With its spectacular height and light streaming in from the glass roof, the Saloon really is the heart of the Castle. It was created in the space of a far older medieval banqueting hall but, rather than being decorated with gothic armour or tapestries, it is lined with the most extraordinary leather wall coverings. Made in Cordoba, Spain and dating from 1661, the leather was carefully covered in silver gilt, painted, gilded and embossed before being brought to Highclere and partly trimmed to fit the space. It is a work of art and, perhaps rather oddly for a “wall paper”, one of the more valuable things in the Castle.
In contrast, the Drawing Room is hung with pale green damask silk which was a wedding gift from her father to the 5th countess whilst the grand Stanhope bedroom, scene of Lady Mary’s illicit affair with the Turkish nobleman in Downton Abbey, is still hung with original red damask silk from a real Royal guest in 1895. The decoration of each of these rooms is part of the heritage and I think this should be kept at that moment in time as the walls of all the rooms tell stories.
Apart from the silk and leather found in the State rooms, the rest of the Castle offers various wallpapers reflecting, with more accuracy, the actual word. Over the last twenty years or so, Geordie and I have redecorated many bedrooms which were left as something of a blank canvas after World War Two. This was because there were really only two main paint colours available at that time: a shiny cream and a shiny green. Thus many of the corridors, bedrooms and bathrooms just alternated combinations of one of these two colours. Pat Withers, who has decorated here for over 60 years used to be told which bedroom needed to be painted next rather than worry about colour choices.
Rather wonderfully, Pat is still painting although she leaves going up ladders to others now. However, the painting schemes are infinitely more varied. At first, it was a bit of a rush just to make an impression on the building because it was such a huge undertaking. Now it is more of a stately progress. Some rooms are painted, some have special paint effects and some are wallpapered. Like any home, it is a mixture and it depends on the existing furnishings and the inspiration and feeling of each room.
For example, Portico bedroom was full of upside-down furniture and rather lovely linen curtains. As the name suggests, it looks over the front door and portico. With advice from my great friend Sarah (Morris), we used a Coles wallpaper – it is very suitable for the house and, of course, dates from the right period, so it worked with filming for Downton Abbey as it was used as Lady Sibyl’s bedroom.
A bathroom on the first floor was a fairly awful shiny green colour – ceiling, walls, mantle shelf – everything the same – now it has a lovely wall paper, a real favourite of mine which, given it was not too large a room, we could invest in some beautiful wallpaper. Queen Caroline’s bedroom, which is south facing, has a huge lilac pattern giving a more 18th century feel to it which I hope encourages guests or visitors to look out and later venture into the garden. Some Italian friends had a spare room with bird themed wallpaper which I fell in love with so, funnily enough, that is now in a third floor bedroom.
Each choice takes time, planning and budgeting as the rooms are often larger than I think they are. The word budget is used a little hopefully and is usually inaccurate as inevitably unexpected challenges arise.
The patterns of the paper are larger and stronger as small pretty patterns tend not to suit the scale of the architecture. Sometimes, however, Pat finds small corners of far earlier decoration which is not only fascinating but the idea also gets incorporated into the planning process – what the shape of the room suggests, what our predecessors chose, what visitors might think, what I like and, of course, what my husband likes or might like if I had asked in advance rather than in arrears.
The current project has been on my agenda for two years and, given it is the Library – one of the grandest rooms here, it needed much thought. As ever, Sarah came to the rescue for ideas and discussions and then it was ordered. Given green is already a theme of other rooms the choice fell to something different, a rich texture and one picking up the theme of foliage to emphasise the carvings through the Libary and of course, like every wallpaper we choose, it is made here in England. Geordie likes it very much which is most fortunate given Pat’s team are half way through! Thank you Team Pat: Mike, Young Richard and Campbell.
Lady Carnarvon, Theses pictures are absolutely beautiful and enchanting.
The colors are rich and vibrant.
Thank you so kindly for sharing.
Beautiful paper designs.
I like the most the one in Queen’s Caroline Bethroom.
I pleasure to contemplate.
Absolutely beautiful. It must be such a joy to live there just to look at all the different beautiful things. What an adventure.
How Beautiful, I wish I could see the Castle in person.
I look forward to meeting you soon!
Lady Carnarvon, I thoroughly enjoy reading your posts as I enjoy morning coffee here in CT (US!) The story of the wall covering in the saloon is so interesting and your photos are magnificent! What a work of art are those silver leather wall coverings! And I love your choice of wallpaper for the library project. I can’t wait to see photos of the room when it’s complete. Have a lovely day!
What an interesting and entertaining post today. I love wallpapers and am so glad it is returning in America. Love your blog and knowing more about your home.
What a lovely post! The Queen Caroline’s room is exquisite! You have such a massive undertaking on your hands, I honestly don’t know how you keep up with it all. You do have such wonderful, long time helpers and I must say, you must have a very forgiving husband also. Thank you for your delightful posts! God bless you!
My husband and I will be touring your lovely home next month. We feel as if we know the castle after having watched “Downton Abbey” so many times and look forward to seeing it in person.
How very interesting about the various wall coverings! I must say that one of my absolute favorite aspects of the interior of Highclere that I have seen is the pale green silk on the walls of the drawing room. To cap it off, the white and gold (French Provincial, I’m guessing) design of the ceiling, doors, and lower walls of the room complements the green silk so beautifully. I am always thrilled to see that room on the screen when I watch Downton Abbey; the wall coverings are just gorgeous. What a fabulous wedding present, and one that is still being enjoyed daily, some 125 years after the wedding!
If the occasion arises, I would love to see a close-up of the gilded leather wall coverings in the saloon. Thank you for sharing these fascinating tidbits about the life of this grand home and those within its orbit!
All exquisite and appropriate! Well done!
I toured Highclere as part of a Viking trip just before Covid hit and seeing that magnificent saloon in person took my breath away. I’ve always thought it was such a shame that the Countess of Grantham and Lady Mary knew so little about their home in the episode in which they opened it up to raise funds for the village hospital. They needed someone like you to fill them in! Thanks for the blog. I love reading it here in Florida USA.
Fascinating background on Highclere’s wall coverings. Your team certainly works hard as do you and your husband! Congratulations
The botanical wallpapers are divine. So fresh and pretty. Are the papers actual paper that are pasted or are they more modern versions that are prepasted? Your preservation of the castle is just gorgeous. I hope to see it in person one day. Cheers!
I believe they need to be pasted
A wonderful homage to wallpaper, and I owe my sister an apology. When she dragged me along to help in the choice , it was with a raised eyebrow! She selected English and American imports for her renovation, and whilst I did like the final selection, I thought it most un Australian. I have reflected on the personality it provided her and see this self same process in your home. So beautiful.
Greetings again Lady Carnarvon,
I completely appreciate your care and concern over wall coverings in Highclere as many of them are attached to history and do tell stories. Your willingness to carry on that tradition by applying wall coverings today in line with those and in conjunction with the beautiful architecture of the rooms and furniture add to the historic story of Highclere going forward! As I assisted my mother wallpapering many rooms of my childhood home when I was in my teens and then wallpapered many of my own home rooms (as a married adult) I remember the challenge of ordering paper to fit rooms with ten foot ceilings. Given the size of the many rooms in Highclere and height of ceilings I can only imagine the challenge of finding wall paper to fit both size and budget! You are an amazing researcher and lucky to have such talented friend decorator & staff! Remain well and thank you again for another lovely and informative Monday morning read.
Dear Lady Carnarvon, Thank you from the bottom of my heart sharing these beautifull and interesting stories with us!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Decorating Highclere is a daunting task I’m sure; however, you and your friend Sarah have done an outstanding job. You have a wonderful team working with you and I know it’s comforting that they have been working at Highclere for such a long time. Keep up the good work.
Have a good day,
Thank you – I will pass on your comment to the team
What a wonderful post. I just love hearing the history that goes into your planning. Thank you so much!
Thank you for sharing these beautiful wallpapers! I love them all! Can’t wait to see the library when it is finished. The chosen wallpaper will make it look grand!!
In the olden days did The Castle have an indoor area where the carriages pulled into to discharge the passengers. I think I read that the grand staircase area at Althrop was configured that way.
Thank you once again for sharing the history of your beautiful home and the scenes from one of my most favorite movies. I truly appreciate all you share on your blog. My husband and I had our reservations made when the pandemic hit. Not being able to go at that time was so sad for us. We will hopefully be making plans to visit as travel continue to open up. The top of our bucket list!!
Hopefully see you soon?
The colors, whether vibrant or muted, are so beautiful in your pictures. When we visited in 2013, I could only experience standing in many rooms for more than a few minutes, whether during our visit or by watching Downton Abbey at that time. You are so fortunate to have Pat and her talented team! Thank you for showing the team’s great work, Pat’s talented eye, and leading us on our tours through your Monday morning posts!
When I first saw the title for this blog, I thought it was going to be a wallpaper of Highclere for the computer!! LOL. I really like all the wallpaper choices and I can’t imagine having a leather wallpaper. Makes me wonder if it made the room smell like leather, which would be a plus to me.
Such a beautiful home. We do enjoyed our visit back before the pandemic. Your grounds were spacious and manicured. Lovely ❤️
How perfectly beautiful. Thank you for sharing these stories with us. I look forward to seeing this in person one day.
The love and care of these wall coverings! There is much planning and decision making when redoing a small home. To make these things happen so beautifully at Highclere is a task done only by the fearless.
The 1661 leather embossed with silver gilt is stunning after all these years. I am wondering how it is kept from tarnishing.
Thank you for sharing all these beautifully decorated spaces of Highclere. When I visited in April, 2015, the Saloon was the biggest astonishing surprise: leather wall decorations! Photos and descriptions cannot begin to show the unique textures and color tones, you truly have a valuable treasure on the walls of the Saloon! And the other rooms are also lovely…bravo to your team of decorators, and to you for the wise choices, spreading harmony throughout the castle.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
We visited and toured your beautiful castle in June, 2019, with tea in the back courtyard. The leather wallpaper is so beautiful and rich in history. To see its opulence in person was truly a gift! The paper in the other rooms is gorgeous and we’re so lucky to have been able to see it all up close.
The paper chosen for the library is perfect! The gold is exquisite and the leaf motif brings nature indoors!
Thank you for welcoming so many visitors to your home and we hope to be able to visit again soon to see the finished product!
I always feel very nervous when it is something like the Library
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
The wall papers are all so pretty, and interesting. Amazing that Pat has been painting for 60 years (she doesn’t look old enough.)There’s that saying “if walls could talk”, I think yours are singing in harmony.
Lady Carnarvon lovely pictures of Wallpaper and did you lord Carnarvon have a nice weekend and lovely to visit highcelere castle thank you for email
I just started reading your blog after re-watching Downton. Absolutely lovely to have a privileged peek into your home and life. (Also enjoying Lady Almina) Thank you.
Lady Carnarvon, wallpaper can change a dull room into a room of beauty. Hard work but all worth it. Cheryl
I cannot help but ask a question that has been on my mind since I visited the castle 3 years ago
HOW DO YOU CLEAN the green silk damask coverings?? I would think with all the smoking and people in the house thru the years that it would be faded or tearing, it looks so amazing, what is your secret???
That would be a good Monday blog, how you clean all the coverings
You don’t touch the silk or leather! Less is more
Thank you so much for sharing these beautiful pictures! You have given me some inspiration for decorating my new house.
Good Morning, I am so overwhelmed just thinking about the process you take to decorate the rooms of Highclere. I don’t know how you do it all. The tasks seem monumental. You and your team are a blessing for Highclere. Well done.
I think the word team is key!
I love wallpaper!
Let me just say that I love to read your blog every Monday here in the US.
I’m happy to say my Son and Daughter in law will be visiting Highclere next week. They had plans last year but it was canceled due to Covid.
I have asked him to purchase me an apron and your book on Lady Catherine. He ordered me several items last year for my Christmas gifts! I love your Christmas book with all the beautiful pictures and recipes.
Again, thank you for sharing with us!
Thank you for another informative insight into the workings of the Castle. I was fortunate enough to be part of a private tour group from Iowa that visited in May of 2016. We were the only group in the Castle and had a reception in the Saloon where I had the opportunity to take a very close look at the impressive wall paper. I was surprised to see it actually has a clear covering about half way up. They told us we could sit on the furniture, which in my recollection was green, and my distinct memory was sitting on what I recall was a round green bench with no arms. Since we could not take photos I tired to imprint as much as possible while there, but alas, my rememberer is not as good as it once was, and many other official photos show red furniture or sometimes a round green bench with arms. So thank you again for letting us share Castle life along with you, but also, thank you for the photo with the green furniture because I am pretty sure that your photo of the Saloon has the furniture that was present for my visit, including the not quite round armless bench I sat on which also means I was not just making it up in my mind.
It does have the same armchairs which – again with Sarah – I had recovered before that… it is a cosy comfortable colour
So nice to see the dogs are part of the team effort as always.
Really beautiful updates!
Hope you are not finding materials and labor in short supply as we are in Texas.
We are – the wall paper was ordered 8 months ago and was two months late! I am always on the look out for bricks, insulation, gutters !!!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
You gave me quite the giggle with your droll descriptions of your husband’s (non)involvement with the creative & budgeting process! (We wives are the same the world ’round it seems.)
Pat is quite photogenic. It boggles the mind that she’s had such continuity & endurance in her work life! What a bountiful source of information she must be & how delightful that you celebrate her valuable contribution & that of her Team.
Hi, the pattern that was chosen looks quite modern, Im sure it will still looking stunning in the library though; given the colors. Your team of workers and yourself do a wonderful job, as usual.
It is always interesting making decisions as it is about today with an eye to the past – it is not a museum. It is a dilemma!
I love wallpapered rooms and I enjoyed seeing some of yours at Highclere! Thank you for sharing! Enjoy your Monday blogs, please keep them coming!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
I love this blog!!!
It is extraordinary and very informative.
I simply want to read and look at again and again!
Thanks again for sharing.
A building is not just a simple set of walls and bricks but it is the result of the immense commitment and work of those who thought and created it. The exterior beauty of the building reflects the interior beauty of those who adorn it just as an artwork makes the beauty of its artist ‘s soul shine. Have a nice day
Such a delightful article! Loved Caroline’s “nook” incorporating bedside stands and lamps..I could curl up and read anytime! Another favorite is the gift of silk damask from a long time ago…Thank you for sharing the dogs and Pat with us also…More,please. Donna in Idaho
Hello Lady Carnarvon
I absolutely love wallpaper, it gives the room character and warmth and always, always I get other people to hang it. If I did it would not be straight and the further along I went the more crooked it would become so I have this lovely man come and make a wonderful job of it 🙂 I don’t like the pre-pasted ones, I prefer the paste and brush method, it’s far more fun and I think you get a better finish.
I am a traditionalist and like softer colours rather than some of the more modern patterns although they would need an appropriate setting rather than putting them in an older home. My
wallpaper man says “choose it well, select once then leave the store before you change your mind”. It has always worked well for me.
Wallpaper always reminds me of a very old ditty which was sung usually at music halls in the 1920’s. So here goes:-
When father papered the parlour you couldn’t see Pa for paste
Dabbing it here and dabbing it there and pasting paper everywhere
Mother was stuck to the ceiling, the kids were stuck to the floor
Did you ever see such a family so stuck up before !
Couldn’t resist it, hope you got a giggle 🙂 Hope you are well Lady C and keep your lovely writings about Highclere coming, I do so enjoy them
Best wishes to all
Great ditty – thank you!
Good afternoon Lady Carnarvon.
As usual I enjoyed reading your article. Like you we have been renovating and redecorating our home, of course on a much less grand scale. Recently we started on a guest bedroom and we were able to acquire a beautiful oak fireplace surround that fit the bedroom perfectly.
I so enjoy your articles about Highclere as they do inspire me to reuse and repurpose so many things.
We are so excited, we will be visiting your beautiful home in May! We can hardly wait! We are from North Carolina in the good ole USA!
I look forward to meeting you
What a joy to read your blog this morning while lapping up the Autumn sunshine in Marysville. Thank you for sharing the challenges that go on behind the wonderful results which we all so appreciate. So from the other side of the world, here in Victoria, Australia a big ‘thank you’. Heather Mills
Seems that I subscribed to this blog at just the right time as I am currently attempting to wallpaper my circa 1909 victorian apartment. I’ve actually been binging Downton Abby specifically to check out the wallpapers so this post just made my day!
And I love to see you taking such good care of the castle. There are so many that are abandoned nowadays and it breaks my heart…
Glad I can help!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
What an exquisite eye for design and colour you have, as we can see in these lovely wallpapers; thank you for sharing them with us all. May we also see an image of the bird design third floor bedroom wallpaper? Sending you good wishes for your renovations.
Dear Lady Carnarvon!
So interesting to read and such beautiful colors. It would be a dream to visit your beautiful castle!
Swedish greetings from Lena
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Thank you for another interesting blog. The photos are stunning and the walls look wonderful. The green damask silk in particular must have been tricky to hang so beautifully. It’s amazing to think it’s been in place so long. I think the new paper for your library is lovely and will look very well with the ornate ceiling.
By the way, I have just finished your book on Lady Catherine and thoroughly enjoyed it. She came across as a very kind person, beautiful and vivacious. She had many worries and difficulties to contend with but never lost her quality of gentleness. I especially appreciated your chronological description of the awful events in Britain and abroad during WW2 as my parents and grandparents lived through it.
I think Lady Catherine and Lady Almina before her were privileged women of their times who did their best to alleviate the suffering of others. Thank you so much for sharing your accounts of them and their connections to Highclere.
Thank you Joan
Reading this blog makes me want to return for and visit and study each room more closely as your writing makes me appreciate them even more.
Hello Lady Carnarvon,
I left you a comment in December hoping for more dates to visit and because of your response, I was able to check back, purchase tickets, and visit Highclere last week! Thank you for your kindness in replying to comments from your blog. One of my favorite rooms from visiting was the music room. I thought the wall coverings and art hung on the ceiling were beautiful. I’ve been trying to find a picture of it in your blog and the Seasons at Highclere book, but have not found it yet. If you are able to point me to a picture or post one I would be most appreciative!
What a great tale. I am so looking forward to visit. I love your blogs so interesting and informative.
Walls may have ears, but we are lucky to have eyes to see the beauty of Highclere and the wallpapers (and other objects) that adorn it!
You are lucky, too, to have the opportunity to select these wallpapers. Thank you for sharing them with us.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
I admire your struggle to preserve such a beautiful heritage, with so much history and tradition. I am Brazilian and I regret to say that in Brazil our historical heritage is not preserved so much. I also really appreciate British history and I always try to study about it. I read your blog every week and thank you so much for writing. I hope one day to visit your wonderful home. I wish you all the best!
Thank you !
LADY CARNARVON, I too love period wallpaper. The personality of the wallpaper reflects the personality of the person who chooses it. Personally, I love both wallpapers!
Teresa D. Matthews
Dear Lady Carnarvon –
I am so glad I found this blog. Reading your descriptions of Highclere Castle and the lovely care you take of it is inspiring and heartwarming. We just finished watching all seasons and both movies of Downton Abbey in anticipation of our visit and tour in two weeks. I will be paying particular attention to the wallpaper!!
Mary Jeane Myers
it is beautiful
Dear Lady Carnarvon:
Thank you for your Monday blog, and for sharing all the effort and time it takes in keeping the interior rooms of the Castle looking so beautiful. You are very fortunate to have Pat and her dedicated team to assist you with this endeavor.
Until next week, continued success on your room wallpapering projects.
Currently, i am writing an essay on Highclere for my university and these blogs have been super helpful in finding a more in-depth look at your fabulous house. I can’t wait to come and visit someday.
We visited your lovely home this past March and we found it to be even lovelier than on TV . It’s so marvalous the dedication and commitment that your family has always poured into Highclere Castle. I agree that you should respect and keep as much as you can of the house’s decor; it’s your history . And , lucky for us, we thank you for sharing it with the public. We will be back next year to see what else you have done to Highclere Castle.