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Highclere Castle is the real-life castle where Downton Abbey is filmed.


The Carnarvon family has lived at Highclere since 1679, and it is built on the foundation that was once underneath a palace owned by the Bishops of Winchester[1]. It is now used for the filming of Downton Abbey.

Prior to 1839, a square classical mansion stood on the site. The mansion's greatest transformation occurred in 1839-1842, when the 3rd Earl of Carnarvon had it remodelled and largely rebuilt by Sir Charles Barry[2], the same architect who designed the Houses of Parliament[3] and renamed it Highclere Castle. Over the next hundred years, it became an important building for political use and was briefly a hospital during WWI and a home for evacuee children during WWII.

In 2009, major repairs were needed to the estate. The cost of the estate repairs would be £12 million, and £1.8 million on the castle alone. Number of tourists increased sharply following the success of Downton Abbey, filmed at the site, and the income from this is now paying for many of the needed repairs.[4]

Public Access[]

The Castle and Gardens are open to the public (on payment) during the summer months and at various times during the year.


Current Residents[]

The current (8th) Earl of Carnarvon[5] lives in Highclere Castle with the Countess, his wife, during the winter months. They return to their cottage during the summer when the castle is open to the public and tours are going on.[citation needed]

Past Residents[]

Past residents of Highclere Castle are[6]:

  • Henry, 1st Earl of Carnarvon (1741-1811)[7]
  • Henry, 2nd Earl of Carnarvon (1772-1833)[8]
  • Henry, 3rd Earl of Carnarvon (1831-1890)[9]
  • George, 5th Earl of Carnarvon (1866-1923)[10]
  • Henry, 6th Earl of Carnarvon (1898-1987)[11]
  • Henry, 7th Earl of Carnarvon (1923-2001)[12]


Highclere Castle boasts many ornate and beautiful rooms,[13] some of which can be seen on Downton Abbey, including:

  • Music Room - A baroque ceiling painted in the 1730s and walls adorned with tapestries.
  • Dining Room - Decorated with Van Dyck's great equestrian portrait of Charles I, as well as two other paintings by the Flemish Baroque artist.[14]
  • Saloon - The heart of the house both physically and socially has leather wall coverings hung in the 1860s.
  • Library - Over 5,650 books in the Library, the earliest being from the 16th century.
  • Smoking Room - The Smoking Room is adorned with paintings from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, some of Dutch origin.
  • Drawing Room - Decorated in the "rococo revival" style.




External Links[]

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