Behind The Scenes Of Downton Abbey At Highclere Castle
10 January 2020 -
Discover the 'real' Downton Abbey! Are you ready to explore the beautiful and fascinating set of the beloved Downton Abbey tv-series and film? Highclere Castle is home to the Emmy award-winning drama series and is one of England’s most beautiful Victorian castles. You do not want to miss out on a visit to this stunning historical home where you can fantasise that you are a member of the Crawley family.
The History Of Highclere Castle
Highclere Castle has been the home to the Carnarvon family since 1679 and has had a rich, multi-faceted history. The first written records of the estate date back to 749. That was when an Anglo-Saxon King granted the land to the Bishops of Winchester.
The Bishop of the time, William of Wykeham, built a beautiful medieval palace and gardens on the estate. The palace was then later rebuilt in 1679 when it was bought by Sir Robert Sawyer, an Attorney General and direct grandfather of the current Earl. It was in 1842 when Highclere Place House was transformed into Highclere Castle by the designs of Sir Charles Barry – who was also working on the Houses of Parliament at the time. The Countess of Carnarvon describes in her blog that both buildings have a "similar intricate silhouette".
Highclere Castle has a long history with aviation which began in 1910. Sir Geoffrey De Havilland made his first flight on the Highclere Estate at Seven Barrows. Highclere Castle was also highly valuable during wartimes. Throughout the First World War, Highclere Castle was used as a hospital for wounded soldiers. During the Second World War, Highclere Castle was home to many evacuee children, whose names can still be seen etched into the roof.
The Discovery of Tutankhamun
If the Carnarvon name sounds familiar, this is with good reason. The 5th Earl of Carnarvon was an English peer and aristocrat best known as the financial backer of the search for and the excavation of Tutankhamun's tomb in the Valley of the Kings.
In 2007, Lord and Lady Carnarvon created the Egyptian Exhibition. This exhibition is located in the cellars of the castle and explores the discovery of Tutankhamun’s grave by the 5th Earl, George Herbert.
Highclere Castle has between 200 and 300 rooms and is set amidst 1,000 acres of stunning parkland which lies within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This beautiful 5,000-acre estate is located in Hampshire, about 5 miles south of Newbury, Berkshire
The 'Real' Downton Abbey!
The Downton Abbey tv series, and the newly released 2019 film, captured the hearts of over 180 million of us. Many of both the exterior and interior shots of this highly loved and beautifully shot period drama are filmed at Highclere Castle. As such, many of the ornate and elaborate rooms and vistas at Downton Abbey will be familiar to viewers of the TV series. The majority of “downstairs” sets, such as the kitchen and servants’ quarters, along with some of the upstairs bedroom scenes, were constructed and filmed at Ealing Studios.
A visit to Highclere Castle is a fun opportunity to relive beloved scenes from Downton Abbey. You can glide down the elegant oak staircase as Lady Mary did on her wedding day or sit at Jackdaws Castle where Lady Edith spent much of her time and admire the stately dining room where many of the Dowager Countess' politely searing witty lines were delivered by Dame Maggie Smith.
The author of Downton Abbey, Julian Fellowes, reportedly had the castle in mind when writing the series. Initially, the Downton Abbey series had a rather small budget so many of the Carnarvons’ own possessions were used as the Granthams’. Consequently, many of the iconic items from the tv-series are recognizable throughout Highclere Castle - such as the red sofas in the drawing-room where many important conversations took place and the extremely valuable (reportedly £12m) Van Dyck painting that looms over the dining room.
Now that filming of the Downton Abbey movie is finished, the breathtaking Highclere Castle is once again open to the public. A series of events and guided tours will take place at the castle during 2020, including film set and behind the scenes tours. So, make sure to schedule in a visit so you too can walk in the footsteps of your favourite characters from Downton Abbey and to gain a behind the scenes insight into the world-famous series - you won’t be disappointed!
Departing in July, our 2-day Behind the Scenes at the Real Downton Abbey tour includes:
- Return coach travel
- An overnight stay at a selected 3 or 4-star hotel with dinner & breakfast
- An exclusive visit to Highclere Castle for our customers, featuring elements from the making of the film
- A signed hardback copy of Lady Carnarvon’s book, 'At Home at Highclere. Entertaining at the Real Downton Abbey'*
- A DVD of the new Downton Abbey film*
(*one book & DVD per booking)