ST. LOUIS — It’s called the “most famous house in the world.” We’re talking about Highclere Castle, a British country house you probably know from 'Downton Abbey'—the wildly famous PBS series.
Highclere is so striking, it really becomes one of the characters in the show, and now we have a chance to see it on the big screen. It was the setting for the feature film 'Downton Abbey', which hits theaters September 20.
So, we thought we’d take a look at the history of Highclere and why it’s so popular in film and TV.
Highclere Castle is a 5,000-acre estate in Hampshire, England. It’s the country seat of the Earl of Carnarvon. The castle itself was designed by the architect Charles Barry.
According to the Highclere Castle website, the castle stands on the site of an earlier house, which was built on the foundations of the medieval palace of the Bishops of Winchester, who owned this estate from the 9th century.
Highclere Castle has been re-built a few times. The first house was a square mansion. But starting in 1842, it underwent a huge rebuilding and renovation. Sir Charles Barry designed the castle you see today in the Jacobethan style, which means it contains influences from the English Renaissance period, as well as the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods.
Besides the castle, there’s an Egyptian exhibition in the castle’s cellars.
That’s because 100 years ago, the castle was the seat of the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, who famously discovered the tomb of the Egyptian boy pharaoh Tutankhamun in 1922. Lord Carnarvon made many trips to Egypt, and while most of his treasures ended up in museums, there’s still an impressive collection on display at the castle.
The grounds of Highclere also are remarkable. Extensive gardens surround the castle as a sort of collection of habitats. In 1991, Highclere Park was registered as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
Some of the gardens are open to the public for self-guided tours in the summer, and there also are public events at Christmas and Easter.
If this all looks familiar for some reason, it’s probably because Highclere’s been on heavy rotation among film and movie makers needing a moody setting for their project.
Here’s a list compiled by Wikipedia:
1982: It was seen as the home of a wealthy Englishman that Mr Fortescue visited seeking money in the 1982 film starring Michael Palin, 'The Missionary'.
1987: Shots from both the interior and exterior were used as the imposing Misselthwaite Manor in the Hallmark Hall of Fame's 1987 TV film 'The Secret Garden'. The same was the case for the film 'Poor Little Rich Girl: The Barbara Hutton Story' (1987), which starred Farrah Fawcett.
1990–1993: Totleigh Towers, in the TV series 'Jeeves and Wooster', was represented by Highclere Castle.
1991: The exterior appeared as Lord Graves's house in the film 'King Ralph'.
1991: Kevin Reynolds' 'Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves'.
1999: The salon provided a main interior location for Stanley Kubrick's final film, 'Eyes Wide Shut'.
2002: The salon appeared in the film 'The Four Feathers' starring Heath Ledger.
2004: Used in Agatha Christie's Marple as Rutherford Hall in the episode "4:50 From Paddington".
2006: John Legend's 2006 music video for 'Heaven' featured the castle.
2010–2015: The main setting for the British television period drama 'Downton Abbey'. The Tatler referred to the area around Highclere as "Downtonia". The great hall, dining room, library, music room, drawing room, saloon and several of the bedrooms were used for filming.
2018: Used for the film adaptation of 'Downton Abbey', scheduled for release in 2019
Today, Lord and Lady Carnarvon still live at Highclere several months of the year. They return to their cottage when the castle is open to the public.
Lady Fiona Carnarvon writes extensively about life at Highclere in her beautiful blog you can find here.
About the Royal Dish podcast
Do you find yourself keeping up with all things Windsor, Wales, Cambridge and Sussex? We may live across the pond, but if you’re like us, our fascination with everything and anything royal translates right here in the USA.
Now, we’re taking it to another level in our new podcast, Royal Dish. Hosted by 5 On Your Side’s Kay Quinn and Brandie Piper, it’s an American look at the British monarchy.
You can listen to the latest episodes in the player above or by clicking here.
Make sure to subscribe to get the latest episode as soon as it's released.
Take a listen and let us know what you think! Send us your thoughts, comments and topic suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
And make sure to follow Royal Dish on Twitter, @RoyalDishPod! Keep up with the latest scoop and chat with us about all things royal.
- 'It's easy to get addicted to these things' | St. Louis royal jewelry expert on her favorite sparklers
- Remembering Diana, the People's Princess
- The day royalty came to St. Louis
- Where have all the royals gone?
- What makes someone a sir or dame in Britain?
- Camilla and donkeys make for a magnificent birthday
- Headbands make a comeback among royalty
- Duchess Meghan debuts re-designed engagement ring
- Illinois woman stands feet from the Queen at premier British social event
- It was all about the fashion at Royal Ascot
- This St. Louisan in London has a job that'll make most Brits jealous
- Our top 5 Trooping the Colour moments
- A little slice of London in the Lou