shoot at the drop of a hat. I believe that you should fill your home with the things that you love. It is a constant work in progress…some old and some new things living together in harmony.
Your home is your castle.. Enjoy your home every day. Create and be happy!