Category: Gardens & Landscape

From Jeeves and Wooster to Downton Abbey

From Jeeves and Wooster to Downton Abbey

I hope, like all of us here at Highclere (aka Downton Abbey), that you are rather excited about NBC’s announcement that they are making a “Downton Abbey” film.  Michael Edelstein,  president at NBC Universal International Studio, said that the movie is in the works although it is a logistical challenge to assemble the cast of 18 or 20 much loved characters into one time frame. Of course the largest and oldest “actor” has always been delighted to collaborate and to my eyes, even in old age, has never looked better.

 

Casting back in time, before “Downton Abbey,” [...]
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Highclere’s “American Garden”

Biking up the hill of the main drive to the Castle at the end of a morning circuit of the park with the dogs, I am always glad finally to see the banks of dark green rhododendrons. With more energy than I possess at this point, the dogs run off towards them and disappear into the tangle. They are quite deaf to my calls as I carry on through the black gates and then turn back to pedal through the longer grass towards “Jackdaws Castle”.

This is a classical, pillared Temple built about 1743 on raised ground to the east of the Castle. The [...]
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Tree planting

Tree planting

The photograph above hangs as one of a pair either side of a charming 18th century mirror in Stanhope Dressing room on the first floor of the Castle. The other photo is in a similar theme. Most houses like Highclere have archives, often housed in specially designed rooms and dating back centuries.  They are a unique window back into the past and at Highclere, the archivist and I try to share them with visitors, framing them for corridors as they come round, or use them to help people with their research into their family history as it might relate to Highclere.

 

Photographs are [...]
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December 25th at Highclere

Christmas at Highclere

We have just passed the winter solstice, December 21st, the shortest day of the year. Crowds gathered at Stonehenge, a prehistoric monument 25 miles west of Highclere, to welcome the re-birth of the sun as days slowly lengthen again. 5,000 years ago, when Stonehenge was begun, they would perhaps also have gathered to celebrate at the foot of Beacon Hill in the middle of our estate. We certainly have prehistoric barrows built around it. December 25th was later “acquired” by the Romans from earlier communities to worship their God then the Christian Church adopted the date as a [...]
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Silhouettes

Highclere is our home and our business and we do of course live above the shop. I am fairly hopeless at stopping work and always think there is something else to be done, which of course there is.  Just like many other businesses, Highclere is seeking to build a brand through its culture and marketing. Fortunately, it has a very unique silhouette, and one which is now iconic with the elegant carved stone turrets and central tower dominating the landscape. We have used this silhouette of our home as our logo and pictured it on tea towels or gift items [...]
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A Change of Pace

As summer turns to autumn, the pace and diary at Highclere changes. Public opening finishes for a time and the Castle welcomes smaller guided tours and groups which work better around our traditional commitments of game shooting and other events such as charity runs, garden tours and small dinners. The office team try to snatch some holiday after a very busy summer and as John (our Castle Manager) and I sign off holiday forms, we wonder if we may be cooking or answering the phone or whether we should put in our holiday forms as well.

We are also now planning [...]
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First Class Stamps

One of my personal highlights of this year’s celebration of the tercentenary of the birth of the great landscape gardener “Capability” Brown has been the inclusion of Highclere Castle on a Royal Mail Stamp. It was long in the planning and had to be kept confidential which was difficult as I was so excited.  Professor Tim Mowl was the landscape expert helping to draw together the chosen few and I have thoroughly enjoyed working with him and the Royal Mail.

 

The postmen are part of our lives, their shorts sometimes worthy of comment in winter weather and one of them is [...]
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Captain Percy

Highclere has now launched into the week of special tours and lectures about the “Castle and its Setting”, highlighting the serenity and grandeur of “Capability” Brown’s landscape here.  As well as our charming academic lecturers, I am also speaking each day, often with Geordie as an excellent contributing editor. In particular, his role is to talk about the lakes here, in part because he recently witnessed part of Blenheim’s restoration project rebuilding the dam on their Capability Brown lake.  It was a major but essential project, lakes need dredging and the banks need securing.

Every “Brown” landscape involved a lake. At [...]
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Buses and Capability Brown

As part of our celebration of the tercentenary of Capability Brown, and his contribution to the development of the English countryside in general and Highclere Park in particular, we are organising a Press Day here at the Castle. This will take place on May 12th and we are working in collaboration with Visit Britain as well with some of our own press contacts.

Lancelot “Capability” Brown was born 300 years ago and during his life transformed many of the more formal English gardens and parks into an Arcadian world of expansive lawns and lakes framed by artfully grouped trees. It was [...]
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Musical Flowers

I spent the first hour this morning with Paul the Gardener walking round the Castle to see whether we have enough flowers in the various rooms and galleries. Many friends and visitors probably only register them in the background, yet if they are absent, I do think the house looks very bare.

We have a theoretical annual plan so that there is a series of hyacinths, narcissi, azaleas, orchids, cinerarias, geraniums, jasmines, streptocarpus, begonias, hydgrangeas, cyclamen and ferns filling bowls and planters throughout the seasons around the Castle rooms.

Whilst waiting for Paul, I realised we were minus a plant in the [...]
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