Highclere Castle, front facade
|Status||Grade I listed|
|Architectural style||Jacobethan ("Jacobean Revival")|
|Location||Highclere, Hampshire, UK|
Highclere Castle // 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 country seat of the Earl of Carnarvon, a branch of the Anglo-Welsh Herbert family.
Highclere Castle is the main filming location for the British television period drama Downton Abbey. The Castle and gardens are open to the public during July and August and at times during the rest of the year.
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. The original site was recorded in the Domesday Book. Since 1679, the castle has been home to the Carnarvon family.
In 1692, Robert Sawyer, a lawyer 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 picture collection and created the garden temples. His nephew and heir Henry Herbert was created Baron Porchester and 1st Earl of Carnarvon by George III.
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 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, 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 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. 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. 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.
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, relocating 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 the Lebanon by the 17th-century seed collector Edward Pococke.
|This section requires expansion. (February 2013)|
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. He later accompanied archaeologist Howard Carter during the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922.
By 2009, the castle was in dire need of major repair, with only the ground and first floors remaining usable. Water damage had caused stonework to crumble and ceilings to collapse; at least 50 rooms were uninhabitable. 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." 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. As of late 2012, the Earl and Lady Carnarvon have stated that a dramatic increase in the number of paying visitors has allowed them to begin major repairs both on Highclere's turrets and its interior. The family attributes this increase in interest to the on-site filming of Downton Abbey. 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 Corinthian columns from Devonshire House in Piccadilly. "Heaven's Gate" is a folly about 18 m 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.
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