What do Downton Abbey and the Pharaoh Tutankhamun have in common?
You might think that the TV series has no connection to the famed Egyptian Pharaoh, but they both share a landscape that straddles culture, history, and personalities. Downton Abbey shoots in Highclere Castle, a 5,000-acre estate that is the country seat of the Earl of Carnarvon, the descendant of Lord Carnarvon, the man who supported archaeologist Howard Carter to find the lost tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922.
Highclere’s history started in the 1300s, back in the reign of Edward II, when it was recorded that the King spent a night at the Bishop of Winchester’s house, Bishopclere, later known as Highclere. From the 1600s to Victorian times, Highclere saw many changes, the most significant in 1838 when the third Earl of Carnarvon invited the architect Sir Charles Barry to transform the house into a stately manor.
The grounds and parks were designed by the famed 18th-century landscaping genius Capability Brown. At the same time, the London Lodge was built as the formal entry to Highclere, with its stone archway and heavy metal gates. The result made the acclaimed statesman Benjamin Disraeli cry out in praises of appreciation.
Renovations Through the Years
The long history of the mansion has seen it as a silent witness through wars, scientific discoveries, and endless renovations.
It served as a hospital during the First World War, when the 5th Countess of Carnarvon became a nurse to hundreds of wounded and traumatized soldiers. The Countess became an adept caregiver and cared for many of those who stayed in the mansion.
In 1922, the castle became a private home once more, and it was the time when it became a center for Egyptian antiquities. The 5th Earl of Carnarvon worked with Howard Carter to find Tutankhamun, which they only found after 20 years of searching in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt.
In World War II, the mansion became a virtual orphanage, as it served as a home to young evacuees from London. Several aircraft also crashed in the estate. These are now on display.
In 2009, the estate needed a serious renovation, including its badly corroded iron gates. Thanks to Downton Abbey, the number of visitors and interest has made it easy for the current Earl to conduct much-needed repairs in the estate.
Downton Abbey is Back
The cast of Downton Abbey is now back filming in Highclere, in preparation for a film that will be released in 2019. The series first started shooting in the estate in 2010, which led to another five series.
The current Earl and Countess of Carnarvon have expressed their delight in the return of the original Downton cast and crew to Highclere. Fans of the famed British TV series are no less excited, and they are now more curious than ever on what happens next to the Crawley family.
Highclere is Scenic, Once Again
The interest in Highclere Castle has made it one of the must-visit places in Hampshire, England. The parks and gardens have made it a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) as its woods contain many rare plants in the region, along with a diverse range of lichen, possibly the oldest living things in the world.
Anyone who visits Highclere Castle today could once again cry out in appreciation and know that the estate is fit for a member of the nobility or even a Pharaoh.