Category: History

Journeys in Time

Journeys in Time

I have never been very keen on heights: I have to tell myself to breathe and climb steadily as I go up ladders or, indeed, on ski lifts. Much to my surprise therefore, I remained remarkably calm as I climbed a very long ladder to look at the restoration work currently being done on an ancient barn on the Estate.  So many visitors and guests admire the Castle, its setting, the landscape and gardens, yet that only represents a proportion of what Geordie and I are restoring and sustaining. This is not a “normal” investment with a chance [...]
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A Constitutional Walk for Canada Day

A Constitutional Walk for Canada Day

Reading the 4th Countess’s of Carnarvon’s diaries in her lovely clear script, I have begun to understand a little more about life here 130 years ago. Some things never change. The family liked going for walks or riding on their horses, perhaps up Beacon Hill as I did yesterday evening. They were keen to ensure they spent time outside and considered it was good for their health, for their “constitution”, so much so that if the weather was miserable, they walked in the dining room for 30 minutes!  The thought of Lord and Lady Carnarvon, arms [...]
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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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MayDay

May Days

When I was a student at St Andrews University there were various optional ancient traditions one of which was swimming in the freezing North Sea on May 1st. Curiously enough, whilst it was not then a preferred pastime, I do now rather enjoy swimming in colder waters. It is very invigorating especially within sight of a warm bath afterwards.

May Day remains a bank holiday in many countries for any number of differing historical reasons. In England it has a long and varied justification from dancing around maypoles (banished by Thomas Cromwell and then reinstated by Charles II in about [...]
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In this, the bicentenary of Jane Austen's death, Cary Johnston visits Highclere Castle in Hampshire to meet Lady Carnarvon to discuss the celebrations due to take place at the Real Downton Abbey to remember one of Britain's most beloved authors.

Click play to watch the interview in full or tune in to ITV Meridian News at 6.30pm on Friday 12th May.

Play

Stones and Homes

Not far from Highclere lies Stonehenge, an extraordinary outline of the remains of architecture from c. 5,000 to 3,000 BC around which people lived, farmed and planned their lives. Highclere also has remains of tumuli and forts from the same period. Every time I walk there, it seems a place of timelessness with just the outline of our ancestors’ building works.

Christopher Wren, an outstanding British architect who rebuilt perhaps 52 churches in London after the Great Fire in 1666 including, of course, St Paul’s Cathedral, wrote that “Architecture aims at Eternity” and sometimes, in places like Stonehenge, you really begin [...]
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Looking and Seeing

Looking and Seeing

Turning the pages of Highclere Castle’s leather bound and engraved visitors’ books is always riveting. They tell their own stories about who was staying here and, as I sit by the fire in the Saloon where the guests must have gathered, I wonder what their conversations were, who told the jokes and anecdotes or what amused them during a weekend visit. Of course their weekends were somewhat more extended than ours are today: most guests left on a Monday not a Sunday and clearly some stayed for a week.

I have been looking through these books for years, long [...]
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Love and all that

February can be quite a damp wintery month in England and we often get a scattering of snow or a sharp frost. However, there are two highlights: the first is Valentine’s day and the second is that February has only 28 days which should help Spring approach a little more quickly. For Valentine’s Day we have started asking guests to join us in the Castle for a tour and afternoon tea, or a reception with music  and drinks in the evening. Given most people work during the week,  we cannot always offer the 14th itself but choose the nearest weekend instead.

These [...]
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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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