The Library at Highclere is framed and divided into two parts by a pair of gilded pillars which sit approximately one third into the length of the room from the north facing end (the front of the house). The larger, longer spacious part of the room offers a view through French windows across the lawns towards the 18th century folly known as Jackdaws Castle. Opposite the windows, the fireplace is framed by the large rather famous red sofas.
The smaller, more square area is unsurprisingly called the North Library. At one point in time there was a large antique table full of wonderful books piled up in the middle but that has given way to the space needed to welcome visitors and is mostly the starting point of our tours.
If you look at the ceilings you immediately realise that the one in the North Library is different. Less ornate than its partner, it had to be rebuilt after a fire in 1937. No-one was hurt and it was quite quickly brought under control but nevertheless the ceiling had extensive damage and was replaced without some of the carvings.
More recently, one of the pillars was damaged during filming. These things happen from time to time, and the film company was excellent about accepting responsibility, but then of course the next job is to find the right craftsmen to repair it.
That is never straightforward and I immediately turned to a friend, Sarah, who is a wise help in a crisis. She is one half of McWhirter Morris, an elegant and modern interior design business in London. She has experience and a great address book and there are always so many oddities at Highclere, requiring such a wide range of craftsmanship, that I probably do not say thank you enough to her for producing an endless stream of “right answers”.
It was a few months after the above accident that Pierre Yves arrived at the front door from Belgium (although he is actually French) with pots and brushes and spent a week up and down a ladder restoring the pillar to its past glory. The problem now is that he did such a marvellous job that it is now rather obvious that the other one looks a little less perfect
Inside the castle, pillars and columns frame the harmony of the Front Hall and add symmetry and grandeur to the Saloon, as well as appearing in the Library. Outside, they are present in all the Temples and follies. In all cases, they are ornamental and supportive. As a result, the use of the word pillar has expanded and is used by all of us to describe metaphorical as well as actual support. To be a “pillar in a crisis” is a high compliment indeed.
Then again, famously in antiquity, the pillars of the mythical Hercules describe the immense jutting cliffs that flank the entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar. One thought is that the dollar sign $ was derived from a ribbon wrapped around both pillars in the form of an “S”, thus anchoring a currency both in a legend and a place.
The Bible refers not to two but seven pillars: “Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars”. According to the scripture they are: fear of the Lord, instruction, knowledge, understanding, discretion, counsel, and reproof.
The same phrase was then used as the title of a remarkable book written centuries later by the Englishman, Colonel T E Lawrence, which recorded his journeys, his efforts to build friendship and diplomacy throughout the countries of the Arabic-speaking peoples during the First World War.
At the beginning of the First World War, many Of the English establishment, of whom Kitchener was chief, believed that if the Arabs could be persuaded to rebel against the Turks, it would enable England, while fighting Germany, to simultaneously defeat Turkey as well. Lawrence dressed as an Arab, speaking fluent Arabic, travelled by camel, immersing himself in Arab culture in order to convince them unite together to fight a common enemy, the Turks. It was an unlikely plan but remarkably it worked.
In the end, nothing worked out as he perhaps hoped and after the war TE Lawrence stayed at Highclere, an extraordinary name to find in an extraordinary visitors book. His book, his fortitude, learning and understanding are indeed some of the “pillars” of each and every life.
January 31, 2022 Dear Lady Carnarvon!
This was so interesting to read. I am looking forward to every Monday to read your wonderful blog. You have such a fantastic home and I love to watch the photos. It must be a dream to live in Highclere Castle.
Tomorrow it is the first of February and I wonder if our huge lake will freeze this winter. I live by the largest lake in the entire Europe, Lake Vänern. One day it is raining and the next it is below zero, so the weather really is up and down.
Please have a good time and enjoy your nice walks with your cute dogs.
Swedish greetings from Lena
Thank you Lena – I will keep walking !
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Interesting blog this morning! Enjoyed reading it with a cup of coffee. Thank you for sharing!
I have been fortunate to have visited Highclere and be among these environs you so lovingly describe. Visiting your lovely home was a peak of my traveling experiences and a memory I deeply cherish. I hope to visit you once again! Jim
Fascinating. Thanks for sharing. May I add one bit of information? The two most famous pillars in the Bible were Boaz and Jachin, the two pillars in Solomon’s Temple:
JACHIN AND BOAZ (Heb. יָכִין בֹּעַז), two pillars which were set up in front of the Sanctuary in Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem (I Kings 7:15–22, 41–42; II Kings 25:13, 17; Jer. 52:17, 20ff.; II Chron. 3:15–17; 4:12–13). The form and nature of these pillars are uncertain, and many proposals have been advanced by scholars.
Please tell us more about your fabulous library and the books filling the shelves.
Who amassed the collection?
Do you have any favorites?
I’d spend most of my days in that lovely room if given the chance.
Such beautiful views and such charming ambiance!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
I enjoy your blogs immensely! They are always filled with so much fascinating history and with Highclere woven into the story. The library is breathtaking. It must be an extraordinary experience to sit, take in all the beauty, and to curl up with a book. You are blessed, as we are for all your generous sharing.
Keep enjoying the ambling walks with your precious dogs!
Cape Cod Massachusetts
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
So many fascinating aspects to your blog, from restoration of the pillar to Lawrence of Arabia, the many pieces of the history of Highclere. I always learn something new!
I find that I reflect during the week on so many parts of your blog, and look forward to a new one each Monday. Thank you!
Please continue to stay well!
Charlotte Merriam Cole
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Thank you for being our Beacon of light – and a Pillar of information and strength.
Hooray! It is Monday again and we are together .
Each of your writings is a fascinating look into an item in history with such accurate details that it requires little imagination to get caught up in them! Columns have been a love of mine since first studying them in high school Latin Class. As a Southern girl born and raised in Georgia I dreamed of having a stately home with columns such as “TARA” in “Gone With the Wind”, which we copied from the Greeks and Romans.
Thank you too for the facts about the origin of dollar sign. I had never knew that! As for character symbols, and the old saying, “he was a pillar of our community”, it immediately makes me think of my Daddy. He was such a humble, honest man devoted to God, family and country.
Bless you for these thought provoking insights!
Have a wonderful week.
Thank you and I hope you have a good week too
Your blogs are always wonderful and give wonderful views of your home that most never get an opportunity to see. It took me awhile to see TE Lawrence’s signature—it looks s so small compared to the others. Thank you for sharing it with everyone.
I agree – I wanted to share the page and context
The backstories to Highclere castle are so interesting. Due to the nature of all the information you relay on with each modern day event going on. All of the famous people that have entered the castle and have stayed there! it’s so interesting due to the fact we don’t have castles like England in America.
Love reading your stories. Especially during this epidemic.
Dear Lady Carnarvon-
We had the distinct pleasure of having a private tour in your lovely home before Covid. I remember walking into the North Library, actually trembling because my dream of being there was being realized!
I wish I could remember more about that space. I remember it being beautiful and serene but watching Downton they simply do not spend any time in that room.
If you have the time, could you post a photo of the North Library? Am I right that at one point they called it a music room?
Thank you again for your beautiful Blog. I do look forward to it every week.
Gratefully, from the US
PS – are there any books for sale currently you would recommend that explore each room in depth?
The Music room is the other end – this is just the Library! “At Home at Highclere” (amazon) does offer you time and photos and details
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
(take 2 – my internet dropped out mid typing so if you get half a comment from me that’s why.) I was saying how warm and inviting the library and the books are, it is such a delicious room. The pillars are impressive and and no doubt keep the house upright. T E Lawrence or Lawrence of Arabia as he is popularly known must have a fascinating visitor. As an archaeologist as well as an incredible diplomat he must have been amazing to listen to over dinner. I expect the ladies would have been reluctant to leave the gents to their cigars. I would love to have a fly on the wall during that visit!
I need to figure out the other guests!
Greetings again Lady Carnarvon,
Thank you for another lovely way to start off my week ahead, oh and your Pod Cast of Last Thursday was wonderful to listen to while on a walk about!
As for your Blog today, you & Lord Carnarvon must have been shattered when one of those grand and beautiful pillars was damaged. What an effort you went through for finding a renovation repair carpenter and artist as today’s craftsmanship isn’t as artistic as generations ago (I feel for everyone involved in the renovations taking place in Paris at Notre Dame).
Very educational and clever writing again as I love reading about day to day life there in Highclere and all connections to its past. Beautiful photos also once again, I do remember walking through those beautiful pillars and through that amazing space on my tours of the past. Looking forward to doing so again one day!
Hope your week ahead is healthy, warmer and happy. Remain well.
Thank you for listening to the podcasts – much appreciated!
Another good read from and about your beautiful home! Oh how I would love to sit on one of those famous red couches and read or just gaze about the library or out the windows or at the pillars.
Ina Sue Fox
Good Morning Lady Carnarvon
Thank you for another wonderful Monday morning blog.
I love the library and recognize the furniture and pillars from watching Downton Abbey.
I am reading this while sipping on my morning cup pf coffee.
Have a wonderful week.Spring is on the way.
Kathleen from Canada
Coffee is good!
Thank you for another wonderful blog, Lady Carnarvon.
My daughter and I had an opportunity to observe the “Seven Pillars of Wisdom” from TE Lawrence’s memoir while touring and camping at the Wadi Rum. It was a great trip.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
I am encouraged to know that specific craftsmanship of all types of antiquities still exists. I think it’s wonderful that people are interested in learning how to repair these beautiful structures, paintings, books or any other past treasure.
I am glad he was able to repair the pillar. Cheer to all the men and women qualified to restore any treasures at Highclere.
Have a great day,
Hello Lady Carnarvon.
There are another two “pillars” at Highclere, yourself and Lord Carnarvon.
Well someone should say it.
Carry on Highclere for the Spring visitors.
This was so interesting to read. I am looking forward to every Monday to read your wonderful web site.
Welcome to the Monday club!
“A truly great book should be read in youth, again in maturity, and once more in old age…as a fine building should be seen by morning light, at noon and by moonlight.”
A wonderful quote by,
— Robertson Davies
Thank you Linda for adding it to the discussion; most apropos to Lady Carnarvon’s topic!
Thank you, Lady Carnarvon, your blogs are a “Pillar of Strength” on these winter Mondays! My favorite space at Highclere is the Library, it is warm, cozy, full of the aroma of old books and heavy volumes of learning. And I so enjoyed reading about T.E.Lawrence and his visit, it inspired me to do some internet research into his history and adventures.
Dear Lady Carnarvon.
Greetings from America! I just recently found your blog and immediately signed up. Reading about the details of Highclere is fascinating!
The library is a beautiful room. And I absolutely love those red sofas.
Thank you so much for sharing about Highclere and life at the castle.
Thank you for signing up to my Monday blog!
Lady Carnarvon, Your blogs are always so different and great. Where you get your thoughts from to write such good pieces every week amazes me. So well done. I say thank you every time. Cheryl
Thank you Cheryl
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Your writing always gives me food for thought and the photos are delightful. TE Lawrence’s signature is written in such a tiny hand and I have heard that people with small handwriting tend to be shy and intellectual. Your blog has inspired me to research more about this fascinating and courageous man.
Incidentally, I have just enjoyed reading your excellent book about Lady Almina who was absolutely a pillar of strength to the 5th Earl and to all the injured soldiers who came under her care during WW1. What a remarkable lady she was. I would thoroughly recommend the book to any of your your Monday club family who are interested in that period of history. I am now looking forward to starting your book about Lady Catherine and trust I’ll find it just as enjoyable.
Please let me know your thoughts when you finish reading Lady Catherine
This is a delightful article. I’m enjoying it with a cup of coffee.
Thanks again, for sharing so much historical information
Thank you for this lovely peek into history through your columns…..both kinds.
Another interesting look at history and to know more about Lawrence’s part of that story. I am just beginning Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August and to read more about WW I. And the columns! As a youngster in grade school, for some reason we studied the types of column ‘tops,’ and every time I see a column, I think ‘Ionic, Corinthian or Doric?’
I loved seeing the beautiful library when we visited in 2013. So glad all is in order!
Cheers to another good winter week!
Post Script – Seasons at Highclere arrived last week!
Enjoy reading ‘Seasons at Highclere’
Greetings Lady Carnarvon, I love the history you share about your home. I have always wondered about the pillars in the entry hall that are red. What are they made out of, Marble? Also I have wondered about the blank shields over the fireplace in the great hall. The fact that they are blank was brought up in Downton Abby but never answered. Thank you for your time. Bonnie
The marble in the hall pillars is from France – the shields over the fireplace – no-one quite decided and that is how it stays
Lady Carnarvon lovely pictures of the pillars and did you and lord Carnarvon and thank you for me your email and l am fan of Downton abbey and lovely to visitHighcelere and lovely your Seasons book ofHighcelere
Lady Carnarvon lovely of pillars and did you and lord Carnarvon and lovely to visit Highcelere castle and lovely your book you have writing and a fan of Downton Abbey and thank you send me the email
First off, I love reading your blog. Even though I live in Los Angeles, the city that has no real history, I’ve always been curious about English history. Particularly, how a tiny island could be so important throughout history. The series has explained a bit about of the social classes, but I’d like to learn more. For instance, how many guests could the castle accommodate and how often did the family entertain these guests? And how long did they stay?
When I was visiting the plantations in the American South I asked the same questions about some of the very large plantation houses. And I was told, part of the social contract was the development of strict manners, because staying at someone else’s residence instead of an hotel one had to have the right kind of manners.
Of course, here in California, our early visitors came for the gold rush, and seeking to have their own farms, because part of the state can produce so much fresh fruit and vegetables. Thank you again for sharing, it really is very entrepreneurial.
Family/friends used to sometime stay a while – now it tends to be shorter but the thing is to be relaxed about it. I try to let time flow
It is amazing how you bring history to life.
You must study records you have available often.
I keep reading ..
I enjoy your discussions of life at Highclere, often with philosophy and history added. This discussion of ‘Pillars’ caught my attention, more so since yesterday I had just finished making some pages for one of my grandchildren’s “My First Stamp Album and Dictionary’ as part of his birthday gift. He is interested in space exploration and I made a page showing several of the images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope – one depicting “The Pillars of Creation” in the Eagle Nebula. So I was quite captivated and even a bit astonished by the title of this weeks contribution, “Pillars”. Thank you for your weekly additions to my reading for enjoyment.
With best regards to all of you at Highclere, wishing you a safe and healthy 2022.
You are correct about the pillars being used as the US dollar symbol. They actually came about after the Revolutionary War against the British. 😉 The new Americans didn’t want to use the British money anymore but didn’t have a means of making coins so they used the Spanish “ocho real” also known as pieces of eight, for their currency. These were already in their economy because the Spanish helped finance the rebels. On the ocho real there are 2 columns with ribbons wrapped around them. That is where the dollar symbol came from.
I write from Italy, Tuscany
What a beatiful library !
A vera warm ambient
I hope ti be a Highclere Castle visitor as soon as possible.
Thank you Lady Carnarvon for your beautiful blog.
Thank you Andrea
Thank you again for an interesting read. My husband and I were so happy to see your home in July 2019. I hope that your Robert Burns celebration went off smashingly! “Hope is the pillar that holds up the world.” Have a wonderful day!
Beautiful rooms. I love to read, so your library would probably be my favorite place at Highclere. I guess I will need to visit to find out for sure. Highclere is definitely on my vacation wish list. Do you keep any of your personal books there or do you have a private place for your personal collection?
I have books everywhere!
Lady Carnarvon lovely of pillars and did you lord Carnarvon have a nice weekend and lovely to visit highcelere castle and lovely your book you writing and a fan of Downton abbey and thank you for send me the email
Thank you for another insightful read.
Fascinating blog today. Your love of history and access to marvelous documentation makes amazing narrative. Thanks again.
I am fascinated by columns/pillars ever since learning about the different types when visiting Greece.
I am thoroughly enjoying turning each page of your Seasons at Highclere which I received last week! Seeing the columns on your estate in the book makes me appreciate it’s history. It’s a beautiful book, filled with gorgeous pictures, fascinating information and delicious looking recipes! Being from Hawaii, I was surprised to read that you have a rose called “Aloha.” It’s a perfect name because it has various meanings: love, cherished, hello, goodbye. In Hawaii, we pride ourselves with having the Aloha Spirit. I also noticed that many of your recipes include lemon, which I love, so I am anxious to try them. It’s such a versatile citrus fruit. Thank you for sharing your recipes!
Thank you very much
I love your home and thank you for letting us see so much of it on your blog. I admire you for keeping on with your big responsibility of caring for Highclere with grace. The library is so beautiful, I am a retired librarian and book lover; I imagine I could spend several months ensconced there soaking in the atmosphere and reading books.
I watched the documentary with you and your husband. As a fan I along with most women wish we were there living the life. So glad the filmmakers came along with the making of downton abbey and with the money they provide it helps you restore highchairs to its deserved beauty. Thank you for sharing. Saundra
I tried to decipher some of the signatures. It must have been a reception of mostly Bulgarian diplomats. They signed in both Cyrillic and latin. One was most likely Nadejda Stancioff, Bulgaria’s first woman on diplomatic service during the 1910s and 1920s, later Baronetess of Deanston. There is a picture of her in the George Grantham Bain Collection. Grantham… funny coincidence.
I love Lady Carnarvon’s comments and posts. It’s a honor for me and my family to watch and to learn many things of Highclere Castle in England. Att., SMG, from Brazil.
Dear Lady Carnarvon:
Thank you for your Monday blog.
I read it but was not able to respond.
My youngest brother, who was in the hospital died on Friday, January 28, 2022.
A pillar [of strength] sure could be used at this time.
Until next time, stay healthy and safe.
I am so sorry
I am always amazed at how you can take an ordinary, bland subject – like pillars – and turn it into a fascinating piece! Bravo!
Thank you for this mention of the library. I was wondering if there was any catalog of the book collection? I ask due to an interest in “Gilded Age” libraries in America.
I wonder if English libraries had an influence on America in reading taste for both nonfiction as well as fiction.
The catalogue is on white cards in a corner – like a Library! Libraries – books used to influence thoughts