Tag Archives: west berkshire

The Real Downtown Abbey – Highclere Castle

Being featured in a world famous drama series is not a distinction that many buildings achieve, but the stately Highclere Castle has done it. This is the home shown in Downtown Abbey, the drama series about pre- Edwardian British aristocrats. In fact, one of the residents of this castle, the 5th Countess of Carnarvon is the inspiration behind one of the most popular characters of this show – Lady Cora.
1000-acre Castle Belonging to the Carnarvons
Almost all episodes of the show have been filmed on the grounds of this imposing castle located in West Berkshire. The 1000-acre sprawling castle belongs to the Carnarvon family since 1679. With 50 bedrooms, there is sure to have been enough place for guests here no matter how big the party got!
Before Highclere came into being in its present day avatar, a medieval palace belonging to the Bishop of Winchester occupied this space. Right about the time when Queen Victoria took charge of England’s fortunes, the castle was renovated by Sir Charles Barry. It was transformed into a dazzling example of Jacobethan architecture and design intermingled with Italian design elements. When Benjamin Disraeli got his first glimpse at Highclere, he is believed to have exclaimed, “How scenical!”
The King Tut Connection at Highclere
In a very interesting twist, there is actually a connection between the residents of Highclere and King Tut’s spectacular treasures. The 5th Earl of Carnarvon was in fact known as the discoverer of the Egyptian boy king’s tomb, along with Howard Carter. Some believe that Tut’s curse led to the Earl’s death in Cairo, when a mosquito bite caused a fatal infection! When he died, the lights in Cairo went off and the Earl’s dog died at Highclere – peculiar coincidences that add to the mystery of the story.