Highclere Castle

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Highclere Castle
Highclere Castle.jpg
Highclere Castle, front façade
Highclere Castle is located in Hampshire
Highclere Castle
Location within Hampshire
General information
Status Grade I listed[1]
Type Stately home
Architectural style Jacobethan ("Jacobean Revival")
Location Highclere, Hampshire, England, UK
Coordinates 51°19′36″N 1°21′41″W / 51.326667°N 1.361389°W / 51.326667; -1.361389Coordinates: 51°19′36″N 1°21′41″W / 51.326667°N 1.361389°W / 51.326667; -1.361389
Construction started 1679
Owner George Herbert, 8th Earl of Carnarvon
View from the path
View from the grounds
Lawn stripes, topiary

Highclere Castle /ˈhklɪər/ is a country house in the Jacobethan style, with a park designed by Capability Brown. The 5,000-acre (2,000 ha) estate is in Hampshire, England, United Kingdom, about 5 miles (8.0 km) south of Newbury, Berkshire. It is the county seat of the Earl of Carnarvon, a branch of the Anglo-Welsh Herbert family.[2]

Highclere Castle was a filming location for the British comedy series Jeeves and Wooster, which starred comedians Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry. It was also used as the main filming location for the award-winning period drama Downton Abbey.[3] The great hall and some of the bedrooms located inside the building, were also used for filming.

The castle and gardens are open to the public during July and August and at times during the rest of the year.


Early years[edit]

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 8th century.[4][5] The original site was recorded in the Domesday Book.

Edward of Caernarvon[edit]

An itinerary of King Edward II, Edward of Carnarvon, lists him as spending September 2, 1320 with Rigaud of Assier, the bishop of Winchester, at Bishop's Clere, aka Highclere. The same tour has him on 31 August 1320 at Sandleford Priory, where he apparently tarried for the night, and on 29 and 30 August he was at Crookham, Berkshire.[6]

Robert Sawyer[edit]

Since 1679 Highclere has been home to the Earls of Carnarvon and their forebears. In 1692, Sir Robert Sawyer, a lawyer, MP, Speaker, and college friend of Samuel Pepys, bequeathed a mansion at Highclere to his only daughter, Margaret, the first wife of the 8th Earl of Pembroke. Their second son, Robert Sawyer Herbert, inherited Highclere, began its portrait collection and created the garden temples. His nephew and heir Henry Herbert was created Baron Porchester and later Earl of Carnarvon by George III.

Milles and Pococke families[edit]

In 1680 Sir Robert Sawyer presented the living of Highclere to Rev. Isaac Milles (1638-1720), the elder, who remained there till his death. White Oak was the parsonage where Milles took pupils, including the many children of Thomas Herbert, 8th Earl of Pembroke, by marriage the new proprietor of Highclere. Rev. Isaac Milles (fl. 1701-1727), the younger,[7] carried on his father’s school at Highclere.[8] Milles the younger's daughter Elizabeth married Reverend Richard Pococke,[9] LL.B. (1660–1710) and had the Rt. Rev. Richard Pococke (1704–1765), who having been educated by his grandfather Milles, at his school at Highclere rectory, went on to become domestic chaplain to the Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield, and then Bishop of Ossory and Meath, and a renowned travel writer and orientalist. Bishop Pococke was one of the first to collect seeds of the Cedar of Lebanon which he did during his tour of Lebanon in 1738.[10] Some of these seeds germinated and grew at Highclere and Wilton House, but probably also at nearby Sandleford and his family's own Newtown House, Hampshire.[11][12]

Coincidently, the seemingly unrelated and earlier Rev. Edward Pococke (1604–1691), another orientalist, was sometime vicar of Chieveley, and then rector of Childrey both nearby in Berkshire, was an even earlier importer of the cedar.[13] And of his six sons, the eldest, Edward Pococke (1648–1727) was chaplain to the Earl of Pembroke, and rector of Minall or Mildenhall, Wiltshire (1692), and canon of Salisbury (1675).[14]

William Cobbett's description[edit]

William Cobbett (1763-1835) in his journal of November 2, 1821, whilst at Hurstbourne Tarrant wrote:[15]

'I came from Berghclere this morning, and
through the park of Lord Caernarvon, at Highclere. It is a fine
season to look at woods. The oaks are still covered, the
beeches in their best dress, the elms yet pretty green, and the
beautiful ashes only beginning to turn off. This is, according
to my fancy, the prettiest park that I have ever seen. A great
variety of hill and dell. A good deal of water, and this, in one
part, only wants the colours of American trees to make it look
like a " creek ; " for the water runs along at the foot of a steepish
hill, thickly covered with trees, and the branches of the lower-
most trees hang down into the water and hide the bank com-
pletely. I like this place better than Fonthill, Blenheim, Stowe,
or any other gentleman's grounds that I have seen. The house
I did not care about, though it appears to be large enough to
hold half a village. The trees are very good, and the woods
would be handsomer if the larches and firs were burnt, for which
only they are fit. The great beauty of the place is, the lofty
downs, as steep, in some places, as the roof of a house, which
form a sort of boundary, in the form of a part of a crescent, to
about a third part of the park, and then slope off and get more
distant, for about half another third part. A part of these downs
is covered with trees, chiefly beech, the colour of which, at this
season, forms a most beautiful contrast with that of the down
itself, which is so green and so smooth ! From the vale in the
park, along which we rode, we looked apparently almost per-
pendicularly up at the downs, where the trees have extended
themselves by seed more in some places than others, and thereby
formed numerous salient parts of various forms, and, of course,
as many and as variously formed glades. These, which are always
so beautiful in forests and parks, are peculiarly beautiful in this
lofty situation and with verdure so smooth as that of these
chalky downs. Our horses beat up a score or two of hares as
we crossed the park; and, though we met with no gothic arches
made of Scotch-fir, we saw something a great deal better;
namely, about forty cows, the most beautiful that I ever saw,
as to colour at least. They appear to be of the Galway-breed.
They are called , in this country, Lord Caernarvon's breed. They
have no horns, and their colour is a ground of white with black
or red spots, these spots being from the size of a plate to that
of a crown-piece; and some of them have no small spots. These
cattle were lying down together in the space of about an acre
of ground: they were in excellent condition, and so fine a sight
of the kind I never saw. Upon leaving the park, and coming
over the hills to this pretty vale of Uphusband [Huphusseburn, Hurstbourn], I could not help
calculating how long it might be before some Jew would begin
to fix his eye upon Highclere, and talk of putting out the present
owner, who, though a Whig, is one of the best of that set of
politicians, and who acted a manly part in the case of our deeply
injured and deeply lamented queen. Perhaps his lordship
thinks that there is no fear of the Jews as to him. But does he
think that his tenants can sell fat hogs at 75. 6d. a score, and
pay him more than a third of the rent that they have paid him
while the debt was contracting ? I know that such a man does
not lose his estate at once ; but, without rents, what is the estate ?
And that the Jews will receive the far greater part of his rents
is certain, unless the interest of the debt be reduced. Lord
Caernarvon told a man, in 1820, that he did not like my politics.
But what did he mean by my politics ? I have no politics but
such as he ought to like...'[16]

19th century[edit]

The house was then a square, classical mansion, but it was remodelled and largely rebuilt for the third Earl following a design by Sir Charles Barry[3] in 1839–1842, after he had finished with the construction of the Houses of Parliament. It is in the Jacobethan style and faced in Bath stone,[3] reflecting the Victorian revival of English architecture of the late 16th century and early 17th century, when Tudor architecture was being challenged by newly arrived Renaissance architecture influences.

During the 19th century there was a huge Renaissance Revival movement, of which Sir Charles Barry was a great exponent—Barry described the style of Highclere as Anglo-Italian.[17] Barry had been inspired to become an architect by the Renaissance architecture of Italy and was very proficient at working in the Renaissance-based style that became known in the 19th century as Italianate architecture. At Highclere, however, he worked in the Jacobethan style, but added to it some of the motifs of the Italianate style. This is particularly noticeable in the towers, which are slimmer and more refined than those of Mentmore Towers, the other great Jacobethan house built in the same era. Barry produced an alternative design in a more purely Italian Renaissance style, which was rejected by Lord Carnarvon.[18] The external walls are decorated with strapwork designs typical of Northern European Renaissance architecture. The Italian Renaissance theme is more evident in the interiors. In the saloon, in an attempt to resemble a medieval English great hall, Barry's assistant Thomas Allom introduced a Gothic influence evident in the points rather than curves of the arches, and the mock-hammerbeam roof.[19]

Although the exterior of the north, east and south sides were completed before the 3rd Earl died in 1849 and Sir Charles Barry died in 1860, the interior and the west wing (designated as servants' quarters) were far from complete. The 4th Earl turned to the architect Thomas Allom, who had worked with Barry, to supervise work on the interior of the castle, which was completed in 1878.

The 1st Earl had his park laid out according to a design by Capability Brown in 1774–1777, moving the village in the process—the remains of the church of 1689 are at the south-west corner of the castle. The Lebanon Cedars are believed to be descended from seed brought to England from Lebanon by the 17th century seed collector Edward Pococke.

20th century[edit]

The castle became home to Egyptian artifacts after the 5th Earl, an enthusiastic amateur Egyptologist, sponsored the excavation of nobles' tombs in Deir el-Bahari (Thebes) in 1907.[20] He later accompanied archaeologist Howard Carter during the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922.

In 1969, Henry Herbert, 7th Earl of Carnarvon, became racing manager to Elizabeth II.[21] The 7th Earl was "great friends" with the Queen; she was a "frequent visitor until his death in 2001".[22]

21st century[edit]

By 2009, the castle was in dire need of major repair, with only the ground and first floors remaining usable.[22] Water damage had caused stonework to crumble and ceilings to collapse; at least 50 rooms were uninhabitable.[22] The 8th Earl and his family were living in a "modest cottage in the grounds"; he said his ancestors were responsible for the castle's long term problems.[22] As of 2009, repairs needed for the entire estate were estimated to cost around £12 million, £1.8 million of which was urgently needed for just the castle.[22] As of late 2012, Lord and Lady Carnarvon have stated that a dramatic increase in the number of paying visitors has allowed them to begin major repairs on both Highclere's turrets and its interior. The family attributes this increase in interest to the on-site filming of Downton Abbey.[23] The family now live in Highclere during the winter months, but return to their cottage in the summer, when the castle is open to the public.


There are various follies on the estate. To the east of the house is the Temple of Diana, erected before 1743 with Ionic order columns from Devonshire House in Piccadilly.[citation needed] "Heaven's Gate" is a folly about 60 feet high on Sidown Hill, built in 1749 by Hon. Robert Sawyer Herbert (d. 1769). Other 18th century follies that can be found on the grounds of the estate include Jackdaw's Castle and the Etruscan Temple.

The hybrid holly Ilex x altaclerensis (Highclere holly) was developed here in about 1835 by hybridising the Madeiran Ilex perado (grown in a greenhouse) with the local native Ilex aquifolium.

Restored Grade II* listed[24] London Lodge (1793), brick but Coade stone dressed and wings (1840), (May 2014)

Use as location[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Highclere Castle, Highclere". British Listed Buildings. Retrieved 5 October 2011. 
  2. ^ Highclere Castle. "Highclere Castle". highclerecastle.co.uk. 
  3. ^ a b c Dickson, Elizabeth (January–February 1979). "Historic Houses: The Splendors of Highclere Castle". Architectural Digest. Retrieved 2 January 2013. 
  4. ^ Highclere Castle. "Highclere Castle & Gardens". highclerecastle.co.uk. 
  5. ^ Philip Davis. "Highclere Bishops Palace". gatehouse-gazetteer.info. 
  6. ^ Walter Money, Newbury, page 160.
  7. ^ BA of Balliol College (1696), MA from Sidney Sussex, Cambridge (1701), treasurer of the diocese of Waterford 21 May 1714, and non-resident prebendary of Lismore, County Waterford 6 September 1716.
  8. ^ And resigned his Irish benefices in 1727 to become rector of nearby Ludshelfe or Litchfield, Hampshire.
  9. ^ Headmaster of the King Edward VI Free Grammar School, and curate, under sequestration, of All Saints' Church in Southampton. Son of another Richard Pococke, LL.B., rector of Colmer, Hampshire, from 1660 to his death in 1719.
  10. ^ He reached Dendereh on 9 January 1738.
  11. ^ History of Newtown by Doug Ellis, Newtown Parish Council, 2015.
  12. ^ F. Nigel Hepper, in Arboricultural Journal: The International Journal of Urban Forestry, Volume 25, Issue 3, 2001 : THE CULTIVATION OF THE CEDAR OF LEBANON IN WESTERN EUROPEAN PARKS AND GARDENS FROM THE 17TH TO THE 19TH CENTURY.
  13. ^ Nigel Hepper in the abstract to his 2001 article (ibid): 'The earliest extant cedar in England is Edward Pocock's at Childrey. Oxfordshire (c. 1642).'
  14. ^ DNB
  15. ^ "Cobbett's Rural Rides". London. June 1853. 
  16. ^ Cobbett continues: '...I want to do away with that infernal system, which, after having beggared and pauperised the labour- ing classes, has now, according to the report, made by the ministers themselves to the House of Commons, plunged the owners of the land themselves into a state of distress, for which those ministers themselves can hold out no remedy! To be sure I labour most assiduously to destroy a system of distress and misery; but is that any reason why a lord should dislike my politics? However, dislike, or like them, to them, to those very politics, the lords themselves must come at last. And that I should exult in this thought, and take little pains to disguise my exultation, can surprise nobody who reflects on what has passed within these last twelve years. If the landlords be well; if things be going right with them; if they have fair prospects of happy days; then what need they care about me and my politics ; but if they find themselves in " distress," and do not know how to get out of it; and if they have been plunged into this distress by those who " dislike my politics; ' is there not some reason for men of sense to hesitate a little before they condemn those politics? If no great change be wanted; if things could remain even; then men may, with some show of reason, say that I am disturbing that which ought to be let alone. But if things cannot remain as they are; if there must be a great change ; is it not folly, and, indeed, is it not a species of idiotic perverseness, for men to set their faces, without rhyme or reason, against what is said as to this change by me, who have, for nearly twenty years, been warning the country of its danger, and foretelling that which has now come to pass and is coming to pass ? However, I make no complaint on this score. People disliking my politics " neither picks my pocket, nor breaks my leg," as Jefferson said by the writings of the Atheists. If they be pleased in disliking my politics, I am pleased in liking them ; and so we are both enjoying ourselves. If the country want no assistance from me, I am quite sure that I want none from it.'
  17. ^ Henry Russell Hitchcock (1958) Architecture: Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (Pelican History of Art), London, Peguin Books, p.73.
  18. ^ Roger Dixon and Stefan Muthesius. Victorian Architecture. Thames and Hudson 1978, pp.39–40
  19. ^ "Highclere Castle, Earl of Carnarvon, Egyptian antiquities, State Rooms". Highclerecastle.co.uk. Retrieved 30 September 2012. 
  20. ^ A letter from Gaston Maspero dated 14 October 1907, contained in the archives of Maspero in the library of the Institut de France says, "You have been kind enough to say to me that you could find a man who knows Egyptology to survey my works. Have you thought to anybody? I will leave the question of payment in your hands but I think I would prefer a compatriot" (Manuscripts 4009, folios 292–293). On 16 January 1909, Carter wrote to Maspero, "Just a word to tell you that Lord Carnarvon has accepted my conditions. He will be there (in Egypt) from 12 February to 20 March. I have to thank you again..." (Manuscripts 4009, folio 527) - from Elisabeth David.
  21. ^ Charles Mosley, editor, Burke's Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage, 107th edition, 3 volumes (Wilmington, Delaware, U.S.A.: Burke's Peerage (Genealogical Books) Ltd, 2003), volume 1, p. 698
  22. ^ a b c d e Harris, Paul (5 August 2009). "Can Highclere Castle be saved? Historic home is verging on ruin as Lord Carnarvon reveals £12m repair bill". Daily Mail. London. Retrieved 18 February 2013. 
  23. ^ Eccles, Louise (26 December 2012). "How TV's hit period drama saved the REAL Downton Abbey". Daily Mail. London. Retrieved 9 October 2015. 
  24. ^ "London Lodge, Highclere". britishlistedbuildings.co.uk. 
  25. ^ Williams, George (29 November 1987). "Filming 'Secret Garden' was a nightmare". McClatchy News Service. .
  26. ^ King Ralph UK filming locations.
  27. ^ Mcdermott, Kerry (30 March 2013). "How Stanley Kubrick transformed genteel Highclere mansion into Hollywood hothouse because of his fear of flying". Daily Mail. London. Retrieved 1 April 2013. .
  28. ^ The Four Feathers UK filming locations.
  29. ^ Cheal, David (22 May 2007). "Rock's aristocrats show their class". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 15 August 2015. 
  30. ^ The Tatler, January 2011.

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