The library is home to nearly 6,000 books, dating from the 16th century. It was used as a meeting room by the Earl of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) in Downton Abbey, where he would discuss the workings of the house with his butler, and where he interviewed his Irish driver
This time last year, Highclere Castle was just another struggling English family home with the usual 5,000-acre estate, 50-plus bedrooms, portraits by Van Dyck, Victorian gothic design by Charles Barry (who also did the Houses of Parliament), towers, follies, tapestries, heraldic shields and attached museum of Egyptian artefacts from Tutankhamun’s tomb. And the usual collapsing roofs and millions of pounds worth of debts.
But what a difference a popular, prime-time, period drama series can make. Today the house is the most famous stately home in the world – known as Downton Abbey – with a future perhaps more secure than at any time in its 450-year existence.
The sturdy, dark oak gothic main entrance you see set into the castle’s honey-coloured stone as you stride across the gravel driveway is where the pompous butler Carson lined up his entire domestic staff, to parade them before the caddish (and secretly gay) visiting Duke of Crowborough.
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