Thursday, 11 May 2017

Highclere Castle, England



 
The television series DOWNTON ABBEY focuses on the British estate from the title, home of the aristocratic Crawley family, headed by the count of Grantham, and their servants. The six seasons cover a period that starts in April 1912 and ends in December 1925. The episodes were broadcasted in the United Kingdom by ITV from 26 September 2010 until 25 December 2015 and in the United States by PBS from 9 January 2011 until 6 March 2016.

Highclere Castle, 1 May 2017
Highclere Castle in the county Hampshire was chosen to be the mansion from the title. Writer Julian Fellows wrote the series with the Castle in mind and sometimes used its history in his screenplay. The current residents, the eighth Earl and Countess of Carnarvon, open their home and estate to the public for a number of weeks each year. Since Downton Abbey was filmed here, the number of visitors has increased. I would definitely advice to buy tickets in advance through the official website of Highclere Castle.

During our visit it was busy, but luckily not too busy, although it was quite difficult to take photographs without tourists. We had tickets to visit the inside of the house between 1.00 and 4.00 PM. At the end of the afternoon it was less busy than at noon.

In 1838 the third Earl of Carnarvon ordered the architect Sir Charles Barry to design a new mansion that would impress the world. The third design was approved in 1842 and construction was started that year. When the Earl died in 1849, the mansion, now called Highclere Castle, was largely completed. After Charles Barry had also died in 1860, the fourth Earl had the completion of the west wing for the servants (not seen in the series) and the interior executed by Thomas Allom. In 1878, the building was finally completed.
 
The Castle is prominently featured in every episode, I made a selection of screenshots from all seasons. Warning: the text may give away details of the plot.
 
Season 1 (1912-1914)
During the first episode the first appearance of Highclere Castle coincides with the title of the series. The building in Jacobethan style is rectangular with towers on every corner and a larger tower in the middle, set between lawns with Lebanon cedars. A map of the estate can be downloaded from the website of Highclere Castle.

Downton Abbey, season 1, episode 1, 0:01:40
Highclere Castle, 1 May 2017
Downton Abbey, season 1, episode 1, 0:05:07
Highclere Castle, 1 May 2017
Downton Abbey, season 1, episode 1, 0:16:06
Highclere Castle, 1 May 2017
Downton Abbey, season 1, episode 1, 0:22:16
Highclere Castle, 1 May 2017
Downton Abbey, season 1, episode 1, 1:05:21
Highclere Castle, 1 May 2017
Downton Abbey, season 1, episode 2, 0:32:46
Highclere Castle, 1 May 2017
Downton Abbey, season 1, episode 2, 0:43:14
Highclere Castle, 1 May 2017
Downton Abbey, season 1, episode 2, 0:44:13
Highclere Castle, 1 May 2017
Downton Abbey, season 1, episode 3, 0:14:53
Highclere Castle, 1 May 2017
Downton Abbey, season 1, episode 3, 0:36:53
Highclere Castle, 1 May 2017
Downton Abbey, season 1, episode 4, 0:30:42
Highclere Castle, 1 May 2017
Downton Abbey, season 1, episode 7, 0:53:08
Highclere Castle, 1 May 2017

Members of the family and the servants are often seen upon arrival or leave. When distinguished guests arrive, the servants are standing in line outside the entrance of the house while the guests are being greeted by the family.

Downton Abbey, season 1, episode 1, 0:40:40
Highclere Castle, 1 May 2017
Downton Abbey, season 1, episode 1, 0:41:08
Highclere Castle, 1 May 2017
Downton Abbey, season 1, episode 1, 0:41:16
Highclere Castle, 1 May 2017

Lady Grantham (Elizabeth McGovern) and her mother in law, the dowageress Violet Crawley (Maggie Smith), are having tea on the lawn.

Downton Abbey, season 1, episode 4, 0:04:07
Highclere Castle, 1 May 2017

The front doors are decorated with the heads of two dogs, each with a deer leg in its mouth. On the photo a glimpse can be seen of a marble bust of the second Earl of Carnarvon, made by Lorenzo Bartolini in 1819.

Downton Abbey, season 1, episode 2, 0:31:03
Highclere Castle, 1 May 2017

In the series, large vases surround the Castle. These are props to hide the large lamps that light the building at night.

Downton Abbey, season 1, episode 2, 0:13:44
Highclere Castle, 1 May 2017

When John Bates (Brendan Coyle) leaves the estate in episode 3, a small part of the main gate with carved faces on both sides can be seen. The gate in full is not shown until season 5.

Downton Abbey, season 1, episode 3, 0:00:38
Highclere Castle, 1 May 2017

In the same episode John Bates is encouraged by Mrs. Hughes (Phyllis Logan) to throw his limp corrector into the lake. The building in the background is the Temple of Diana. On their way to the exit of the estate visitors pass this folly. It was constructed for decoration only and does not appear in other episodes.

Downton Abbey, season 1, episode 3, 0:47:36
Temple of Diana, 1 May 2017

Season 2 (1916-1920)
The second series covers events during and after the First World War. Downton Abbey temporarily becomes an officers’ hospital, just as Highclere Castle housed a hospital during the war. Among the wounded officers is Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens), heir of the estate. During his recovery he sits in a wheelchair.

Downton Abbey, season 2, episode 3, 0:35:37
Highclere Castle, 1 May 2017
Downton Abbey, season 2, episode 3, 0:35:39
Highclere Castle, 1 May 2017
Downton Abbey, season 2, episode 6, 0:00:34
Highclere Castle, 1 May 2017
Downton Abbey, season 2, episode 6, 0:00:38
Highclere Castle, 1 May 2017
Downton Abbey, season 2, episode 6, 0:19:07
Highclere Castle, 1 May 2017
Downton Abbey, season 2, episode 7, 0:30:00
Highclere Castle, 1 May 2017

In the fourth episode Joseph Molesley (Kevin Doyle), one of the staff members, walks towards Downton Abbey, not from the main gate but from a different path. In the background a brick wall with arches is visible. This is the entrance to Monk’s Garden, a garden with flowers and fruit trees that was never used for the series.

Downton Abbey, season 2, episode 4, 0:14:45
Highclere Castle, 1 May 2017
Downton Abbey, season 2, episode 4, 0:14:54
Highclere Castle, 1 May 2017

Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael) meets a Canadian officer in episode 6 whose face has been disfigured during the war. He claims to be Patrick Crawley, the original heir of Downton Abbey who died when the Titanic sank. While they are walking on the grass, Heaven’s Gate can be seen in the background between the trees. This used to be a building constructed in 1737, today it is only a facade used as a view point.

Downton Abbey, season 2, episode 6, 0:32:24
Heaven's Gate, 1 May 2017
Downton Abbey, season 2, episode 6, 0:32:28
Highclere Castle, 1 May 2017

They continue their walk towards Jackdaws Castle. The building resembles a Greek temple but has no function other than to be admired from a distance. It was built in 1743, a century before Highclere Castle, when a smaller mansion stood here. The columns were salvaged from Berkeley House in London which had burned down in 1733. In the same episode Lady Edith visits Jackdaws Castle a second time to read the officer's farewell letter.

Downton Abbey, season 2, episode 6, 0:32:37
Jackdaws Castle, 1 May 2017
Downton Abbey, season 2, episode 6, 0:43:04
Jackdaws Castle, 1 May 2017
Downton Abbey, season 2, episode 6, 0:43:29
Jackdaws Castle, 1 May 2017
Downton Abbey, season 2, episode 6, 0:43:48
Jackdaws Castle, 1 May 2017
Downton Abbey, season 2, episode 6, 0:51:42
Jackdaws Castle, 1 May 2017

Season 3 (1920-1921)
Guests arrive when the wedding of Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) en Matthew Crawley is being celebrated in the first episode.

Downton Abbey, season 3, episode 1, 00:42:42
Highclere Castle, 1 May 2017
Downton Abbey, season 3, episode 1, 01:01:04
Highclere Castle, 1 May 2017

The mother of Lady Grantham, Martha Levinson (Shirley MacLaine), visits from America. Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) finds her and Lady Edith on a bench under a tree. Edith feels misunderstood by her father because he disapproves her relation with an older man. Besides in episode 2, the bench appears in more seasons and at various places. During our visit it was standing under a tree, next to a bust of Lancelot “Capability” Brown, the landscape architect of Highclere Castle.
 
Downton Abbey, season 3, episode 2, 00:27:01
Highclere Castle, 1 May 2017
Downton Abbey, season 3, episode 2, 00:27:13
Highclere Castle, 1 May 2017

I noticed that the same camera angle was never used twice in the series. Some scenes, for instance the conversation between Lord Grantham and Matthew, start from a distance to show the beauty of the Castle and its surroundings.

Downton Abbey, season 3, episode 3, 00:13:15
Highclere Castle, 1 May 2017
Downton Abbey, season 3, episode 3, 00:38:18
Highclere Castle, 1 May 2017
Downton Abbey, season 3, episode 3, 00:38:32
Highclere Castle, 1 May 2017
Downton Abbey, season 3, episode 5, 00:44:02
Highclere Castle, 1 May 2017

In episode 5 Lady Sybil (Jessica Brown Findlay) dies, a day after she has given birth to her daughter. Her husband, Tom Branson (Allen Leech), carries his daughter on his arm looking out of the window above the main entrance.

Downton Abbey, season 3, episode 5, 00:46:41
Highclere Castle, 1 May 2017

The following episode the doctors leave Downton Abbey. When Lord Grantham and Mr. Carson (Jim Carter) enter the mansion, two small statues of wyverns a clearly visible. Wyverns are dragonlike creatures that are often used in heraldry and on flags, including the Carnarvon arms.

Downton Abbey, season 3, episode 6, 00:00:34
Highclere Castle, 1 May 2017
Downton Abbey, season 3, episode 6, 00:00:53
Highclere Castle, 1 May 2017
Downton Abbey, season 3, episode 6, 00:09:50
Highclere Castle, 1 May 2017

Matthew and Tom play a game of cricket in episode 8. The south side of the Castle appears in the background, which is seen less often than the north and east side.

Downton Abbey, season 3, episode 8, 00:54:33
Highclere Castle, 1 May 2017

Season 4 (1922-1923)
Again a variety of beautiful camera angles are seen, including this view of the south side, approached by housemaid Anna (Joanne Froggatt).

Downton Abbey, season 4, episode 6, 0:00:42
Highclere Castle, 1 May 2017

When Lord Grantham leaves for America to help his brother the entrance of the Castle can be seen in full. Carved over the front doors is the year 1842 in Roman figures and the family motto ‘Unc ie seruiray’ (Only one I will serve). A dog and a lion are standing next to the family arms. It clearly shows that the entrance was cleaned after filming was completed.

Downton Abbey, season 4, episode 7, 0:08:00
Highclere Castle, 1 May 2017

Mary and Evelyn Napier (Brendan Patricks), a government inspector, are walking to Jackdaws Castle but halfway they turn around to return to the Castle.

Downton Abbey, season 4, episode 7, 0:13:52
Jackdaws Castle, 1 May 2017
Downton Abbey, season 4, episode 7, 0:13:53
Highclere Castle, 1 May 2017

Season 5 and 6 (1924-1925)
Highclere Castle is prominently featured in the last two seasons as well, but because several scenes are similar to previous episodes I made a smaller amount of screenshots.

Downton Abbey, season 5, episode 3, 0:21:32
Highclere Castle, 1 May 2017
Downton Abbey, season 5, episode 3, 0:46:19
Highclere Castle, 1 May 2017
Downton Abbey, season 5, episode 4, 0:00:55
Highclere Castle, 1 May 2017

Jackdaws Castle is seen again when two of Mary’s suitors, Anthony Gillingham (Tom Cullen) and Charles Blake (Julian Ovenden), talk to each other inside the folly.

Downton Abbey, season 5, episode 7, 0:03:48
Jackdaws Castle, 1 May 2017

In episode 8 of season 5 the main gate is shown completely for the first since the series started. The estate is much bigger, from the public road the Castle cannot be viewed.

Downton Abbey, season 5, episode 8, 0:14:55
Highclere Castle, 1 May 2017
Downton Abbey, season 5, episode 8, 0:15:07
Highclere Castle, 1 May 2017

In the first episode of the final season Heaven’s Gate is seen again briefly in the background during a hunting party.

Downton Abbey, season 6, episode 1, 0:00:39
Highclere Castle, 1 May 2017

Interior
Visitors of Highclere Castle have also access to a number of rooms in the mansion, among them several rooms that have been used for the series, including the oak staircase, the library, the gallery, the drawing room and the dining room.
In every room a guide will answer questions and tell more about the history of Highclere Castle and its residents. Photography is not allowed. At first I was disappointed but when was inside I understood why. Our visit would not have been pleasant with people constantly taking flash photographs and selfies in the relatively small rooms. I did however make some screenshots of the interior.

Downton Abbey, season 1, episode 2, 0:02:06
Downton Abbey, season 1, episode 2, 0:42:16
Downton Abbey, season 1, episode 2, 0:44:21
Downton Abbey, season 1, episode 3, 0:39:36
Downton Abbey, season 2, episode 1, 0:03:27

The kitchen and the rooms of the servants are not in the Castle, these were studio sets. In the basement is an exhibition of Egyptian art. The fifth Earl was an amateur archaeologist and financed the expedition that discovered the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamun. The Egyptian connection was used by Julian Fellows in the names of the two dogs of Lord Grantham, Pharaoh and Isis.

Screenshots © Carnival Film & Television

 

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