Visit the Cotswolds Village of Bampton featured in Downton Abbey

A Downton Day Out

A Tour of Bampton’s Downton Abbey Locations 

by

Diz White

Author of

Cotswolds Memoir:

Discovering a Beautiful Region of Britain
on a Quest to Buy a 17th Century Cottage

Highclere Castle, Location for Downton Abbey- Daily Mail

The charming village of Bampton in the Cotswolds is used as a background to a number of outdoor scenes in the immensely successful television series Downton Abbey and this lovely spot is well worth a visit. Not only is it interesting to see where scenes of Downton Abbey are shot but there are many other attractions in Bampton that would make a leisurely sojourn there very memorable.

Bampton, or as it was once known Bampton-in-the-Bush, is situated in the county of Oxfordshire in the Thames Valley and is about four and a half miles southwest of Witney.

Visitors strolling around Bampton will recognize a number of buildings and streets that were used in scenes in Downton Abbey.

St. Mary’s Church

One of the locations frequently filmed in the series is Bampton’s church, St Mary of the Virgin which dates from the 12th Century. This church, like many ancient buildings in Britain was built on the foundations of an earlier structure and incorporates parts of the older building in the new edifice. In this case, St. Mary’s church was erected on the site of an Anglo-Saxon Minster. The tower was the only feature of the Minster that was spared and it is now part of the Church. St. Mary’s is also distinguished by its magnificent 13th Century spire.

William the Conqueror gave this church to the Bishop of Exeter and it has been rebuilt and added to many times through the centuries.

Cottage Hospital

Another location used in filming is Bampton Library which was used as the entrance to the cottage hospital that was portrayed in the second series of Downton Abbey.

According to Pevsner and Sherwood’s book The Buildings of England this library was once the Grammar school of St. Mary’s church and was built in 1653.

Isobel Crawley’s house

The Old Rectory which is close by St. Mary’s Church is used for the exterior shots of Isobel Crawley’s house in Downton Abbey. The south side of this building is late 17th Century and features five bays. The back of the house is older with a 16th century arched stone doorway and in the garden wall there is a stone inscribed with the date 1546. Next to the Rectory are 17th Century stables with a gabled dovecote built over them.

The interior scenes of Isobel Crawley’s house, however, are filmed at Hall Place near Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire.

 

Downton Abbey’s conception

Downton2

The series is set in the fictional Downton Abbey, a Yorkshire country house, the grand home of the Earl and Countess of Grantham, and follows the lives and fortunes of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants through the reign of King George V.

matthew-and-mrs-crawley-arrive-in-their-new-home

Gareth Neame of Carnival Films originally conceived the idea of an Edwardian-era TV drama set in a country house and suggested this concept to Julian Fellowes, who had won an Academy Award for Best Writing in the category of Original Screenplay for Gosford Park.

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Shortly, thereafter, Julian Fellowes gave Gareth Neame an outline of the first series. Julian Fellowes writes the series, and his wife Emma acts as his story editor.

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Bampton Annual Events

In addition to Bampton being used for locations of Downton Abbey this beautiful town features plenty of Cotswolds character and is well known for several quaint traditions that take place every year and have been doing so for the past several centuries. Visitors would do well to time a visit to take in one or more of these fun-filled events after viewing the Downton locations.

Shirt Race

Bampton Shirt Race

Once a year, on the Saturday of the Spring Bank Holiday there is a bizarre pub crawl organized by the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Junketing known as The Bampton Shirt Race. In past times the runners in this race were dressed in night-gowns and would compete in pairs with one runner pushing the other in a trolley. There was a time when there were fourteen pubs in Bampton and the race stops at every location for the competitors to down a large quaff of beer. Many of those public houses have now been converted to private residences but a stop at these former pubs is still included in the race. Nowadays, the race consists of larger teams using many different kinds of cobbled-together wheeled vehicles, such as prams, wheelbarrows and even wheelybins. These are used to transport the competitors who are costumed in outlandish fancy dress. There are prizes for the best outfits.

Morris Dancers

Morris Dancing

Bampton is well known for its Morris dancing which has been practiced in the village since the late eighteenth century. The town supports three world-renowned Morris Dance teams and the dancing is performed throughout the Monday of the Spring Bank Holiday in the latter part of May, beginning at 8.30 a.m. In the evening, visiting teams join in the dancing. Much is made of the traditional fertility cake which everyone samples as it is carried around the streets with the dancers.

Bampton002

May Garlands

The charming tradition of May Garland making by the children of Bampton began several centuries ago. It takes place at 11a.m. in the market square on the Monday of the Spring Bank Holiday.

Donkey derby

Donkey Derby

A Donkey Derby is run on the Monday of the August Bank Holiday, and organized by the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Junketing. This begins at 2 p.m. at Sandford’s Field. In addition to the donkey races (all the jockeys are children) there are bric-a-brac stalls, skittles, Aunt Sally, crockery smashing and much more.

mummers2

The Mummers

The Mummers perform plays on Christmas Eve every year. These plays have been performed since the nineteenth century in Bampton but are most likely much older. These dramas have been handed down through family tradition by word of mouth as no scripts exist. In the Bampton version there are ten characters including Robin Hood, Father Christmas, a Prussian King, St. George etc. The plays are uniquely performed in two acts instead of the customary one. Pagan rituals may have figured in the original plays as the plot involves many scenes of characters being finished off and then magically being brought back to life. This could perhaps symbolize the end of the old year and the beginning of the new. Watching the Mummers perform is a wonderful highlight of the Christmas season.

Ladies

Ladies of Downton Abbey

Bampton Pubs and Restaurants

After all this fun a little refreshment might be in order.

The Romany Inn On Bridge Street in Bampton is an unassuming pub serving typical but good pub food.                                                               Accomodation available.  www.TripAdvisor.com

The Horse Shoes On the High Street in Bampton. No food or accommodation www.bamptonoxon-                                                                                       parishcouncil.gov.uk

The Trout at Tadpole Bridge Is well known for its fine dining and serves the best food for miles around. It is  just five minutes’ drive down the road from Bampton in Buckland Marsh Diners come as far away as London to eat at this excellent riverside gastro-pub. In summer there are tables in the garden which leads down to the Thames. Stroll by the river with a pre-dinner drink. Accommodation available. www.trout-inn.co.uk

WHATLEY MANOR HOTEL & SPA Easton Grey Malmesbury SN16 ORB Tel: 01666 822 888 www.whatleymanor.com
Although this recommendation for accommodation is a fair drive from Bampton the visitor who stays here would enjoy a wonderful  tour of the Cotswolds on the way to this excellent  hotel and spa.
Whatley Manor is a AA 5 star ‘Inspectors’ Choice Hotel’ and a member of Relais & Châteaux
This beautifully appointed hotel with the most wonderful gardens is this author’s pick for the best luxury stay in the entire Cotswolds with its relaxing spa treatments, sublime cuisine and exceptionally attentive and friendly service.

Cotswolds Memoir:

Cotswolds Memoir_DizWhite

Discovering a Beautiful Region of Britain
on a Quest to Buy a 17th Century Cottage
(Larrabee Libraries)

A portion of the proceeds of every copy of this author’s book COTSWOLDS MEMOIR: Discovering a Beautiful Region of Britain on a Quest to Buy a 17th Century Cottage is donated to Cotswold conservation institutions. Available on

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        amazon

 

Cotswold New Born Calf with Wobbly Legs

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The first clue ….. one cow stayed back from the others who all moved off when they spotted the farmer in the next field putting out their feed.  But why? This herd usually stayed together but not this time.

I was watching this scene from my cottage in the Cotswolds – the one I describe in my book COTSWOLDS MEMOIR: Discovering a Beautiful Region of Britain on a Quest to Buy a 17th Century Cottage. My land overlooks a meadow and I really enjoy watching the cows ripping at the grass and munching away. Somehow this is a very calming sight.

At first I thought this lone cow might be ailing in some way. Then I looked through my binoculars and realized that this lovely animal was giving birth.

Soon a gangly-legged calf appeared and Mama Cow licked her and fussed over her while my husband and I rushed to get a camera. When we returned this calf, born moments earlier, was learning to sit down for the very first time.

As you’ll see in the video, she hasn’t yet mastered her gangly legs, but with absolutely no help from her mum she achieves her goal and acknowledges her accomplishment with a nod of the head.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3gwszmrUzI?rel=0&w=560&h=400]

Cotswolds Memoir Author writes History of Downton Abbey location

Downton Abbey (Highclere Castle)
Architectural History
By
Diz White

Author of

Cotswolds Memoir:

Discovering a Beautiful Region of Britain
on a Quest to Buy a 17th Century Cottage
(Larrabee Libraries)

Available on Amazon

Cotswolds Memoir_DizWhite

Highclere Castle, Location for Downton Abbey- Daily Mail

Highclere Castle, Location for Downton Abbey

Highclere Castle – the location of the successful T.V. Series Downton Abbey has brought the Victorian and medieval mansions and stately homes of England back into worldwide focus.
The huge success of the T.V. series Downton Abbey which uses Highclere Castle as its location has sparked great interest in British architecture and put a spotlight onto these ancient mansions and stately homes. This interest, may, in fact, be instrumental in stopping the decline of these buildings whose numbers have been traveling on a slow downward trajectory since the First World War. The curiosity aroused by this incredibly popular series has promoted a thirst for knowledge about British architecture and history from around the world.

Highclere2Highclere Castle Today

Highclere Castle as it exists today was rebuilt between 1839 – 1842 for the third Earl of Carnarvon by Sir Charles Barry, the architect of the Houses of Parliament. The architectural style of this latest version of Highclere Castle is classed as Jacobethan and its fascia material is of stone from the town of Bath.
John Betjeman gave the name ‘Jacobethan’ to the style of architecture incorporating elements of both Elizabethan and Gothic characteristics. This English Renaissance style that was popular from 1550 to 1625 was revived in the 1820s and evolved into the Jacobethan style.

MentmoreMentmore in Buckinghamshire an example of Jacobethan architecture

This fashion subsequently became the hallmark of Victorian architecture and included features such as Tudor-style terra cotta bricks, arches and extended chimneys, elaborate carved brickwork, balustrades, pillars and parapets. Sandringham House in Norfolk, home of her Majesty the Queen represents a good example of this Jacobethan style.

Highclere Castle origins, like so many castles, mansions and stately homes in Britain, go back to medieval times and beyond. An Anglo-Saxon charter indicates that this site has been populated for almost 1400 years.

Architectural Plans for Highclere CastleArchitectural Plans for Highclere Castle

It was the custom of British architects, through the centuries, to build upon the foundations of earlier buildings and on occasion to incorporate parts of these buildings into the new structure. The Victorian architects followed this trend by erecting the current Highclere Castle on the exact site of an earlier mansion. This earlier building was constructed on the foundations of the medieval palace of the Bishops of Winchester who had retained possession of this large estate since the 8th Century. An even earlier building was recorded as existing on this site in the Domesday Book.
The Carnarvon family have owned and lived in Highclere since 1679.

earl of pembroke8th Earl of Pembroke

In 1692 Robert Sawyer left what was then a mansion named Highclere to his daughter Margaret, wife of the 8th Earl of Pembroke. Their son Robert Sawyer Herbert inherited Highclere and became the owner of this mansion. He created the garden rooms and assembled a collection of paintings. Robert Sawyer’s heir Henry Herbert was created 1st Earl of Carnarvon by King George III.

Earl of Carnarvon1st Earl of Carnarvon

This is the description (in part) of Highclere Castle given by the famous architectural historian Nicholas Pevsner and his co-writer David Lloyd.

The house is ashlar-faced, of three storeys with an additional storey in the accentuated parts. The windows are of the mullion-and-transom-cross type, with transoms higher up than in genuine Elizabethan houses. At the top is a strapwork balustrade. The front is much flatter than an Elizabethan front would be. There is in fact very little decoration – just ornamented pilasters in stressed places. ‘Ung Je Serviray’ carved above all the ground floor windows.

5th Earl of Carnarvon5th Earl of Carnarvon

During the Victorian era Highclere Castle became a nexus of social and political activity. A stream of socialites, politicians, technical innovators, aviators, soldiers, writers and Egyptologists populated the parties at the house. The 5th Earl of Carnarvon discovered the tomb of Tutankhamen with Howard Carter adding another exotic aspect to the rich history of the Carnarvon family and their Castle. An Egyptian exhibition is a feature of Highclere Castle today.

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During the First World War Highclere Castle was turned into a hospital by Amina the 5th Countess of Carnarvon and treated soldiers wounded in Flanders in September 1914. The Castle became a private home again in 1922. The Castle was used once more in the Second World War as a home for evacuated children from London.
Today the 8th Earl and Countess of Carnarvon live for part of the year in the Castle and the remainder of the time in a nearby home.

Highclere Castle LibraryHighclere Castle Library

Only the ground floor rooms are in use at the present time and these include the Foyer, Saloon, Library (which contains almost 6000 books, some of which date back to the 16th Century), Music Room, Smoking Room, Drawing Room and Dining Room (in which hangs Van Dyck’s painting of Charles I)

charles-iCharles I by Van Dyck

There are 11 bedrooms on the first floor of Highclere Castle with approximately 60 bedrooms on the upper floors.

It is hoped that the success of Downton Abbey will help bring the public’s attention to the often sorry plight of Britain’s stately homes. The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings is fighting to save historic and listed buildings from decay, demolition and destruction. Web site www.spab.org.uk

A portion of the proceeds of every copy of this author’s book COTSWOLDS MEMOIR: Discovering a Beautiful Region of Britain on a Quest to Buy a 17th Century Cottage is donated to Cotswold conservation institutions.

Available on
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   amazon