The records of the Highclere estate date from 749AD which during the Anglo- Saxon times. From that point, the buildings and land belonged to the Bishopric of Winchester who retained ownership all the way to Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries some 800 years later.
The second owner of any longevity was subsequently Geordie’s family who in 1679 acquired what was then a Tudor house, a church, estate, woodlands and associated farm buildings and tenants.
Therefore, when Geordie and I began our stewardship, it seemed appropriate that one of our first guests should be the then Bishop Michael of Winchester, a charming man, who subsequently returned many times. Of course, before we sat down in the dining room for dinner, we asked him to say grace along the lines of “For what we are about to receive, may the Lord make us truly thankful and keep us always mindful of the needs of others.”
Food is often not just about nourishment but also about welcoming others to your home: a moment to pause and take stock which was exemplified by these past two days.
This was a typical Highclere weekend: a combination of scenes from the past, a bit of Downton Abbey, some reflections on our journey going forwards, along with plenty of food, afternoon tea and later, of course, cocktails.
I would like to take this moment to pause and say thank you to all those who were here to make it so special: both entertaining and thought provoking. Eighty-seven re-enactors, assorted musicians, Mr Churchill (we need him as we enter a new darkest hour), Simon the farm manager for bringing up the pigs, Waterstones for bringing along books for us to browse and buy, Grundon’s (waste management and recycling) for lending us their Pierce Arrow Truck, all the Vintage cars owners (how beautiful those cars are), George Bacon and the Historic Helicopter flight and last but not least all the Concorde pilots. Team Highclere was led by Charlotte, who never stopped, and all of them were always smiling and just a million thanks to all of them.
Thank you also to our two charities: to SSAFA who help and support our UK veterans when they are isolated, ill, homeless or just need help and to Homestart who help young families struggling with debt, needing food banks or a bed or just company and the feeling that someone cares. Do look them up. Finally, thank you to Viking Cruises who supported the event and sponsored our speaker’s tent.
The talks and speakers varied hugely from the amusement of stories about the filming of Downton Abbey to author Andrew Roberts discussing his latest book on the mis-understood monarch George III. Sarah Sands led us towards inner peace and Dr Nigel Wilson shared his thoughts and the philosophy of the investment role of Legal and General, their focus on urban regeneration, their investment in future companies to help us resource our life through renewables at affordable prices. It was without doubt an honour to listen to immunologist Sir John Bell and his work with the COVID virus: we all gathered round the canopy from which he spoke, sitting outside in the sun, enjoying the life once more that he has helped restore. You will not be surprised to hear that he was cheered.
The last panel of the weekend looked where we go next, at nature, wildlife and biodiversity – thank you to Jason Channell,( Citi Global insights) Tracy Worcester, Harold Makant (DEFRA), my husband and Simon who continue to farm food for us to eat with all lightess and to leave space for wildlife and nature with all care.
It was a weekend for which I felt full of gratitude, which inspired curiosity, and reminded me that that none of us ever stop learning. Living here, looking both backwards and forwards, it is important not just to say the words but to live by them too.
I think all the beloved dogs would say “This is a wonderful day, I have never seen this one before.”
We will share highlights on social media – I hope you will enjoy them! Ps much gratitude to God for the amazing weather! Thank you.