At the beginning of the first lockdown, over a year ago now, I thought that we – Highclere- might develop a podcast: it would be a way of sharing extraordinary lives in an extraordinary time. Tactfully my first guest was my husband and then I began to share the characters who live here at the Real Downton Abbey, both upstairs and downstairs. Each week I sit down with a variety of guests to give an insight into life at Highclere Castle as well as stories from the farm and news and events from the estate. From conversations with my husband about living with a film crew, to Les Taylor, Highclere Castle’s 93 year old Head of Security, or discussing friendship, gardens and Egyptology with Anne Diamond, the Podcast shares anecdotes and stories from the ‘real’ Downton Abbey.
The latest Podcast:
Episode 39 Food for the Soul: Rafia Willmott
My guest this month is my good friend Rafia Willmott. When Rafia’s husband John fell ill in 2010 she was inspired to create a restaurant catering for people who need, or desire, to eat healthily.
If like me you enjoy creating (and consuming) good food, I’m sure you’ll be fascinated by Rafia’s story.
Episode 38 Lights, Camera, Action! Lord Carnarvon
As the Downton Abbey movie cast and crew return to film at Highclere Castle, I sit down with my favourite guest – my husband!
With Spring transitioning to Summer, and the Castle opening up to the public again, it’s time for a catch up and to look forward to the year ahead at ‘the Real Downton Abbey’.
Episode 37 Sir Peter Michael
In this fascinating episode of Lady Carnarvon’s Official Podcast I sit down with my friend and neighbour Sir Peter Michael to chat.
Sir Peter shared so many insights and stories, from technology to the Vineyards- the Peter Michael Winery in northern California. He started the UK’s first national commercial classical music radio station Classic FM, and how at the age of 83 he is still innovating to make the world a better place with the creation of a new covid-19 testing platform.
Sir Peter was also the driving force behind a charitable foundation which took-over the nearby airbase at Greenham Common after the USAF vacated it at the end of the Cold War in 1992. The Greenham Common Trust has gone on to raise millions of pounds for charity groups in the area surrounding Highclere Castle.
Episode 36 Farming Tales: Sarah Sladen
In this month’s episode I sit down to chat to my neighbour and friend Sarah Sladen. Sarah runs a farm near to Highclere so it was a good opportunity to sit down and swop stories about pigs, sheep and the land. As we discover Sarah also has a link to Downton Abbey…
Episode 35 Ranald Macdonald
Ranald and I both went to St Andrews University which, like other students will always remain a treasured few years of life. Ranald opened the first Boisdale Restaurant in Belgravia over 30 years ago and with his wife Kate threw a great party and it went from strength to strength focusing on the best of British. Renowned for live music it is a fun place with masses of atmosphere.
Episode 34 Sarah Parish
I met Sarah when she came to Highclere for an afternoon to talk around the theme of Script to Screen, and you will recognise her voice and would instantly know her if you saw her – she led the cast in Bancroft but has been in many TV series as well as film roles. It has been wonderful (and humbling) to support her and her husband Jim Murray with their fundraising for Southampton hospital.
Episode 33 New Year: New Hope
Geordie and I thought it was time to return together to think about 2021
Episode 32: Christmas at Highclere
Behind-the-scenes at the ‘real’ Downton Abbey at Christmas – the real Victorian house for Christmas
Episode 31: Historic Houses: Will Stonor
Like Geordie and myself, the Hon. William and Lady Ailsa Stonor look after an important historic house and estate. The Stonor family has lived at Stonor Park for more than 850 years. Situated around 40 miles to the north-east of Highclere Castle – near the Royal Regatta town of Henley – William and Ailsa have become friends through their shared desire to protect and preserve their respective family homes for future generations. They have more secret passages than we do…
Episode 30: The Documentary Team
In this podcast I turns the tables on a TV production team that has been shadowing us all for an observational documentary broadcast on TV . ‘Christmas at Highclere’ followed the Highclere Castle team as we prepare for the public events that lead up to December 25th. Amy and Brent talk to me about their experiences of becoming part of the ‘Highclere family’ and how they discovered for themselves what life is like at the ‘real’ Downton Abbey!
You can find out more about the TV programme here: https://www.channel4.com/press/news/celebrate-christmas-two-uks-most-famous-castles
Episode 29: A Christmas Carol: Gerald Dickens
If you follow the Highclere Castle Instagram account you’ll already know that a recent visitor here was the great great grandson of the novelist Charles Dickens. 177 years after it was first published ‘A Christmas Carol’ is still a best seller. Gerald came to Highclere in memory of the charity of which Charles Dickens was the very first Chairman https://www.trtf.com/theatrecommunityfund which helps actors in hardship. Like every actor, it has been a challenging year and Gerald has put together a full length video http://www.geralddickens.com/films.html Make sure you also watch Gerald performing three staves from the book on the Highclere Castle Instagram account.
Episode 28: Guiding Light
Diana Mitchell is Highclere Castle’s head guide. She leads a team of around thirty enthusiastic guides who help to ensure visitors to the ‘real Downton Abbey’ get the best out of their experience. Some of the guides she works with started back in 1988 when the castle first opened to the public. In this podcast Diana reflects on the impact of Downton Abbey and even the time when she was an extra in one particular episode.
Episode 27: Kate Adie
There’s a bit of a change this week was Geordie takes over with the presenting. His guest is Kate Adie CBE, DL well known for her long service as the BBC’s Chief News Correspondent. Kate has travelled extensively during her BBC career. The two foreign assignments she is most often associated with are the bombing of the Libyan capital Tripoli in 1986 and the Chinese authorities’ killing of protestors in Tiananmen Square, Beijing, in 1989. She was on duty in London in 1980 when the siege of the Iranian Embassy was brought to an end by the SAS. Nowadays Kate presents From Our Own Correspondent and makes occasional programmes for BBC television and Radio 4. Their conversation was part of the ‘History at Highclere’ weekend.
Episode 26: Robert Harris
Robert Harris is the author of thirteen bestselling novels including the Cicero Trilogy, The Ghost, An Officer and a Spy, Conclave, Munich and The Second Sleep. He lives near to Highclere Castle with his wife, Gill Hornby. This podcast is the soundtrack to a video interview with Robert recorded in the castle ahead of Highclere’s charity weekend ‘History at Highclere’. He joins me to discuss his latest novel ‘V2’ which I thoroughly enjoyed
Episode 25: Night Bomber
Flight Lieutenant Colin Bell DFC AE FRICS RAF (retired) served in WW2 as a Mosquito Bomber Pilot. Celebrating his 100th Birthday next March, he talks all about his experiences as a pilot in WW2. His flying training was carried out in 1941 in the United States and he stayed there serving as a flying instructor until 1943. On his return to the United Kingdom in 1943 he converted to twin engine Mosquito Bombers and joined 608 Squadron (Pathfinder Group) based at Downham Market in Norfolk. During his operational tours he carried out 50 bombing raids over Germany, 13 of them over Berlin. He experienced much action and survived many close scrapes. This inspirational talk takes place in the Smoking Room at Highclere Castle, and was recorded for video as well as podcast as part of the History at Highclere weekend.
Episode 24: Rate of Climb
The son of a Battle of Britain Pilot, Air Commodore Rick Peacock-Edwards CBE, AFC would say he has always been involved in aviation. A pilot for the RAF for 35 years, he has gained over 7000 hours flying fighter aircrafts including the Lightning, Phantom and Tornado. His latest book, ‘Rate of Climb’ is an inspiring insight into his career with the RAF. Rick’s fun-loving approach to life is evident throughout his book as well as his conversation with me in the Smoking Room at Highclere Castle. This podcast was recorded on the eve of the ‘History at Highclere’ event.
For more wonderful stories, be sure to buy Rick’s book: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Rate-Climb…/dp/1911621467
Episode 23: Seedbird Concorde 1
This episode is named after the radio call sign of the British Airways supersonic airliner Concorde. It was 17 years ago this week that the last commercial Concorde flights landed at London’s Heathrow airport. The supersonic passenger age had ended, and it’s yet to restart. I live in a place of extraordinary history and, amazingly, I host not one but three former Concorde pilots to reflect on this incredible and historic aircraft. An aircraft far ahead of its time. It’s a discussion that takes place in the Music Room at Highclere Castle.
Find out more: Steve Bohill-Smith features in Episode 5, and you can hear about the Red Arrows in Episode 13.
Episode 22: The Gift Shop Girls
Sally Popplewell and I are both longstanding friends and friends who work together. Sally has taken on the responsibility for the wonderful gift shop here and it is a lot of fun.
Episode 21: Fresh Eyes
In episode 6 of Lady Carnarvon’s Official Podcast (The Highclere Castle Shoot) I spoke to Eddie Hughes the recently retired head keeper. Eddie had worked on the estate for many decades and gave a fascinating insight into days gone by. This week I introduce Ben Waite who has taken on the role. It’s not been an easy start for Ben, within a month of him beginning his new job the pandemic hit and the UK went in lockdown. But several months later with visitors enjoying afternoon tea quietly in the background Ben sat down with me to discuss their mutual love for the wonderful countryside and nature around the ‘real’ Downton Abbey.
Episode 20: Downton Abbey Turns 10
It’s ten years since Downton Abbey first aired on TV and to celebrate I welcomed back the Downton Abbey location manager Mark Ellis. ‘Sparky’ as he’s known has been part of the production since day one and along with Highclere Castle manager John Gundill he’s ensured the ‘real’ Downton Abbey has stayed in one piece during the rigours of filming. There are several hilarious stories and don’t miss this one.
Episode 19: Down on the Farm
Whilst the beauty and majesty of the ‘real’ Downton Abbey grabs the spotlight there is of course much more to the place we call home. Highclere Castle is situated within an estate of almost 5000 acres made up of mixed woodland and agricultural land. Looking after the crops and the animals that surround the castle is Highclere Estate Farm Manager Simon Andrews.
Episode 18: Special Agent
They say being in the right place at the right time is a key to success. That was certainly the case for James Hunter who found himself having a casual conversation with me whilst working as part of the catering team at Highclere. James had the initiative to ask for work experience and the rest as they say is history. Having just graduated he’s now started a permanent role as an assistant land agent helping to run the estate alongside me.
Episode 17: The Busy Bee
Mike Withers has been beekeeping for more than 60 years and when he hasn’t been tending his hives he’s been helping his wife Pat with the painting and decorating at Highclere Castle. You can hear Pat’s story in episode 4 of this Official Podcast series – but this week it’s Mike’s turn to talk about his lifelong fascination with bees. The Hampshire honey they produce is sold in the Castle shop, and it really is superb.
Episode 16: Sir Nicholas Kenyon CBE
In this episode I asked one of my neighbours in for a chat. For 12 years Sir Nicholas Kenyon was responsible for the world famous BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall. Recorded before the recent controversy over ‘Rule Britannia’, Sir Nicholas looks back on a time when he made changes to the last night of the Proms. He also talks passionately about the crisis facing the arts following the covid-19 pandemic and shares his concerns for the future.
Episode 15: Heroes at Highclere
In 2018 Geordie, I and the team staged an ambitious two-day event called ‘Heroes at Highclere’ to mark the 100 year anniversary of the First World War coming to an end. It was a weekend to say thank you, to remember those who served and those who saved in conflicts across the world both in the past and present. One of the organisations that the weekend raised money for was the British Armed Forces charity SSAFA. In this week’s podcast I sit down with Sir Andrew Gregory KBE CB the Controller of SSAFA.
Episode 14: Managing the Castle
For the past 15 years John Gundill has worked side by side with Geordie and I helping shape the vision of how they want to operate Highclere Castle as a successful business. John was in the first meeting when a production team came looking for a location for a series called ‘Downton Abbey’. Little did we all know how that would go onto make Highclere Castle one of the most loved and recognisable buildings in the world. But, as we’re about to find out, whether it’s hosting the cast and crew of a TV and film production, or dealing with a burst pipe in the castle, there’s rarely a dull day when you’re the castle manager at the ‘real’ Downton Abbey.
Episode 13: The Red Arrows
Over the years the ‘real’ Downton Abbey has played host to many important visitors, but few have been so spectacular as the nine red-suited gentlemen who visited in 2018. The Royal Air Force Aerobatic display team ‘The Red Arrows’ were the star attraction at the ‘Heroes at Highclere’ event which marked the 100 year anniversary of the end of the First World War. In this week’s podcast I welcome back to Highclere Castle team supervisor Squadron Leader Adam Collins, also known as ‘Red 10’. Last year the team spent 11 weeks in North America where they displayed at around 20 major airshows and took part in several iconic flypasts.
Episode 12: Luis the Butler
Luis Coelho is Highclere Castle’s very own ‘Carson’. He might not be as tall as his Downton Abbey counterpart but what he lacks in stature he more than makes up for with enthusiasm. This year he even has his own bar to show off his mixology skills on public open days. He’s another member of the Highclere ‘family’ that makes the ‘real’ Downton Abbey such a special place to live, visit and work at.
Episode 11: Tea with The Bishop
A regular visitor to Highclere Castle is the Bishop of Basingstoke, The Rt Revd David Williams. David’s Anglican role is within the diocese of Winchester and embraces many diverse and unique communities both urban and rural. As the castle emerges from the coronavirus lockdown, I discuss how the church can play its role in providing hope for the future and shares some happy memories of past dinners at the castle – including one with British food writer, chef and TV presenter Mary Berry!
Episode 10: The Music of Life
Highclere castle is the birth place of a world renowned classical music festival. The Newbury Spring Festival was founded by my late mother-in-law Jeanie in 1979. As well as attracting some of the greatest musicians from around the world the festival gives a chance to the very best young musical stars. In normal years the castle acts as one of the festival’s many local venues. In this week’s podcast I welcome festival director Mark Eynon.
Episode 9: Mrs Patmore’s Kitchen
If you peer into the kitchens at Highclere Castle I’m afraid you won’t find Mrs Patmore, the cook, or indeed the scene you might be familiar with from Downton Abbey. The Downton kitchen is in fact a studio set in west London, but there’s nothing fake about Paul Brooke-Taylor Highclere’s own head chef. Paul has worked at Highclere for 12 years and along with his team produces food for the hundreds of guests that visit the ‘real’ Downton Abbey during public opening. Having just returned to work after the COVID-19 lockdown he sits down with me to talk about his career, his love of food & what it’s like to cook at Highclere Castle.
Episode 8: Living with a Film Crew
I sit down with my husband Lord Carnarvon to reflect on the past year as they prepare to emerge from lockdown. It’s been a period which in recent weeks has seen Highclere Castle lie dormant for one of the longest periods in its history. They also look back on how Downton Abbey has transformed their lives and swap memories of living with film crew. Now as the ‘real’ Downton Abbey prepares to welcome visitors again, we can start to look forward to returning to a more familiar routine.
Episode 7: Anne Diamond
Friendships are at the heart of Highclere Castle and ‘Downton Abbey’ and in this episode, I welcome a good friend for tea and a chat. Anne Diamond was a pioneering presenter on breakfast television in the UK, and in more recent years a local radio broadcaster. Listen all the way through as I share a ghost story, and reveal a ‘scented’ secret!
Episode 6: The Highclere Castle Shoot
The partridge and pheasant shoot at Highclere Castle goes back to the time of the 5th Earl of Carnarvon and the tradition has carried through different Head Keepers and Earls of Carnarvon until today. My guest this week is recently retired Head Keeper Eddie Hughes.
Episode 5: Veterans of the Sky
In this week’s Podcast, Lady Carnarvon explores the connections Highclere has with aircraft. From hosting early aviation pioneers to the tragic wartime losses in the hills to the South of the Castle. My guest is former Concorde pilot, historian, and good friend Steve Bohill-Smith.
Episode 4: Painting the Past
Pat Withers has been Highclere Castle’s painter and decorator for an incredible sixty years. For twenty of those I have been working alongside Pat on a variety of projects to bring previously forgotten parts of the castle back to life through colour and creativity.
Episode 3: The Highclere Beat
On a beautiful day at Highclere Castle, I found a shady spot to sit down with 93-year-old Les Taylor. Les is one of Highclere’s longest serving members of staff having worked for 3 Earls. There’s not much this former Policeman doesn’t know about the comings and goings at the real life Downton Abbey
Episode 2: The Secret Garden
In this second edition of my Podcast, I take a walk, along with my dogs Stella and Freya, to the Secret Garden for a chat with Head Gardener, Paul Barker.
Episode 1: Lockdown at Highclere
Welcome to Lady Carnarvon’s Official Podcast! In this first episode, my husband Geordie, the 8th Earl of Carnarvon and I talk about life during lockdown as well as giving an insight into some of the wonderful historical anecdotes of life at Highclere Castle.