It is a truth universally acknowledged (or at least it is here) that, if there is an empty room anywhere in the Castle, is will soon become a convenient dumping ground. The rooms on the top floor vary from ordered storage, to handy spaces and then just “stuff” piled in, although it is of course a bit of an effort to get it all up there.
Pushing open various tall panelled doors, there is just enough faded fingers of light bending around window shutters, contracted and warped over the years, to cast an eye around large rooms from another century.
Searching for exhibits for our History at Highclere exhibition (October 10th and 11th), I think I remember, or perhaps I saw but wonder where I saw, some stacked children’s cots and an old gas mask which I thought I would reassemble, as well as gathering together some rather amazing old toys and prams. Things like these are not just paragraphs in history books, or dusty stories from the past but represent details of ways of life from the challenging years which our parents and grandparents faced. Thus, the idea is to suggest some of the details of life here between 1939 to 1945 when Highclere was a home for evacuee children.
Facing our own challenges 75 years later, what do the parallels in life and resilience look like? These photographs provoke thoughts about the courage of the seemingly cheerful young women (from the diaries they were rather homesick) looking after tiny children at Highclere for 5 years. There was little time off, though there was enough food but no central heating in the Castle. The parents, living and working in London, dodging bombs and craters, not knowing in advance whether to sleep in their house or go down to bomb shelters, could only wonder if their toddlers and children were safe. Their fortitude was extraordinary.
There was also the resilience and new skills acquired by the land girls driving tractors, working with animals and growing the fruit and vegetables in the old walled garden here at Highclere. Plus, the young men stationed nearby, climbing into planes after only a few hours training and the local boys sent off as soldiers to fight in too many corners of the globe.
Resilience lay at the heart of the well organised government gathering the best and brightest from all walks of life, working all hours to, in their words, “keep calm and carry on”. There was a spirit of cooperation and service.
We will also have vintage cars, a history of flight exhibition and costumes to bring colour to our memories although sadly this is not the year to host a speakers’ tent. Instead, we are pre-recording a number of conversations to share on line each day over the weekend for you to enjoy at your leisure whether actually with us or joining us in interest from afar.
Colin Bell flew Mosquitos during World War Two and is still fascinating at 99 years old. Best-selling author Robert Harris has just published a new thriller “V2”. It is a great story, set in 1944/45, which captures the fear of where and when a V2 rocket was going to drop, was there are a deliberate target or was it entirely random? The sense of dread of an unseen enemy is perhaps more familiar today than we might have anticipated a year ago yet the story is uplifting.
Many history courses at school here end the study of this “slice” of history in 1945 but the war and its consequences shape the world today along with our values and determination to do things differently. Therefore, we have also asked some fascinating writers and speakers to discuss some of these. For example, Gavin Thurston, working as Sir David Attenborough’s camera man for many years, has sought with determined passion to capture and share cycles of life on the planet, to remind us of our responsibilities and its beauty.
Of course, all things need a good name and searching around for one into which to group this series in order to launch the podcasts and videos on various media, I have come up with HEN Talks. I have often much enjoyed the TED talks. HEN is just as memorable a title, standing as it does for History/heritage, Entertainment and Nature, plus of course I have my lovely girls, who now live in the shadow of where the land girls worked in the old walled garden.
Looks like a fascinating exhibition.
Wish we could attend this fascinating exhibition. It was fun just hearing your description of your plans for it. We were just at Highclere in October in the last open visit. We loved meeting you and loved visiting the castle . We are back in Florida now and, as you know, about to experience our own D-day for Democracy on November 3. Please pray for our country. Thank you for all your inspiring blogs until we meet again.
Thank you. Well written.
Thanks for your lovely reflections about Highclere’s ‘living history.’ You always inject a
sense of honor and gratitude within your thoughts. I did not know Highclere housed evacuated children: does the castle also have the required wardrobe full of furs backing into Narnia?
With all this unique place has done to bring us hope, there is no doubt. Thank you.
This exhibit event sounds wonderful and so educational. Highclere Castle thru our visit and also Downton Abby has given me a new love for history. When we were able to visit in 2014 I was so disappointed to miss the August third exhibit staging the castle and grounds as in WW1 when the castle served as a hospital. It’s fascinating to learn children were later housed there for 5 years. What an incredible service. Thank you for bringing this to light and life.
I began cleaning my attic this morning for our move to England. Then at lunch, saw your appropriate blog! My “stuff” it’s not as historic as the Castle. But moving and sentimental as well.
In the TOP/First picture, “If they could only that YOOUNG for a little while LONGER!!”
I still marvel at the parents who had a Sophie’s choice to let their children go away or try to keep them safe at home. My own grandchildren are 7 and 4 and the little child in your picture reminded me of them. I used to say I cannot imagine life in wartime England…and yet so many parallels today. My parents who were just married in 1940 lived through the cruel uncertainty of those days with my father in Europe from 1942 to 1945. The bravery on both sides of the Atlantic always inspires me. Thanks for working on a wonderful exhibit.
It is hard to imagine and yet…
Brilliant story enjoyed every paragraph detailing the events at Highclere castle during one of the worst times in history.
Very interesting! I enjoyed it very much.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
The History weekend will be absolutely wonderful and a beautiful tribute to the sacrifices of so many brave men, women and children. They continue to inspire and lend strength during our world crisis. My father was in England and the European Theatre for three and a half years during WWII, and spoke so highly of the bravery, grace and dignity of the English people. He had great admiration for the intelligence, wit and humor of those he met and worked with.
All good luck in getting everything together. You and your team will do a fantastic job. I had hoped to attend this event because of my father’s connection to England, but I have my fingers crossed for 2021!
Charlotte Merriam Cole
Thank you and see you for sure in 2021
Thank you for taking the time to blog. You go in such detail and I love every bit. I was fortunate to visit the castle last October on a beautiful, blue sky day. Reading your blog extends that day and memory. Thank you
Enjoyed reading this
As way back then, this too shall pass and as a history buff it is really interesting to read how Highclere prepared and managed the whole scenario. HEN talks – great idea and name.
Appreciating, from Australia, your continued revelations and insights.
Thank you Kathryn
“HEN Talks”! Witty!
We need humour!
Thank you for reminding us of a bygone era that focuses on resilience and determination. Let us not forget the many positive outcomes of that era and of course the brave men who were the very lifeblood of preservation. God bless the men and women who served so that their families and friends could live to tell the HEN talks.
Thank you Ali!
Dear Lady Carnarvon
I have been buying Country Homes and Interiors since it’s first edition and the time has come to part with another pile, of course I had to go through each one just one more time, and there on the last page of a 2014 issue, was your smiling face. You mentioned one of Shakespeare’s sonnets, which refers to the fact that we often miss the wonderful things right there in front of us. I think we should all apply that to today’s ordeals to help us get through 2020.
I look forward each week to reading your words of wisdom, little did I realise that I read some of them six years previously. Thanks for brightening each week with your beautiful photos and words.
Bev Connaughton Australia
Always interesting. Thank you, one of your biggest fans.
Many thanks for including people from afar in this exciting exhibition. Praying we will be able to return to Highclere very soon. How we miss England!
Dawsonville Georgia USA
The Time that We are now living through will bring out Books, Theater and Movie Productions once the Corona Virus passes. We will be reminiscing about the Masks we wore and the Leaders of our various Governments and their handing of this War Time Crisis both Good and ill.
Always enjoy your blogs.Tell us who wore what apparel and the occasions shown in the photo.
The uniform are mainly those of the 6th Earl who fought in both world wars and lived life to the full
I love history! I did not know that land girls worked there. Always learning from you. Very interesting.
I am a recent subscriber to your regular news bulletins – having started with “Clouds” earlier on this month. I have found them a surprisingly(don’t know why?) interesting, sometimes uplifting and, to date, refreshingly ‘different’ read. I originally signed up as a means of gleaning information on how and when to purchase a ticket in order to visit Highclere, but am now enjoying this quite personal (or so it appears) communication.
Thank you – I do try to share latest events/news etc
Great blog…hopefully (wishful thinking) you might come up with more interesting ‘stuff’ to do a continuation of Downton Abby? Now that the roof is fixed, you must have more pressing needs these days!
Thank you – we did quite a lot of work on the roof in 2003/4- nothing is necessarily for ever fixed! There is a one of the oldest barns in southern England here – we have been working on that. Plenty to do
Good morning Lady Carnarvon,
I know how you could get those rooms organized! Have a contest and make that project the prize 🙂 “Spend six weeks at Highclere Castle for the internship of a lifetime!” You’d have history majors from around the globe competing to clean up!
And by the way, I will happily volunteer, too.
Webster Groves, Missouri
It might be very useful – sometimes I open a door, and think golly and shut it again!
Very thoughtful. I so enjoy your writing and look forward to every Monday to read your comments. You always bless my day. Joyce Coleman
What a treasure trove of memorabilia you have to choose from. The children’s cots and toys sound so appealing to me. You Hen talks should be great fun.
What a treasure trove of memorabilia you have to choose from. The children’s coats and toys sound so appealing to me. You Hen talks should be great fun.
I think they will be fun
Terrific report today. I enjoyed it very much. Your ability to describe the history is so clear. Felt like I was with you going through all those artifacts. Thank you
Have you considered a tour of the storage rooms? It seems a wonderful way to leave our cares behind and escape to another world that would humble us. Thank you so much for your weekly essays. Always inspirational!
Many thanks for another look at Highclere Castle’s history and your caring attention to preserving it. Finding the “old stuff” is a wonderful way to show the current generation the ways their grandparents and others dealt with life as, hopefully, they will never have to. Hoping our earth and its citizens will remain well and safe,
Good Morning Lady Carnarvon and our Monday Family,
I know we have touched on this before, but I am still so moved and amazed at the bravery of the World War two generation. All of them. I do not have the words to express my admiration, gratitude, and respect. The pictures you post and the stories from their diaries just blow me away. I am so thankful for people like you who are keeping the history of that time alive. We must never forget the sacrifices they made for our freedom.
I had never thought about the parallel of then and now. But I see it now.
I understand the sense of frustration when opening a door and you don’t know where to start. We are just recovering from a flood in a new room we had built to house my sewing. I look at all of the boxes that need to be sorted and unpacked. It is overwhelming. My husband always adds, “how do you eat an Elephant?” Of course, the correct answer is, ‘one bite at a time’. I hate it when he is right!
The gentleman third from the right in the front row in that military picture resembles Captain Tom Moore. It isn’t him, I’m sure but does look like him. Aren’t we lucky to be descended from that generation? What examples!
We are lucky – it is about saying thank you
Lady Carnarvon, It is a wonderful story today, as usual, much to think about. I am so looking forward to Oct. 10th and 11th, History At Highclere. Will be watching from across the water. With Best Wishes, Cheryl
Look forward to your comments..
Wonderful pieces of history! Since I can’t get to England, will you be showing this on viking.tv any time?
We will share it on our Facebook, Instagram, and Viking TV
So many thoughts run rampant through my mind comparing today’s entitled privileged generation to that of the early 20th century young adults. Perhaps I’m officially “old” and a bit cynical.
I very much enjoyed reading your latest post Lady Carnarvon. Somehow, despite everything going on, I feel myself smile inside reading your inspiring words. They truly are uplifting and wise.
You are kind Bill
I love that you show the pictures of the Castle staff as they were during the war. They are great to have. They are all so wonderful! As far as stuff in the upstairs I think we are all alike. We put things in the upstairs and also in the attic. When my children need something they can shop in those areas. We will be coming to London next year in the spring and if everything goes well we will try to come back to Highclere for another visit. It was the highlight of my last trip.
We must live as well be alive
This is the kind of history-telling that I love. It resonates very strongly with me to see the artifacts and photos from eras gone by. When I see children in old photos I always wonder what came of them as they grew up and became adults.
I would love to be the person with the task to take on doing the inventory of those upper rooms! It would be fascinating, as well as satisfy my ‘organizing’ itch (not that being overly organized applies to some areas of my own house… lol!).
Thank you for another lovely episode of the happenings at Highclere. All the best from here in Summerville, SC.
I always wonder what happened as well..
Fascinating..all of it. My husband still has his gas mask, it travels with us wherever we live, “Never leave home without it”. I made a little water colour sketch of it recently for a ‘sketchbook project’ so I hope its memory lives on even when the original falls apart, though they seem to have been made of quality materials to have lasted so well. My father used his for clearing wasp nests out of hay and shredding horseradish for pickling. When we left England ‘my girls’ and geese had to go …hopefully to retirement homes! With the lockdown came rationing of eggs so I have begun to build a chicken coop and hope to get some Buff Orpingtons to live in it(sentimental choice..my family are from Kent) but my Rhode Island Reds kept us well supplied in England so perhaps The Buffs will have to wait for a larger coop. If we are ever allowed to come to England again I hope we can stop at Highclere…instead of motoring by the road signs for it and see the wonderful collections you are assembling. The walled garden makes me very envious…..wonderful for fruit and veg! I will return to my battlefield without walls…to try and defeat whoever it is who demolished a whole row of Swiss Chard seedlings! Do remind your Nearest and Dearest that he is more than fortunate to have a wife who loves The Big House and all its history… as you know, I am both tired of and angry about wives who hate the old home and clear off to modern apartments taking the children with them. He is lucky beyond measure to have married you.
I am lucky to have married him as well – I do like swiss chard!
It is timely that you speak of resilience. This is the quality that research has found to be what people need to bounce back from life’s challenges. What can we learn about ourselves as we charge forward during this pandemic? How can we come through without losing our sense of humanity? Your work adds to our history and makes the ones who had to endure before us proud.
Thank you for sharing this special day with your blog. I do read it with great enjoyment every Monday and am so happy that you will have HEN talks on Viking TV. I look forward to Fridays with Viking. You mention so many interesting topics during just one essay, that if I responded to each that intrigues me, I would be taking up good space that others need. If all goes well, my daughters and I will be there to visit July 13, 2021 after our Viking cruise. Any special days at Highclere planned for that week?
That week in July we will look forward to summer opening! A good moment
What a Project ! As always, I enjoyed this weeks e-mail and look forward to hearing about the historical items you come across. I hope you all stay well.
Very interesting blog. Tempted now to watch WARTIME FARM again before 10th Oct.
Made me think about WAR AG and how did the rules impact on Highclere estate?
Thought you may have been providing more space for gin stocks ( my e-mail to Stephanie).
Expected you were going to mention that you were re-connected with a mobile phone that you mislaid.
I know you will do your best to make 10th Oct a success. UK needs a bit of a lift.
Had expected Boris to announce a new bank holiday, Trafalgar Day but sadly COVID is a greater priority.
Carry on Highclere.
Such a wonderful undertaking! I can just imagine the history found in every item. Loving history and honoring those that helped get us where we are today does enrich our lives!!! I hope to visit Highclere and meet you both. Thank you for your videos and blog. They are wonderful!!
~ Jody Blake
I just never know whether I’m going to tear up or laugh at what you write about from week to week. This week it was both.
Hen Talks. Love it!!!
As they say ‘there by the grace of God’. I was born in Jan 1944 in London to an unmarried mother and fortunately adopted at 2 weeks old by my wonderful parents. I could have been taken to Highclere for safe keeping! Now I have determination to visit Highclere when possible from Qld Australia. I so hope that I can thank you in person Lady Carnarvon for amazing writings and watching Viking TV.
Hen Talks. Love it!
And those hens look very happy!
I would trade my life to be one of those lucky hens. Well, almost.
Keep on keeping us sane with your soothing words and your view.
Dear Lady Carnarvon:
Thank you for taking the time to compose and post your Monday blog.
I agree with you regarding the way an empty space all of a sudden becomes a storage area for “stuff”.
I am curious to know whether or not any chronicle or journal was recorded as to how the children and adults who lived in or around Highclere Castle moved on with their lives after World War II? Have any of them returned to Highclere for a reunion type event?
I am looking to forward to seeing online any portion of the upcoming History at Highclere event you wish to share. For those of us who are unable to visit in person, will there be a “pay for view”? If so, what will be the fee? Also, will there be a “donate now” posted to the Castle’s Facebook and/or website page for the charities you intend to support?
Where will you announce your HEN talk podcasts? I have viewed most of them to date, and find them just as interesting as this column.
Until next week, all the best to you.
Thank you we are just about to create a fun page…. on the website and a link from here too..
I really enjoy the old photographs that you share. I should think it is great fun to be able to explore the storage rooms with all their treasures. Even if the rooms are damp or musty.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
So sorry I/we cannot be there for the October Highclere Castle history exhibit in person. Your on camera history (Viking videos) with the aircraft that took off from nearby during WWII was wonderful as well. Hope to hear the speakers with photos on the podcasts. Cannot wait for the HEN pod casts as well. You make my day every Monday. As the UK is about to lock down again I shall be sending your gin to my friends in the UK this week to weather yet another storm.
Thankyou again for you expansive history and knowledge, writing skills, and sharing it with all of us.
Best wishes for yours and your family’s safety during these challenging times.
See you one day soon.
This wonderful blog brought back so many, many memories to me. I thought about WWII and about the children that were taken from their families that lived at Highclere. And I thought about how frightened I was here in America at 10 years of age – wondering when bombers and parachutists would be attacking our small town in N. J. We would watch the “News of the Day” at the local movie theater and it was terribly upsetting to see what you Londoners went through every day – sure that our day would come. I did have a little English girl in my class whose family sent her here to be with relatives during the War. I have wondered what happened when she went back home to her family.. We were truly spared here – but fear of what we might wake up to was always present.
And I, also, have a room filled with not only precious toys from my children’s childhood that I can’t part with, but also their first little snow suits, first little party dresses, little rattles , dolls – just have too many memories to part with. I think I will take them to my grave with me. I wonder if my children will feel the same sentiment and memories down the road with their children?
I hope they will!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Please allow me to add my voice to the chorus of “thank you” comments. While I usually do not comment on posts, I decided, today, that I needed to do just that.
Being a Yank by accident of birth, though a confirmed Anglophile by personal choice, reading your weekly blog allows me to imagine living in your great country. Surely, it has its problems, as we do here in the “States” but at least you have centuries of history to lean on to bolster your will to soldier on.
All I can close with is a heartfelt thank you for taking your time to prepare and write your blog and for the work it takes from both you and Lord Carnarvon to maintain such an amazing country house and estate. (Lord Grantham would be so very proud.)
Thank you Robert – it means so much to me to hear from you!
Beautiful post and memories recalled. Thank You very much.
This is marvelous history. So parallel to Dowton Abbey which I am still watching. Thanks for sharing the awe inspiring pictures and details of the past.
Phyllis J Simpson
Brought my daughter to Highclere for birthday treat (55) last Thursday. We had such a memorable day in the sunshine touring your amazing castle. I would like to thank you all, the secretary who helped me rebook my cancelled June date t the lovely guide who realised my interest in paintings. You all do a wonderful job of promoting your treasure. No sure I could ever better Samantha birthday treat.
Thank you so much for our special day .
Lady Carnarvon, On your Instagram today it is just wonderful. The photo is heartwarming. The love and attention a dog gives a person is beyond the feeling of happiness. With Kind Regards, Cheryl.