Category: History

Roads are made for journeys not destinations (Confucius)

Saturday afternoon I set off on my bike with the dogs down the drive in the Park to “Redpools” where there is old sunken woodland, paths that are never straight and a pool or small lake that merges with rushes and marshy saplings.

Summer, such as it was here, has definitely slipped away and I had remembered a sweater. Nevertheless, it is a magical time of year, “seasons of mist and mellow fruitfulness” and I had looped a bag over my handlebars hoping for the very last blackberries or more likely crab apples and pears [...]
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GB2HCC

It is summer in England so it must be raining and, on this particularly damp Saturday evening, I found myself sitting in our tearoom marquee whilst Robert (security) and Paul (parking) tested the reception and call signs for our new temporary amateur radio station.

Given my heritage is partly Scottish, and Robert (security) is Scottish, it is important to note that it was a Scotsman who first predicted the existence of radio waves (James Clerk Maxwell), although the theory was developed by a German (Heinrich Hertz). Radio itself was then apparently invented by the Italian Guglielmo Marconi who sent [...]
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Keepers’ Café

The first part of my morning bike ride is downhill all the way. I head off slowly as the dogs run round in excited circles and we avoid the early cars, all of which have to stop, as the dogs bounce up to say hello and are convinced that they should be patted. This is their walk as well as my exercise, so I watch as they happily disappear into an old piece of hedgerow, tails wagging, before bounding into an old dew pond area, emerging with muddy legs.

Carrying on another 100 yards, I turn in to the back of [...]
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Pots and Gardens

When Geordie and I initially began to think about what visitors might enjoy at Highclere, one of the first things we considered were the gardens. I had read somewhere that 80% of National Trust visits were due to interest in gardens. This may or may not be an accurate figure and, unlike the National Trust, we remain, fundamentally a family home rather than a “museum”, but the gist of the statistics lived with me.

Creating gardens has a long history at Highclere. In the 18th century, one of Geordie’s ancestors, Robert Herbert, designed a more traditionally formal garden here with follies and [...]
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Costumes and Dress Codes

I grew up and went to school in London. During weekends my sisters and I explored (sometimes under duress) the various museums that London has to offer. The one that I never needed to be persuaded to go to was the Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington. I would head straight towards any exhibition of fashion and costumes – they have an extraordinary collection depicting what we wore that spans at least four centuries. You could stare for ages at the tiny waists, beautiful, delicate lace, the velvets, dresses with enormous hoops, the shoes and the wonderful hats. Admittedly [...]
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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.

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