Highclere Castle

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Highclere Castle
Highclere Castle.jpg
Highclere Castle, front façade
Highclere Castle is located in Hampshire
Highclere Castle
Location within Hampshire
General information
Status Grade I listed[1]
Type Stately home
Architectural style Jacobethan ("Jacobean Revival")
Location Highclere, Hampshire, England, UK
Coordinates Lua error in Module:Coordinates at line 668: callParserFunction: function "#coordinates" was not found.
Construction started 1839
Owner George Herbert, 8th Earl of Carnarvon
Highclere Castle
File:Highclere Castle 02.jpg
View from the path
File:Highclere Castle 01.jpg
View from the grounds

Highclere Castle /ˈhklɪər/ is a country house in the Jacobethan style, with a park designed by Capability Brown. The 5,000-acre (2,000 ha) estate is in Hampshire, England, United Kingdom, about 5 miles (8.0 km) south of Newbury, Berkshire. It is the country seat of the Earl of Carnarvon, a branch of the Anglo-Welsh Herbert family.[2]

Highclere Castle is the main filming location for the British television period drama Downton Abbey.[3] It was also a filming location for the British comedy series Jeeves and Wooster with Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie. The castle and gardens are open to the public during July and August and at times during the rest of the year.


Early years

The castle stands on the site of an earlier house, which was built on the foundations of the medieval palace of the Bishops of Winchester, who owned this estate from the 8th century.[4][5] The original site was recorded in the Domesday Book. Since 1679, the castle has been home to the Earls of Carnarvon.

In 1692, Robert Sawyer, a lawyer and college friend of Samuel Pepys, bequeathed a mansion at Highclere to his only daughter, Margaret, the first wife of the 8th Earl of Pembroke. Their second son, Robert Sawyer Herbert, inherited Highclere, began its picture collection and created the garden temples. His nephew and heir Henry Herbert was created Baron Porchester and later Earl of Carnarvon by George III.

19th century

The house was then a square, classical mansion, but it was remodelled and largely rebuilt for the third Earl following a design by Sir Charles Barry[3] in 1839–1842, after he had finished with the construction of the Houses of Parliament. It is in the Jacobethan style and faced in Bath stone,[3] reflecting the Victorian revival of English architecture of the late 16th century and early 17th century, when Tudor architecture was being challenged by newly arrived Renaissance architecture influences.

During the 19th century there was a huge Renaissance Revival movement, of which Sir Charles Barry was a great exponent—Barry described the style of Highclere as Anglo-Italian.[6] Barry had been inspired to become an architect by the Renaissance architecture of Italy and was very proficient at working in the Renaissance-based style that became known in the 19th century as Italianate architecture. At Highclere, however, he worked in the Jacobethan style, but added to it some of the motifs of the Italianate style. This is particularly noticeable in the towers, which are slimmer and more refined than those of Mentmore Towers, the other great Jacobethan house built in the same era. Barry produced an alternative design in a more purely Italian Renaissance style, which was rejected by Lord Carnarvon.[7] The external walls are decorated with strapwork designs typical of Northern European Renaissance architecture. The Italian Renaissance theme is more evident in the interiors. In the saloon, in an attempt to resemble a medieval English great hall, Barry's assistant Thomas Allom introduced a Gothic influence evident in the points rather than curves of the arches, and the mock-hammerbeam roof.[8]

Although the exterior of the north, east and south sides were completed before the 3rd Earl died in 1849 and Sir Charles Barry died in 1860, the interior and the west wing (designated as servants' quarters) were far from complete. The 4th Earl turned to the architect Thomas Allom, who had worked with Barry, to supervise work on the interior of the castle, which was completed in 1878.

The 1st Earl had his park laid out according to a design by Capability Brown in 1774–1777, moving the village in the process—the remains of the church of 1689 are at the south-west corner of the castle. The Lebanon Cedars are believed to be descended from seed brought to England from Lebanon by the 17th century seed collector Edward Pococke.

20th century

The castle became home to Egyptian artifacts after the 5th Earl, an enthusiastic amateur Egyptologist, sponsored the excavation of nobles' tombs in Deir el-Bahari (Thebes) in 1907.[9] He later accompanied archaeologist Howard Carter during the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922.

In 1969, Henry Herbert, 7th Earl of Carnarvon, became racing manager to Elizabeth II.[10] The 7th Earl was "great friends" with the Queen; she was a "frequent visitor until his death in 2001".[11]

21st century

By 2009, the castle was in dire need of major repair, with only the ground and first floors remaining usable.[11] Water damage had caused stonework to crumble and ceilings to collapse; at least 50 rooms were uninhabitable.[11] The 8th Earl and his family were living in a "modest cottage in the grounds"; he said his ancestors were responsible for the castle's long term problems."[11] As of 2009, repairs needed for the entire estate were estimated to cost around £12 million, £1.8 million of which was urgently needed for just the castle.[11] As of late 2012, Lord and Lady Carnarvon have stated that a dramatic increase in the number of paying visitors has allowed them to begin major repairs on both Highclere's turrets and its interior. The family attributes this increase in interest to the on-site filming of Downton Abbey.[12] The family now live in Highclere during the winter months, but return to their cottage in the summer, when the castle is open to the public.


There are various follies on the estate. To the east of the house is the Temple of Diana, erected before 1743 with Ionic order columns from Devonshire House in Piccadilly.[citation needed] "Heaven's Gate" is a folly about 60 feet high on Sidown Hill, built in 1749 by Hon. Robert Sawyer Herbert (d. 1769). Other 18th century follies that can be found on the grounds of the estate include Jackdaw's Castle and the Etruscan Temple.

The hybrid holly Ilex x altaclerensis (Highclere holly) was developed here in about 1835 by hybridising the Madeiran Ilex perado (grown in a greenhouse) with the local native Ilex aquifolium.

File:London Lodge (1793), brick but Coade stone dressed, and wings (1840), Highclere Castle, Hampshire, May 2014.jpg
Restored Grade II* listed[13] London Lodge (1793), brick but Coade stone dressed and wings (1840), (May 2014).

Use as location

See also


  1. "Highclere Castle, Highclere". British Listed Buildings. Retrieved 5 October 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Highclere Castle. "Highclere Castle". highclerecastle.co.uk.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Dickson, Elizabeth (January–February 1979). "Historic Houses: The Splendors of Highclere Castle". Architectural Digest. Retrieved 2 January 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Highclere Castle. "Highclere Castle & Gardens". highclerecastle.co.uk.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Philip Davis. "Highclere Bishops Palace". gatehouse-gazetteer.info.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Henry Russell Hitchcock (1958) Architecture: Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (Pelican History of Art), London, Peguin Books, p.73.
  7. Roger Dixon and Stefan Muthesius. Victorian Architecture. Thames and Hudson 1978, pp.39–40
  8. "Highclere Castle, Earl of Carnarvon, Egyptian antiquities, State Rooms". Highclerecastle.co.uk. Retrieved 30 September 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. A letter from Gaston Maspero dated 14 October 1907, contained in the archives of Maspero in the library of the Institut de France says, "You have been kind enough to say to me that you could find a man who knows Egyptology to survey my works. Have you thought to anybody? I will leave the question of payment in your hands but I think I would prefer a compatriot" (Manuscripts 4009, folios 292–293). On 16 January 1909, Carter wrote to Maspero, "Just a word to tell you that Lord Carnarvon has accepted my conditions. He will be there (in Egypt) from 12 February to 20 March. I have to thank you again..." (Manuscripts 4009, folio 527) - from Elisabeth David.
  10. Charles Mosley, editor, Burke's Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage, 107th edition, 3 volumes (Wilmington, Delaware, U.S.A.: Burke's Peerage (Genealogical Books) Ltd, 2003), volume 1, p. 698
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 Harris, Paul (5 August 2009). "Can Highclere Castle be saved? Historic home is verging on ruin as Lord Carnarvon reveals £12m repair bill". Daily Mail. London. Retrieved 18 February 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Eccles, Louise (26 December 2012). "How TV's hit period drama saved the REAL Downton Abbey". Daily Mail. London. Retrieved 9 October 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "London Lodge, Highclere". britishlistedbuildings.co.uk.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Williams, George (29 November 1987). "Filming 'Secret Garden' was a nightmare". McClatchy News Service.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
  15. King Ralph UK filming locations.
  16. Mcdermott, Kerry (30 March 2013). "How Stanley Kubrick transformed genteel Highclere mansion into Hollywood hothouse because of his fear of flying". Daily Mail. London. Retrieved 1 April 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>.
  17. The Four Feathers UK filming locations.
  18. Cheal, David (22 May 2007). "Rock's aristocrats show their class". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 15 August 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. The Tatler, January 2011.

External links