Thursday, February 28, 2013

Downton Abbey House Tour

Oh Downton Abbey, what is there not to love?  It is like the Triple Crown of TV shows with equal parts delectable drama, gorgeous clothes, and an amazing setting. I know I'm not alone in spending as much time admiring the magnificent house as the antics of the Crawley family.  The location that has taken the world by storm is Highclere Castle - a real English country house where the shows are actually filmed.  

Highclere Castle is a Gothic revival style home lived in by the 8th Earl of Carnarvon and his family.  Highclere has been in the Carnarvon family since 1679.  The magnificent 1000-acre gardens were designed by Capability Brown in the 1770s while the house was extensively remodeled for the 3rd Earl by Sir Charles Barry in 1839–1842, after he had finished designing the Houses of Parliament.  

I love going on tours of country houses and since an actual tour isn't possible for me living in Canada (although the house is open to the public) I thought a virtual tour would be fun. Want to join me for a tour?

Let's get oriented on the floor plan. Do you see the orange arrow - that's the front entrance.  We'll start there.

Highclere Castle was faced in Bath stone when it was remodeled in the mid 1800s.  You can see the beautiful honey-coloured stone surrounding the front entrance.

The entrance hall, which leads through to the saloon, is decorated with a Gothic fan-vaulted ceiling and a geometric parquet floor.

The saloon is a double-height Gothic style room that is the heart of the house.  It was built in the 1860s and features gorgeous stone carvings, a minstrel gallery, and a vaulted ceiling.  The walls of the lower level of the saloon are decorated with embossed leather wall coverings (circa 1680) that were brought back from Cordoba, Spain in the 19th century.  

The grand staircase is located in the great tower at the centre of the house.  The magnificent oak staircase which was built in 1862 took almost a full year to carve and install.  

The dining room is decorated with soft yellow walls and curtains and a large Victorian table that can seat up to thirty people. The room is dominated by Van Dyck's enormous portrait of King Charles I.  

The long masculine library features mahogany carvings on the walls, gilded bookshelves, red curtains, and a magnificent collection of over 5650 books, some dating to the 16th century.  The design of the library is unusual in that it is actually two rooms with an opening between them divided by tall gilded columns.  The library was designed by Sir Charles Barry and was based on the Reform Club Library in London.  

In the photo below you can see Napoleon's chair used when he signed his abdication. The chair was made for Napoleon and the Carnarvons have a sketch of him sitting in it. The chair and desk date from 1803 and were brought from Napoleon's house in St. Helena where he was exiled.

I didn't recognize the music room from the TV show and I'm guessing they don't use it very often because it is a smaller room and may be difficult to film in.  I did find one publicity shot of the three Crawley daughters taken in there though. The music room has a baroque painted ceiling dating from the 1730s and the walls are hung in 16th century Italian embroidered tapestries.

The drawing room was decorated in a rococo revival style by Lady Almina, wife of the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, in 1895. Lady Almina was given bolts of green French silk by her father Alfred de Rothschild and she used the beautiful fabric to cover the walls.

I'm guessing the colours are most accurate in this last photo.

And if you want to recreate the drawing room in your own home you will find a great post here with more photos and purchasing suggestions.

I couldn't find any photos from Downton Abbey filmed in the smoking room - again likely because of its smaller size.  The smoking room is adorned with many fine paintings from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries.

And that takes us to the end of our tour of the ground floor (I'll leave the upstairs for another post).  The lower level with the kitchen and servant's work rooms are actually a set and are not filmed at Highclere Castle.  

If you want to read more about Highclere Castle you can go to the official Highclere Castle website (here), or read this thoroughly researched post on Jane Austen's World (here with other interesting posts on the same website), or this interesting Daily Mail article (here), or watch the video clips below.

I can't wait to see more of the series and you can bet that I will have my eyes peeled for views of the interior of Highclere Castle.  Do you have a favourite room?  I love the drawing room with the beautiful green fabric on the walls, the gold decorations around the ceiling, and the chandelier.
Pin It

Linked to Weekend Bloggy Reading at Serenity Now


  1. Now I want to watch the show for the interior shots! What a gorgeous estate. I love the drawing room. It's so pretty! Thanks for taking the time to write this post. It's great!

  2. Thanks for this awesome post! I love Downton Abbey and enjoyed the tour completely.

    Happy Friday!
    Kim @ Curtain Queen

  3. It's magnificent, isn't it? It's so hard to believe that it was an actual family home! I am so obsessed with DA that I have the seasons on DVD, both the books and the book of the Butler's that they based a lot of the historical info on running the household in the show. Martha Stewart has nothing on this Butler...he knew everything on how to run a top household! Ha! Angie xo

  4. Wow! That is quite the building! It reminds me of our provincial legislative building in its grandeur. It's hard to believe anyone ever lived like that.
    Great post!

  5. What a charming post! I love Downton Abbey and it's so great to see all of the lovely rooms. Personally, my decorating tastes have moved more to modern, or so I thought until I say that drawing room! I could sit in there for hours! Thank you for a lovely tour!

  6. This was such fun! I love this show and it is great to see the back story of the castle. Thanks, Kit

  7. Great post! I cannot wait for the next season. I don't really having a favourite room as I find them all a little over the top with that heavy old English design. It feels a little too museum-ish to me. I did love the floral arrangements though in, I believe season 2....they were stunning.

  8. Dear Grace, it's a dreary, rainy, windy day in Haddonfield, but you have managed to take me away to a more beautiful place, however briefly, with your wonderful post.

    I, too, am a huge Downton Abbey fan and will be waiting, hoping and longing for the next installment.

    Thanks for the great tour. Can't wait for a peak at upstairs.

  9. I really enjoyed seeing these made me miss everyone even more! PBS recently ran a documentary on Highclere and featured the current family and what's happening in real life. Very interesting too. Even though I am still irritated about the death of poor Matthew I have to admit I can hardly wait for Season 4. I'm definitely addicted. :o) Happy Weekend Grace!