From poring over old maps and outlines, I would guess that the kitchens have stood in the same spot at Highclere for several hundred years. Originally, they would have been separated from the house to help contain the risk of fire. The older house seems to have been L-shaped with a medieval church to the west and the kitchens lying slightly to the south west. There are water wells on either side.
At the back of the kitchen was a great hearth, the fire for cooking which in later centuries became the first cooking range and today a modern set of ovens. Above the range, as I mentioned in an earlier blog, are the smoking cupboards. I am not sure how tall the domed ceiling is in the kitchen, but I do know we have to put up scaffolding to paint it and in the winter it is jolly cold and all the chefs wear beanie hats.
Three of the corners in the kitchen lead to other areas. In the north corner are a series of rooms used for washing up, for a large walk-in fridge for dairy, salads and vegetables and a cool vegetable storage area. In another corner, a small staircase leads up to Chef’s office, which is always wonderfully neat and tidy. It has a great view across the courtyard to the rear of the Castle. Sometimes I throw up (small) stones to rattle against Paul’s window as it saves going up to find if he is there or not.
Opposite the range is a hallway from which leads a narrow room – the patisserie with marble tops perfect for baking. I also happen to know where the truffles are kept in case of a hunger pang. Opposite this is another huge walk in fridge and freezer. Those rooms were, I think, used to hang meat and game in past times. We still have a game larder at the Castle but it is now situated in another outbuilding.
Lastly, there are two further rooms which are for dry storage, as they have been for possibly hundreds of years. We have realised that there are old rooms above, probably bedrooms once upon a time, but they are currently unused and unexplored.
Highclere has always prided itself on delicious cuisine. I have been looking back to recipes from Escoffier’s time or Alfred Duglière, and it is fascinating how the basics remain the same: good stock, planning and preparation. However, at Highclere we also have to work within what we know we can deliver given the corridor and stair run between the kitchens and the Dining Room. As usual, it becomes the art of the possible, but what remains the same is the huge pleasure gained from sharing a good lunch or dinner with friends.
Wow lovely bit of History in the kitchen Lady Carnarvon Just think if this kitchen could talk what stories she would tell of great dinners she has made for over the many years.. I love the clock that looks fantastic as dose the green wall frieze. I like the sound of the unexplored rooms now that would be great to see maybe they are a little time capsule just waiting to be found, I would love to see that when you get in there 🙂
May the kitchen and the chefs continue to produce great food!!!
Did you ever get to see it? I am obsessed with it but it’s not likely I will ever get to go there.
At the risk of too much information, you could never post enough pictures for me. I do love reading your posts, as they give a realistic picture of all the work that goes into living in such a space. I do hope to see you late next summer, or at the very least Highclere and grounds.
was intrigued to read of a medieavel church,
when was it built and at rear of Highclere House?
love the blog all the best from P.J.Mills
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Thank you for your regular insightful and interesting descriptions of Highclere.
May I enquire how long is the corridor and stair run from the kitchens to the Dining Room?
Is “the run” the only means of accessing the Dining Room for the purpose of serving meals or is there also an internal pulley system, such as a “dumb waiter”?
Thank you again for your time. It is greatly appreciated.
Warm kitchens are such a great place to be… and still more rooms to be explored ?? just amazing..
Unexplored rooms? I’m intrigued. The kitchen is amazing. Thank you for sharing and keeping our interests with the fabulous history of Highclere.
How in the world can you stand it? Having unexplored rooms. I would have to put on my oldest clothes, get a flashlight , grab a man for protection and go in. There is no telling what you might find. I hope this got your curiosity up. Please let us all know when you do go in. Now I will be thinking about this all day. If you need someone to explore with you I am willing. You have a great day. Jill
I agree with you, Jill. I would absolutely have to do some exploring.
I absolutely love the fact that amongst the modern amenities is a grand historic clock! It has given me ideas in regards to my own kitchen. If you ever explore the unused rooms, by all means please post pictures! I would love to be a fly on the wall to witness what you discover!
What homeowner hasn’t wished to have a couple of extra rooms ? Perhaps with some undiscovered treasures, more storage space, a cozy nook, etc.
I used to own and live in a house built in 1872. While I was there and even after I moved, I had dreams of unexplored rooms full of antique furniture that I found in that house. I would love to see yours!
Love the history of these old kitchens and how they’ve evolved over the years and in this case, centuries! We tour the Biltmore estate in Asheville, NC (http://www.biltmore.com) when we’re able to get there and my family needs to drag me along when we reach the kitchens and laundry to get me through it – I just want to stand and look and if I had a chance I’d be exploring every nook and cranny! While the Biltmore castle kitchens are much, much more modern since it’s only a little over 100 yrs old, there are still the same basic areas as you’ve described for Highclere. For whatever reason it feels so familiar – maybe in a previous life I worked in the kitchens of a large estate? 🙂
Thanks for the glimpses of your kitchens – so fascinating!
And just now I checked the Biltmore web site and I’ll definitely need to get there before the end of May – they are displaying 45 costumes from the Downton Abbey series!!! So excited!! http://www.biltmore.com/events/dressing-downton-1
Again, you have done an outstanding job of describing your beautiful home! How can you stand having areas unexplored?!
Because there are other unexplored areas I want to explore first! I did do quite a lot of early exploration when I was first getting to know the Castle. Just in the courtyard buildings I did find a staircase at the back of a cupboard which was exciting, I was back in the book “the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe”!
It must be fun to explore all these interesting spaces and places. I can’t imagine living in a place of so much history.
So many rooms to discover with only 24 hours in each day. Your adventures are never ending. I love reading each and everyone of your entries.
Cookbook in the works?? I would buy it
I am interested in the cookbook as well.
Those unexplored rooms remind me of children’s books I have read about child characters finding mysteries and intrigues in rooms that adults no longer venture into! A book is waiting to be written.
I adore reading about Highclere, you are so kind to share your home with us. I eagerly anticipate each posts.
Blessings to you and Highclere Castle.
My dream is to visit your home but I’m 70 years old and time is running out. I didn’t even know about Highclere until season 4 of “Downton Abbey”. Thank you for sharing with us.
How nice to see where your Execuitive Chef, Paul, works. I was privileged to meet him several weeks ago. He is talented, creative and excited about working at Highclere. Thank you for sharing your amazing home with us.
Would love to see the chef’s office and his/her view across the courtyard : )
I’ve been reading a book on the history of the English County House and it begins with their establishment in the Middle Ages. It’s fascinating reading about the hall with the chambers above for the meals by the lord of the house and special guests. The kitchen was usually approached through one of three arches on the side wall. The book includes photographs of existing kitchens, etc. from those 1350’s build homes. If you’re interested, I can post the title and author.
Hi Lady Carnarvan
Wow is that an antique clock in that first picture? I love old clocks, I have three at my house. If I get to visit your lovely home someday I will be sure to admire all the beautiful antique clocks you must have. I hope you write a book on all of the secret places you’ve discovered at Highclere. That would be fascinating. There’s something about an old room that hasn’t been touched for centuries. If walls could talk! Well I’m off to the Philadelphia flower show this Friday, it’s theme this year is Disney movies. Maybe someday I’ll get to the Chelsea flower show. Do you ever go?
Have a great weekend!
I love Chelsea Flower Show, and I love to go.
It is an amazing clock and we have been working our way restoring and maintaining some of the clocks within the Castle; I do know much more about them in turn now.
How deliciously intriguing to explore your kitchens through your post and tantalizing to imagine your unexplored rooms. Your historical research adventures sounds wonderful. I loved the pic of the patisserie windows open high above the two cooks. What a fun window. Thank you for so generously sharing. Bon chance for your future
How deliciously intriguing to explore your kitchens through your post and tantalizing to imagine your unexplored rooms. Your historical research adventures sound like wonderful fun. I loved the pic of the patisserie windows open high above the two cooks. What a fun window. Thank you for so generously sharing. Bon chance for your future investigations and assignations with the history of Highclere…. mmmm….delicious!
Dear Lady Carnarvon, having visited your wonderful home last September, and being truly amazed. I think that you should now have a Highclere hidden room tour. And let the surprises come forth. History in the making.
I quite agree – good fun -to do that.
I have been for a long bike ride this morning across fields and muddy trails, I would like to share that sometimes…
There was a series not long ago, where the hosts traveled to the great houses of England that Queen Victoria had visited both before she came to the throne and afterwards. One host covered the history of the house and the other worked with a food expert to reproduce a dish Victoria would have been served. In many of these houses they still have the most amazing cooking utensils/aids like molds for salads and ices. Do you have any treasures like that at Highclere?
We do and I am at the moment trying to match some recipes to what we have!
Oh, fabuous! I do hope that’s your next book.
I enjoy your postings very much! Visiting your home last August was a wonderful experience. The details that you provide help me to appreciate the historical eras that you navigate in everyday life. Thank you for sharing them!
Thank you for doing a post about the kitchens! Of course I wondered if they still had areas that look like Downton’s version. Are the counter-tops in the room with the ovens soapstone?
I LOVE reading about your beautiful home and your life there. I am almost finished with your book about Catherine and ready to devour the one about Almina (as soon as I get it back from my mother!)
Thank you for sharing!
I have enjoyed reading your blog. I live a few miles from Highclere Castle and I intend to come and visit soon.