Category: History

Highclere Castle and the Ritz Hotel

Highclere Castle and the Ritz Hotel

The 6th Earl of Carnarvon, my husband’s grandfather, never had a house in   London: he simply stayed at The Ritz. Built during the reign of Edward VII on the  corner of Piccadilly, it emulated the classical French architecture, including the front arcades which echo those on the Rue de Rivoli in Paris.

 

 

  Both high society  and the press enjoyed the  opening party and it became hugely  successful.This  was in part due to a simple dearth  of hotel  space in London at the time – visitors    were even  using converted offices – but mostly [...]
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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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New Year 2017

 

New Year 2017

After Christmas, we left Highclere to spend New Year with my sister, Sarah and her husband in North Cornwall. It is a much beloved part of the world where my family always spent the Christmas and Easter holidays when we were growing up. At this time of year, the dramatic grey seas batter the cliffs which are studded with occasional chapels of rest. Faint ridges in the grass headlands still signpost where Iron Age communities built shelters and homes, with ramparts across headlands within which they could defend themselves. It always seems an old part of the world, [...]
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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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King Charles I of England

King Charles I

The portraits in the Dining room at Highclere tell the story of the English Civil War. The most magnificent painting, dominating the room, is that of Charles l on horseback at the gates of Paris by Anthony van Dyck. Painted around 1633, there is a wealth of detail, largely symbolic, in the drama of the scene. It projects the image of a wise leader, a powerful warrior and one who embodies the divine right to rule. In reality, he was, perhaps, not so wise. He failed to listen and compromise, catapulted England into civil war and sixteen years [...]
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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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Philosophy in Wine

Riding along the chalk downlands two miles to the south of where the Castle stands, it is easy to distinguish the prehistoric field lynchets and terraces which must have been part of an intensively settled and farmed landscape. Three thousand years later we still farm this part of the estate, although these ancient fields are just grazed by sheep to conserve the visible remains of the past.

There are crop marks, boundaries and platforms where small homes- huts- may have been built. They lie around the monumental remains of the fort on Beacon Hill and hence can be dated from Iron [...]
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