The spaniel puppies are now nearly 10 weeks old and the first sibling is leaving Highclere Castle for his new home. He is optimistic, cuddly and courageous and I have packed his backpack ready to go.
He probably associates the Castle’s front hall with chasing his brother round the pillars but it is, in fact, rather a lovely entrance. It was designed by Sir Gilbert Scott in 1870 who was also rebuilding the parish Church in Highclere for the 4th Earl of Carnarvon at the same time. Scott was a most respected architect and chosen, for example, to design the Albert Memorial and St Pancras Station in London. It is an elegant gothic hall with a polychrome floor, fine French marble colonettes , the colour of which is called “rouge de Languedoc”. The marble bust of the 2nd Earl of Carnarvon which stands in the entrance hall is by Lorenzo Bartolini (1777-1850) which was commissioned in Florence in 1819 while the family was on the Grand Tour. Lorenzo Bartolini emerged from humble beginnings to become the most highly esteemed Italian sculptor of the generation after Antonio Canova.
A fine pair of terracotta wyverns (winged dragons with two legs and a scaly tail) which are the heraldic beasts of the Carnarvon family flank the doors leading to the Saloon whilst more wyverns are carved on the ceiling amidst the heraldic shield. The two linked C’s are found both in the floor design and on the ceiling. Much of the above is easy to miss when you are looking into the splendour of the saloon.
In Downton Abbey, Maggie Smith’s character has often stood here, firstly looking and then shouting down the new-fangled invention called a telephone whilst Lady Edith’s news from the same apparatus has been rarely happy.
The little puppy, however, is quite unaware of all of this although he may be wondering what is happening. He has his backpack, with a few blankets from his old home, some food, a bone and a cuddly toy called Fuddlewuddle. This is a present from Finse – one of our earlier Labrador puppies who now leads a very glamorous and well-travelled life with Viking Cruises. A quick kiss, a quick hug and bye bye but he will be back in no time for the annual puppy party. It will be interesting to see, at that point, how much he remembers of his birth place and I will very much look forward to seeing him again.