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Meet the Real Owners of Downton Abbey

Discover Highclere, One of the Most Famous Castles in England

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“Highclere is a jewel and a beacon in the area.”
—George Herbert, 8th Earl of Carnarvon

Highclere, famously known as the setting of the celebrated British series Downton Abbey and its latest feature film, Downton Abbey: New Era, is a perfect harmony of natural and man-made creation, covering 5,000 acres among majestic woodlands and arable lands. It’s also one of the most popular castles in England.

Rich arable lands and magnificent woodlands make up Highclere’s 5,000 acres.

“Highclere is a jewel and a beacon in the area,” says owner George Herbert, 8th Earl of Carnarvon and godson of Queen Elizabeth II.

The Carnarvons have stewarded the estate since 1679 when Sir Robert Sawyer, the ancestor of the current Earl of Carnarvon, purchased the Highclere Place House. In 1842, the home was redesigned into the present-day Highclere Castle by Sir Richard Barry, the architect of the Houses of Parliament.

“We’ve been in business here now for 1300 years. We’ve gone up and down, but you know what, we’re still here,” Fiona, the 8th Countess of Carnarvon says.

George and Fiona Herbert, 8th Earl and Countess of Carnarvon stand in front of their home, Highclere Castle, the setting of Downton Abbey, and one of the most famous castles in England.

A culture of kinship

With Downton Abbey’s 200 million fans worldwide, using Highclere as the show’s setting turned out to be a wise choice for the production team, yet the decision wasn’t so straightforward at first.

“They looked all around the country at many other places and took a long time to make their mind up whether they wanted to come here,” says Lord Carnarvon.

“This was a bold venture because it was just after Lehman Brothers and the banking crisis …. No one had any idea that [Downtown Abbey] was going to be quite the success that it was.”

Order the Magnifissance print edition to read the full story.

This story is from Magnifissance Issue 112

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