Gift Shop Girls

On Sunday 13th April the last of the Easter Castle visitors wended their home. Waiting in the wings for the last cars to depart were the Downton lorries, hoping to begin to park up. It had been a very busy week, where everyone had felt so encouraged by the bright sunshine that they had worn more summery clothes, only to find the wind was whistling round the Castle and thick jackets might have been more sensible.

To the west behind the Castle lies an old courtyard; the buildings around it have medieval and Tudor origins and on one corner was an old carriage and tack room. This is now our gift shop. Some of the gift shop girls – for some reason they are always called girls – have been with us for quite a few years.  Apparently, if you added their ages together, you would exceed the Carnarvon’s period of ownership of Highclere (350 years). Anne- part of the 350 years- is one of the nicest, kindest people I have ever met. She also brings in an endless supply of treats for my dogs, who run round to see her and sit gazing adoringly at her in the stock room. Of course the most famous time was when Bill the horse exited from his stable (I had photographs in an earlier blog) and pottered round the gift shop too.


Sally, a wonderful girlfriend, is now our retail guru and runs the shop and on-line business. Her laughter and enthusiasm precede her entrance into the grounds each morning. Camilla, another girlfriend, wears two hats. She helps us in the shop and is joint master of the local hunt, helping to organise the horses in the first series of Downton. However, she is notorious for her late arrival. Sally and I have given her at least six alarm clocks and then set her false arrival times. We were taking bets on how late she would be when the clocks changed and the hour went forward for British summer time. It wasn’t too bad. She had thrown herself in her car and trundled down the hill a mere hour and a half late.


There are two Sarah’s, Sue, Carol an Ellie and some youngsters who are usually the best at counting. Sarah (who I do yoga with) was today wrapping up Highclere soap dishes, chirping happily about her handiwork until Sally told her the tissue paper was all wrong.  Duncan, our computer colleague, was wheeling in books and guidebooks from another garage, dissecting the rate of sale, whereas Sally just wanted the shelves stacked. The stock count which is, quite often, a work of total fiction, said we had lots of mugs and biscuits left. In fact, every single one had been sold which was a shame because Adam Hillier had arrived to photograph the Ladyship/ Maid/Butler series for the web site. We gave him coffee in another mug instead.

It has a fun atmosphere. Sally takes such pride in creating and filling the shop full of locally made produce, charming china bowls, amusing signs, “Downton hats”, jewellery, seeds from our flower meadows and soaps and bath oils inspired by our gardens. In between I and the gift shop girls have time for new ideas, laughter and chat over cappuccinos and tea. It is a real community.


30 Responses to “Gift Shop Girls”
  1. Lynn says:

    Always a delight to here the “stories of Highclere”
    Thank you for sharing!

    • jose henkes says:

      Always such a pleasure to read your delightful blog, makes me feel that I’m part of Highclere !!! Can’t wait ‘ the next blog 🙂

  2. Lauretta says:

    I will be touring Highclere on May 4. I have been planning our trip for a year and am now counting the days until our visit. I loved reading about the “Gift Shop Girls” and look forward to seeing them in the shop.

  3. anaPaiva says:

    Oh! I wish I could to be nearer from Highclere! thank you for sharing such a wonderful ambience.

  4. Carol-Ann Rahl says:

    Thanks for all the information about the “Shop Girls”. This is the first of your blogs that I’ve received and look forward to many more. I wish with all my heart that I was able to make another trip to England and make a visit to Highclere and maybe even get to meet you. Maybe with a bit of luck and a knee replacement, who knows, I might just make that trip. Again, thanks for sharing.

  5. Julie Bailey says:

    I would love to visit and browse the gift shop! Hubby would probably have to drag me out! Such a wonderful place with great hospitality!

  6. sandie carpenter says:

    I dream,of your gift shop. In gactnImshall order my tea towels,today.
    From the USA it is not easy to get tickets for the tour. My gal pal and I are coming in 2017 and if we miss getting a tour (they sell out so quickly) can we just come to the gift shop? That is our plan. We love your blog here in Whitefish, Mon tana, USA

  7. Oh…. I wanna work there. Sounds like a great community to be a part of. Too bad I live waaaay over in the United States! 🙂 Thanks for sharing – it’s always a treat! – Dori –

  8. Natalie Graham says:

    Sounds like a delightful crew in the shop! I bet it would be fun to work with the ‘girls’, many of whom look to be my peers in age… 🙂 I’d love to work with Camilla on the hunt. I’m a hopeless horse addict and I bet the event is a lot of work to put together, but an amazing thing to help pull off and witness.

    I’m hoping to one day spend a decent sum of my hard-earned vacation money visiting Highclere and its gift shop!

  9. Mary L says:

    Oh, I wish I were there to browse in the gift shop and chat with all of you!! Your blog is delightful and I look forward to each post. Thank you for sharing Highclere with us.

  10. Jennifer Schiller says:

    Dear Lady Carnarvon:

    I loved the gift shop when I was there on Easter Sunday and I happily contributed to shop sales that day. I even bought one of the “Her Ladyship” mugs and am back in Colorado sipping coffee from it now. So glad I got one before they sold out!

    I’m already saving for my next visit to Highclere.


  11. Marcia Chess says:

    I was pleased to be present to see the shop girls and they were so very nice and very helpful on May 7, 2015. Enjoyed our visit so much and really did help contribute to the shop sales. My husband went and took photo’s. Loved every minute of our visit. Thanks for the story have been waiting on the update.

  12. Rosemary says:

    I’d love to work in the gift shop. It doesn’t fun like work as it is a place of fun and laughter! it would be wonderful to visit the shop some day!

  13. Christine says:

    PLEASE keep that gift shop stocked for my visit in October — many a Christmas gift will be purchased and shipped back to the states.

  14. Betty Sleep says:

    Will there be any expansion of the gifts available online? I would love to see the Downton hats and some of the jewelry there in the gift shop.

  15. Susan & Andy Korb says:

    I was at the gift shop the Wednesday after Easter. The shop girls were great. I had twelve note card sets, tea towels ,tote bags ,magnets, books and a few other things, it did cause my luggage to be overweight on the trip back to Florida. The “girls” rang up my purchases one of them asked were they gifts. I told them I was not sure I wanted to part with anything plus what had my friend done for me lately. They put extra bags with my purchase in case I decided to do the right thing. That was so thoughtful I never would have thought to ask for the bags. It was one on the many wonderful things that the Highclere staff did for us. I have to say our visit was has already become one of our favorite memories.
    Thank You Susan and Andy

  16. Val LaBore says:

    I would have loved to visit Highclere when we made our first visit to England last year. We were in York for a couple days and I had no idea we were that close to you. But we loved York and would have stayed longer if we could but had a reservation in Windermere we had to make.
    “Downton hats”! Oooh, would love to see those. Or anything from the shops. Is there an online shop? 😉

  17. Edna Blue says:

    When I visited in August 2014 from USA, I bought some of the beautiful note cards. If I lived in your country I would find working in that shop a delight.
    I enjoy your sharing with us.
    Thank you,

  18. Jeffery Sewell says:

    Thank you for yet another interesting insight into the diverse day to day activities at Highclere.
    Does the gift shop still open during the months when. ‘downton’ is being filmed? I assume it may do so in order to attend to postal orders for gifts but similarly I guess that operation may be performed elsewhere? How long does he filming take?
    Hopefully the warmer days of Spring will soon be upon you.

  19. Desiree Creary says:

    Dear Lady Carnarvon, you are quite right,, your shop is sheer delight. I was there in September of 2014, and bought so many wonderful things. But most special, is your iPad case. I get so many complements on it, and everyone want’s to know where I got it. I tell the fro High Clere Castle it self. I hope. That you still carry them, I would like to order ten more for friends and family, and two more for me. Say hello to the girls, they were wonderful, and very helpful. Desiree.

  20. Stephen Keogh says:

    I had the pleasure of visiting both the gift shop and your stunning castle on Friday morning last, (April 10th). Each and every one of your staff are friendly and diligent in their work. The guides are ever so helpful and have a deep knowledge of the many rooms. It was wonderful to hear the many different accents as we made our way from room to room and of course when I spoke with my broad Irish accent , the whole place fell silent. As we viewed all there was to feast our eyes on, I thought how wonderful it was to see photographs of the present family casually enjoying life in the castle and the beautiful gardens. My visit to your magnificent home is something which I will cherish forever but the one thing that stands out in my memory is a newspaper page displayed on the gallery and a photo of her majesty Queen Elizabeth in the throws of excitement at the races, Probably Royal Ascot, as her horse passed the post. I wanted to read the page but being silly, I had left my reading glasses in my car. Thank you Lady Carnarvon and of course his Lordship for affording this privilege to all who want to visit your historic home. I wish continued good health and good fortune on all who live and work in Highclere.

  21. Pam Waterman says:

    I live in the U.S. And wanted to order a Highclere guide book. I emailed the gift shop with questions regarding shipping and Sally answered my questions and was very nice and helpful. I am enjoying my guide book and hope to visit someday.

  22. Alexanderia S. says:

    Hello, the item I wish to find is something I saw on Downton Abbey ~ it was where the head butler was instructing the younger butler about the eating utensils and there was a beautiful jam spoon ~ it was beautiful. Something might be worth looking into as an idea to sell.

  23. Amy Hunt says:

    Our family enjoyed your lovely shop on a rainy Sunday, last August. It was bustling with happy tourists and cheery shop girls and was full of wonderful gifts!

  24. Carol Sawyer says:

    How fun! I am ready to ” shop ‘ till I drop!”

  25. Rebekah DeLibro says:

    Dear Lady Carnarvon, love all your wonderful posts! The gift shop girls seem lovely. If you ever need a fill-in if one is away on holiday I will jump on a jet and be there in a flash! Can’t wait till I can come visit the Castle and I will not miss a shopping trip to the gift shop.

  26. Barbara Saulsbury says:

    Charming images, which I hope to someday view in person.

  27. Sandra Carpenter says:

    Oh, darn! I left a carefully worded comment here on April 15th , but it has not been posted. The essence was this, can one visit the gift shop without doing the tour?

  28. Bernie says:

    Do you sell on-line? Ship to “the colonies”? I could purchase several Christmas gifts if you did!

    • Pauline says:

      Hi , I am having issues ordering online from the gift shop. Your feedback is kindly appreciated.


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