Category: Restoration & Building Works

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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Need To Know

There was a dreary interconnecting door between the Saloon and the Smoking Room in the Castle. Feeling at the time that I had undertaken rather a lot of dutiful and rather more mundane tasks, I decided to turn my thoughts to having some fun and improving it. With a girlfriend, Ellie, who is a talented painter and gilder, we sketched out a trompe d’oeil for the door. I chose a design which reflected some of the decoration of the Library shelves in order to give it a “realistic” frame and then Ellie then carefully planned what would be on the shelves, [...]
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Dress Code

Weekend invitations to Highclere are followed by a flurry of emails confirming dress codes and what excitements the weekend will hold. Is it shooting, tennis, riding, a concert or some good country walks? Is it short or long for the ladies and how smart or not for the men? Warm wraps are always a good idea in case I have had a brainwave and decided we are having cocktails by a temple.

Occasionally, I lack precision; happily explaining to local friends it is not really smart: just laughter and fun. One girlfriend relayed those words to her husband. He therefore correctly [...]
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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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Sally’s poached my men!

It is “all hands on deck” as we prepare the Castle for the Easter opening. Over the winter the weather has continually been against us in terms of the fields we use for car parking and they are still very wet. In addition, we have not been able to clear up and repair fences and tracks as much as we would have liked as it would have made it more of a muddy mess.  Even the sheep along the exit route in the park have managed to knock over and ruin the signage.

Wet weather has, however, helped the gardeners, who [...]
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From Paris to Billiards.

Everyone at Highclere has been touched and heartbroken by the terrible tragedies that unfolded in Paris. The destruction and grief that has been continuing around the world in the wake of these endless attacks is awful as people live afraid, “strangers … in a world they never made” to quote A E Houseman. It is the merciless and random nature of the violence. At the same time, there have been some amazing moments of unity and kindnesses which it would be wonderful to “bottle”.  Let us hope they continue.

In between everyday life here at Highclere, I still find moments to [...]
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Winchester Lodge

The old approach to the Castle used to be from the south leading towards the ancient city of Winchester. There is a narrow pass under Siddown hill, with a steep hillside falling away and, as the land flattens, the entrance is marked by a lodge and gate, unsurprisingly called Winchester Lodge.

As usual it was in dire need of repair so it has been one of our projects over the last six or seven months. It is the same team of delightful stone masons who worked on an earlier lodge, led by Eric from Heritage Building Conservation.

My husband, Geordie, and I are getting quite good at [...]
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Fish & Chip Wednesday

At some point each day I look in on our biggest building project – the renovation of the Castle Estate Offices. There are always a few building works trundling along at any given time but this particular one is marked both by its longevity and its remarkable ability to absorb money at a great rate.

One of my roles at Highclere is to act as a sort of cross between an agent and project manager.   It is not the easiest job as one of the main tasks is to try to keep teamwork going amongst the craftsmen by continual “critical path [...]
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