Life is Just a Bowl of (Cotswolds) Cherries………
It’s fresh cherry season in the Cotswolds right now so don’t miss out – it doesn’t last long.
My husband Randall Montgomery who takes all the lovely photos in my book
Cotswolds Memoir (on Amazon) and on my web site makes just one pie a year – and he
waits for the Cotswolds cherries which are particularly juicy and flavourful.
Here’s the recipe for this delicious cherry pie.
2 Pre-made Shortcrust Pastry Shells
2 lbs Freshly picked cherries (Cotswolds Cherries if possible)
2 tbls Brown Sugar
1 Egg-white beaten with a tsp of water
Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees F (150 C or gas mark 2)
Pit the Cherries, place in a saucepan sprinkle with Brown Sugar, stir,
cover and stew on low heat for 20 minutes stirring occasionally
While the cherry mixture is cooking, roll out one Shortcrust Pastry Shell and place in 9″ pie pan
Prick the bottom of the shell with a fork and Bake for 20 Minutes
While the bottom shell is baking roll out the second Shortcrust Pastry to the thickness of a 10p coin and
with a pizza wheel or sharp knife cut the Pastry in 3/4″ strips 10″-12″ long
After baking, remove the first crust from the oven and use a slotted spoon to spoon the cherries into it
reserving the excess juice to use later (possibly as an ice cream topping)
(for decoration reserve one particularly large cherry to place on the top of the pie)
Now brush the egg mixture around the edge of the bottom crust and
use the strips of the second rolled out pastry to form a lattice work top as per this video below:
HOW TO WEAVE LATTICE PASTRY
Brush on more of the egg mixture, coating the top of the pie and sprinkle with Brown Sugar
Place in the oven and bake for an additional 30-40 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown
Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries
Ethel Merman introduced this song in George White’s Scandals of 1931.
Rudy Vallee‘s version, recorded it in 1931, stayed five weeks in the top 10 pop music charts.
Life is just a bowl of cherries
Don’t take it serious,
Life’s too mysterious
You worry so
But you can’t take your dough
When you go, go, go
So keep repeating “It’s the berries.”
The strongest oak must fall
The sweet things in life
To you were just loaned
So how can you lose
What you’ve never owned
Life is just a bowl of cherries
So live and laugh, aha!
Laugh and love
Live and laugh,
Laugh and love,
Live and laugh at it all!
Lady Grantham (Elizabeth McGovern) and Lady Rose (Lily James)
Downton Abbey paints a fascinating picture of a royal presentation at court in Episode 4 of the series. The purpose of this event was for the upper class debutantes and eligible bachelors to meet and make suitable marriages.
King George V and Queen Mary King George V (Guy Williams) & Queen Mary (uncredited)
In Downton Abbey Lady Rose is presented to George V and Queen Mary. A very deep curtsey was required by a debutante as the presentation is made. Debutantes were advised to practice their curtsey and many were nervous about getting it right. Various disasters were reported with Debutantes either tumbling over or being unable to rise after the curtsey without the aid of a hastily summoned courtier.
Lady Rose being presented at court
At the presentation a debutante would be announced to the King and Queen and after a curtsey would make her exit, stepping away from the Royals without turning around, in order not show her back.
A court presentation signaled the beginning of the social season in Britain and Debutantes were required to have a sponsor. It was mandatory that this sponsor be someone who had already been presented to the King and Queen.
Linnie Irwin Sweeney, left, and her daughter Elsie Irwin Sweeney being presented at court in 1923
Court dress followed prescribed tradition, with most girls wearing white evening dresses, although pastel shades where also in order. Three ostrich feathers attached to a veil adorned the debutante’s hair and pearls and jewelry borrowed from family heirlooms were traditionally worn.
Debutantes were chaperoned at dances by any female member of the family who could be induced to volunteer. Many a great-aunt would fall asleep in the small gilt chairs that were provided at these formal balls while the Debutante in her charge would often secretly slip away unnoticed to a nightclub. To many a young girl this would be a far more exciting prospect than a society ball.
King George V
A Sovereign presentation was designed to show off a Debutante as she entered society for the first time and to keep her selection of a husband confined to an elite, upper class circle. There was a lot of pressure on Debutantes to find their future husband at the various balls and entertainments during the first season of her presentation. But sometimes this was not possible and a second or even third season was needed to accomplish this goal.
In addition to the balls there were many other chances for Debutantes to meet a suitable prospective husband such as polo matches, Royal Ascot, tea parties, Thé Dansant and a Debutant’s own coming out party. This festivity was sometimes shared with a sister or cousin to defray expenses.
Court presentations were removed from the court calendar in 1958 by Queen Elizabeth II, and attempts by society to continue them without royal patronage were unsuccessful.
This little bit of history portrayed so charmingly in these scenes in Downton Abbey are all the more interesting because, as mentioned, the ritual of court presentation is now no more.
by Diz White author of
A portion of the proceeds of every copy of COTSWOLDS MEMOIR: is donated to Cotswold conservation institutions. Available on
The royal gigolo: Edwina Mountbatten sued over claims of an affair with black singer Paul Robeson. But the truth was even more outrageous…
This was an episode in the London High Court that astonished even experienced members of the Bar.
The Lord Chief Justice’s court opened its doors at the unprecedented hour of 9.30am on that July day in 1932 to enable an earth-shakingly intimate and sensational libel action to be heard – in effect, in camera – before newspaper reporters even got to hear that it was happening
The plaintiff in the action was Britain’s richest and most publicised heiress, the bisexual Lady Louis Mountbatten, afterwards Countess Mountbatten of Burma and the last Vicereine of India.
Destructive affair: Countess Mountbatten and entertainer Leslie ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson
Sitting beside her was her handsome sailor husband, the equally bisexual Lord Louis, uncle of Prince Philip, cousin of the King, great-grandson of Queen Victoria, the future last Viceroy and first Governor General of India, First Sea Lord and finally Chief of the Defence Staff.
Dickie and Edwina Mountbatten – whose ten-year-old ‘open marriage’ had been the subject of feverish gossip and barely suppressed scandal ever since it had begun – had been summoned urgently home from his latest naval posting in Malta and forced by Buckingham Palace into reluctantly issuing libel proceedings against the gossip columnist of ‘that vulgar socialist Sunday paper, The People’, as Mountbatten called it.
Seven weeks earlier, the paper had alleged ‘a scandal which has shaken society to the very depths. It concerns one of the leading hostesses in the country – a woman highly connected and immensely rich.
‘Her association with a coloured man became so marked that they were the talk of the West End. Then one day the couple were caught in compromising circumstances.
‘The sequel is that the society woman has been given hints to clear out of England for a couple of years to let the affair blow over and the hint comes from a quarter which cannot be ignored’.
Mayfair gossips lost no time in identifying the woman in question as Edwina Mountbatten.
When King George V saw the article, he ordered the Mountbattens to return to London immediately, and to sue for libel, in order to clear the Royal Family of the allegation that Edwina had been exiled from Britain on the orders of the Palace, and Edwina from the suggestion that she had a black lover.
Cables from Buckingham Palace rained down upon the Mountbattens. ‘Coded messages galore,’ wrote Edwina, ‘and really nearly going mad (three months’ gossip to the effect that I had been exiled from England for two years as a result of my association with a coloured man whom I have never even met!!!!’)
Scandal: Countess Mountbatten sued The People newspaper over claims she had an affair with singer Paul Robeson
The man widely identified as her lover was the American actor and singer Paul Robeson. ‘It is most incredible,’ wrote Robeson’s wife, Essie, ‘that people should be linking Paul’s name with that of a famous titled Englishwoman, since she is just about the one person in England we don’t know.’
So, if not Robeson, who was it? According to a startling new C4 television documentary, Edwina’s lover was, in fact, the sleek, sophisticated and – according to legend – sensationally well-endowed West Indian cabaret singer and pianist, Leslie ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson.
Among the many amazing claims put forward in the documentary is the suggestion that Edwina commissioned Cartier to design a diamond-encrusted penis sheath for Hutch.
It is further alleged that the ‘compromising circumstances’ referred to in The People article concerned Hutch and Edwina becoming inextricably locked together sexually through a rare medical phenomenon known as vaginismus – which led to them being taken in flagrante delicto from the Mountbatten residence, Brook House in Park Lane, to a private hospital where doctors separated them.
Even allowing for Edwina’s lifelong reputation for promiscuity, can such outlandish claims possibly be true?
According to her official biographer, Dr Janet Morgan (in private life, Lady Balfour of Burleigh), the story is ‘piffle’.
But should we believe Dr Morgan? After all, she was recommended as official biographer to Edwina’s daughters (the present Countess Mountbatten and Lady Pamela Hicks) by their father’s official biographer, Philip Ziegler, whose 1985 study of Mountbatten blandly ignores all pointers to its subject’s own wild sexual antics.
Both official biographies – of the Countess and Mountbatten himself – are Establishment-friendly, and both deliberately omit clear evidence, in Mountbatten’s own handwriting, of his extra-marital interest in the reigning society beauty of the day, Margaret Whigham, afterwards the notorious and sexually licentious Duchess of Argyll.
The TV documentary offers compelling evidence that Edwina’s activities with Hutch became increasingly brazen, and were bitterly resented by her husband.
Yet he sat beside her in court to hear Norman Birkett, one of the greatest advocates of the day, telling the judge: ‘It is not too much to say that it [The People article] is the most monstrous and most atrocious libel of which I have ever heard.’
Both Mountbattens went into the witness box, Edwina to state on oath that she had never in her life met the man referred to in all the gossip (Robeson), and Dickie to swear that his wife was never exiled on the orders of Buckingham Palace – the only reason for her presence in Malta was because he was serving there as an officer in the Royal Navy.
The People, which had spent the staggering sum (for those days) of £25,000, trying to find evidence to support its story, failed to come up with a viable defence, leaving its barrister, Sir Patrick Hastings, to make a grovelling apology – ‘genuine and deep regrets’ – on behalf of the newspaper’s owners.
Screen sirens: Leslie Hutchinson added Tallulah Bankhead (left) and Merle Oberon to his conquests
Edwina, awarded full costs, declined damages. That evening, the Mountbattens gave a celebration party at the Cafe de Paris.
On the following day, in a display of royal solidarity, they were invited to lunch at Buckingham Palace by the King and Queen. A few days later, Edward Prince of Wales, who had been best man at their wedding, gave a party for them at York House.
Edwina, freed from the threat of social disgrace, and the exposure of the sham that her marriage had become, calmly went back to the black lover The People had failed to identify.
Leslie Arthur Julien Hutchinson was born on March 7, 1900, in Gouyave, a small fishing village on the island of Grenada. His parents saved hard to send him to the best local school and he became something of a child prodigy at the piano.
When he was 14, his father swept him off to a brothel, an experience which his biographer, Charlotte Breese, believes ‘frightened and distressed him: he lost something more important than he gained – his childhood innocence’.
At 16, his parents paid to send him to medical school in America, but he ditched his studies and headed straight for Harlem, capital of the jazz scene, where he married a black Anglo-Chinese girl, Ella Byrd, and fathered a daughter, Lesley.
His father cut off his allowance. For a while he was destitute, but not for long. His overpowering good looks impressed one of New York’s first families, the Vanderbilts, who scoured the art world for talent and introduced him to wealthy patrons of the jazz scene, where he soon made his name as a pianist alongside other jazz legends such as Fats Waller and Duke Ellington.
Arriving in Paris in 1924, and already flagrantly bisexual, he found a gay lover and patron in the composer Cole Porter, who wrote a hit song clearly based on Hutch’s character:
I should like you all to know
I’m a famous gigolo,
And of lavender my nature’s got just a dash in it…
Hutch found a gay lover and patron in the composer Cole Porter
The handsome West Indian stud now added screen sirens Tallulah Bankhead and Merle Oberon to his conquests. In London, where he arrived in 1927, the West End’s leading male matinee idol, Ivor Novello, also became his lover.
The biggest musical star of the day, Jessie Matthews, after a performance, heard Hutch singing to his own piano-playing in the orchestra pit one night. Transfixed by his melodious, dark velvet voice, she immediately urged him to become a solo cabaret performer.
Within a year, he had won recording contracts and had become a highlypaid headliner at top London nightspots the Cafe de Paris, the Cafe Anglais and Quaglino’s.
He bought a Rolls-Royce, a grand house in Hampstead, patronised London’s best tailors, spoke five or six languages and was on friendly terms with the Prince of Wales.
But he was still a black man in an era of racial discrimination. When he entertained at lavish Mayfair parties, his fee was large, but he was often obliged to go in by the servants’ entrance. This embittered him.
Evelyn Waugh satirised Hutch as the social-climbing upstart, Chokey, in his novel, Decline And Fall. ‘He’s just crazy to meet the aristocracy, aren’t you, my sweet?’
Replies Chokey: ‘I sure am that.’ Says Mrs Clutterbuck: ‘I think it’s an insult bringing a n***** here.’
The first scandal surrounding him came in 1930, when he made the debutante Elizabeth Corbett pregnant. Her father vowed vengeance and pursued Hutch through the courts.
Elizabeth managed to get a Guards officer to marry her. They had a society wedding in Sloane Square but she was already three months pregnant, and it was not until she was in labour that she warned her husband the baby might be black. He was appalled. The child was removed at birth and put up for adoption.
‘Open marriage’: Louis and Edwina Mountbatten
But the enduring scandal of Hutch’s life was his relationship with Edwina Mountbatten. A BBC producer, Bobby Jay, recalled their outrageous behaviour to Hutch’s biographer, Charlotte Breese: ‘I was at a grand party.
‘Edwina interrupted Hutch playing the piano. She kissed his neck and led him by the hand behind the closed doors of the dining-room. There was a shriek, and a few minutes later she returned, straightening her clothes.
‘Hutch seemed elated, and before he returned to the piano, told me that, with one thrust, he had flashed [propelled] her the length of the dining-room table.’
Although both had their liaisons, there can be no doubting the distress the affair caused Mountbatten. The reality was that he was unable to satisfy his sexually voracious wife.
Edwina showered costly keepsakes on Hutch: a jewelled gold cigarette case, a gold ring with her coat of arms engraved on the inside and a gold and diamond watch.
One night, a visibly distressed Mountbatten stumbled into Quaglino’s restaurant and told the bandleader, Van Straten: ‘I am lonely and sad and drunk. That n***** Hutch has a p**** like a tree-trunk, and he’s f****** my wife right now.’
Hutch was to pay a heavy price for the affair. After The People case, Buckingham Palace refused to have him on any Royal Command Performance bill, and Lord Beaverbrook gave orders that Hutch’s name was never to be mentioned again by any of his papers.
During World War II, Hutch was one of the first stars in Britain to volunteer his services to entertain the Forces, but he received no formal recognition for this and his name would never appear in any Honours list.
He added possibly two members of the Royal Family to the notches on his bed-post. One was the Queen’s aunt, Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent.
The other, allegedly, was Princess Margaret, with whom Charlotte Breese believes Hutch enjoyed a ‘brief liaison’ in 1955, when she was 25 and he was 55.
Hutch, pictured in 1954
His role in Edwina’s life was now over. During her years as Vicereine of India, she replaced Hutch with another deeply passionate relationship – with India’s first Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.
There are those who suspect that Nehru, like both Mountbattens, had bisexual tendencies, and that Dickie, possibly in a last, despairing attempt to maintain physical contact with his unresponsive wife, may have joined them in a bizarre menage a trois.
During the Sixties, the daughter of a BBC producer regularly watched Mountbatten entering a male brothel by the rear entrance in Grosvenor Mews, Belgravia.
In the late Seventies, before they succeeded in assassinating him, the IRA closely monitored Mountbatten’s involvement with teenage boys.
In 1958, Hutch’s wife, Ella – often mistaken by visitors to his Hampstead home as his housekeeper – died. He buried her in an unmarked pauper’s grave at a cost of £12. By that time, he had six children by different mothers, and was to father a seventh at the age of 64.
Edwina’s death in 1960 symbolised for Hutch the end of his golden days. The advent of The Beatles and of the disco era closed off most of his avenues of employment, and he was reduced at one point to performing at Butlin’s holiday camps in dates such as Skegness, or in end-of-the-pier shows where he was not top-billed.
In Weymouth, where, in 1944, he had entertained thousands of troops before the D-Day landings, he now played to a handful of people at the local theatre.
Drinking heavily, overweight, his face bloated and heavily made-up, his hair dyed, he was like a gargoyle of the once-beautiful black God who had conquered high society with his looks, his voice and his charm.
With his fortune squandered on gambling, he was forced to sell his house in 1967 for £13,037. Of this, £10,000 went to pay off his debts, leaving him just £3,000 out of the millions he had earned.
He moved into a tiny flat, where he sometimes attempted to cadge money from his teenage son, the singer Chris Hutchinson.
When, on August 18, 1969, now ‘ virtually penniless’, he died at the Royal Free Hospital, Hampstead, from ‘ overwhelming pneumonia’ at the age of 69, he left a mere £1,949 and no will. Only 42 mourners showed up at his funeral.
There was to be a bizarre epilogue. On the day of his burial, the undertakers, J.H. Kenyon, received a call from Lord Mountbatten offering to pay for Hutch’s grave and tombstone in Highgate Cemetery.
Was it a final gesture of revenge on his sexual rival? Or did Mountbatten wish to ensure that the man Edwina had loved, and who had taken her from him, had a suitable final resting place?
This article was written by MICHAEL THORNTON and appeared in
UPDATED: 15:40 EST, 14 November 2008
A Downton Day Out
A Tour of Bampton’s Downton Abbey Locations
Discovering a Beautiful Region of Britain
on a Quest to Buy a 17th Century Cottage
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 http://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.
Discovering a Beautiful Region of Britain
on a Quest to Buy a 17th Century Cottage
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
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.
Downton Abbey (Highclere Castle)
Discovering a Beautiful Region of Britain
on a Quest to Buy a 17th Century Cottage
Available on Amazon
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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