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Home > New Search > Highclere Castle (Highclere House) (High Clere)

Highclere Castle (Highclere House) (High Clere)  England 
Newbury, West Berkshire, England

Circa Date: 1839-49 rebuild around earlier core

Status: Fully Extant

Special Info / Location/ Date

Special Info
Phonetic Pronunciation of House Name

District Today
West Berkshire
 Historic County
 City / Town / Village

Start Date
Completion Date
Circa Date
1839-49 rebuild around earlier core

Approach to House

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Approach to House
Rear Façade
Side Façade
Jackdaw's Castle Folly
Tinted lithograph from Burke's Visitation of Seats, 1852

Designed   Follies, including Milford Lake House, the Ionic Temple, Heaven's Gate, and Jackday's Castle for his brother, Robert Herbert.
Date   Mid-18th century

Designed   Remodeled exterior of House in Ionic Greek style for 2nd Earl of Carnarvon; upon the 2nd Earl's death Hopper was dismissed and the 3rd Earl engaged Charles Barry, who removed all evidence of Hopper's work.
Date   1833

Designed   Completed House interiors for 4th Earl of Carnarvon
Date   1860s

Designed   Remodeled and rebuilt House for 3rd Earl of Carnarvon
Date   1839-49

Designed   Park for 1st Earl of Carnarvon
Date   1774-77

Extant / Listed / References

Extant Type
Fully Extant
Extant Details

House Listed As 
Grade I
Gardens Listed As  
Not Listed
Country House:  Yes

Vitruvius Britannicus
Vitruvius Scoticus
J.B. Burke (Burke's Visitation of Seats)
Vol. I, p. 1, 1852.
Country Life
CXXVI, 18 plan, 1959. Jun 30, 1988.
J.P. Neale (Neale's Views of Seats)
Access / Ownership / Seat

Open to Public Please note: Houses listed as being open "By Appointment" are usually country house hotels, B&Bs, or schools.
Historic Houses Association Member
Phone Number If calling from the U.S., delete the first "0" in British numbers.
Fax Number
Voted number 9 in the Top 10 Regal Wedding Venues in the UK in 2011 by "The Times."

Current Ownership
Current Ownership Type
Individual / Family Trust
Primary Current Ownership Use
Private Home
Current Ownership Use / Details

Seat ("Seat" is loosely defined as any family that occupied the house for a period of 2 years or more)
Today Seat of
Earl of Carnarvon, Herbert family.
A Past Seat(s) of
Possible (Unsure) Seat of
History / Gardens & Park / Movies

Earlier House(s) / Building(s)
The current house incorporates the 18th century Highclere House, whose foundations sit on the medieval palace of the Bishops of Winchester, who owned the Estate from the 8th century.
House Replaced By
Built / Designed For
Rebuilt for the 3rd Earl of Carnarvon
House & Family History
Upon his death in 1692 Sir Robert Sawyer bequeathed Highclere to his only daughter, Margaret. Her second son, The Hon. Robert Sawyer Herbert (1693-1769, younger brother of the 9th Earl of Pembroke), inherited the Highclere Estate, laid out the grounds, and began its picture collection. In the 18th century his nephew and heir, Henry Herbert, was created Baron Porchester and 1st Earl of Carnarvon by George III. Between 1839 and 1849 the square, Georgian Highclere House was remodeled and rebuilt as Highclere Castle for the 3rd Earl of Carnarvon by Sir Charles Barry in his High Elizabethan style (Barry was building the Houses of Parliament at the same time and it's very likely that the design for Highclere was influenced by the famous palace on the Thames). The external walls, faced in Bath stone, are decorated with many features of Renaissance architecture, while the Great Hall is modeled on an Italian Renaissance central courtyard, with a dash of Elizabethan architectural elements. The 5th Earl of Carnarvon famously financed the expedition to Egypt that discovered the tomb of Tutankhamen, the richest archeology discovery in history. On November 26, 1922 the Earl and Howard Carter first uncovered the steps leading down to the tomb of the boy-Pharaoh. The Earl of Carnarvon was first intrigued by archaeology as a small boy when he went digging around the Park at Highclere, an area even today extraordinarily rich with the evidence of early man. Later the 5th Earl was sent to Egypt to recover after a serious auto accident, and, during his time there, discovered a new fascination: the relics of the past. He funded and participated in excavations in Egypt beginning in 1907, when he was 41, until his death in 1923. Ironically, Lord Carnarvon died without having set his eyes on the ancient king with whom his name will always be linked; only four months after discovering the entrance to Tut’s tomb the Earl cut a mosquito bite with his razor while shaving; the wound become septic and blood poisoning set in. The Earl died in Cairo on April 5, 1923 from pneumonia (brought on by the blood poisoning), thus setting in motion the myth of the Curse of the Mummy, which, in fact, has no basis in fact. The 5th Earl’s grandson, the late 7th Earl, was Queen Elizabeth's Horseracing Manager (in 1902 the 5th Earl established Highclere Stud to breed thoroughbred racehorses and in 1905 he was appointed one of the Stewards at the new Newbury Racecourse near Highclere). There was a glorious victory in June 1974 when the Queen’s filly “Highclere” won the Prix de Diane (The French Oaks) at Chantilly. In the 21st century Highclere has become internationally famous as Downton Abbey in the TV series of the same name.
Collections This field lists art objects that are currently or were previously in the collection of the house.

For information on the history of British currency, click here.  To use a chart that allows you to compare the purchasing power of money In Great Britain from 1264 to any other year, including the present, click here.  To use a currency conversion to see the current value of the British pound, click here.
Highclere contains a collection of the 5th Earl of Carnarvon’s treasures from his discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamen, some of which were only rediscovered in the House in 1987. Highclere also contains Napoleon’s desk and chair from St. Helena. Lady Evelyn Stanhope, daughter of the 6th Earl of Chesterfield, married the 4th Earl of Carnarvon and brought substantial collections and property from Chesterfield House to Highclere. Lord Chesterfield’s silver was sold at Sotheby’s on February 4, 1988 for £561,682.

Gardens & Park
Garden, Park, Follies and Outbuildings
The Hon. Robert Herbert very likely engaged his architect brother, the 9th Earl of Pembroke, to design a number of follies and garden buildings at Highclere. These include Milford Lake House, a Palladian style building considered by Howard Colvin the most important of Pembroke’s work at Highclere; the Ionic Temple (also known as the Temple of Diana, probably built in the second half of the 18th century and remodeled by Sir Charles Barry in the 19th century); Jackdaw’s Castle of circa 1740, which includes Corinthian columns salvaged from the first Devonshire House, London (burned in 1733); and Heaven's Gate, an eye-catcher of 1731 built on Sidown Hill that collapsed in the 18th century. Its fall was witnessed and recorded by the Rev. J. Milles, who wrote “we had not been there above half an hour before we saw it cleave from ye foundations and it fell with such a noise yet was heard at three or four miles distant.” Between 1774 and 1777 Lancelot ''Capability'' Brown laid out the Park for the 1st Earl of Carnarvon, moving the village in the process (the remains of the church of 1689 are at the southwest corner of the House). The great Cedar of Lebanon trees on the Estate were grown from seeds brought from Lebanon by the famous 18th century seed collector Bishop Stephen Pococke. The hybrid holly Ilex x altaclerensis (Highclere Holly) was developed here circa 1835 by hybridizing the Madeiran Ilex perado (grown in a greenhouse) with the local native Ilex aquifolium.
Chapel & Church

Location for Movies / TV
"The Secret Garden" (1987 - TV movie). "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves" (1991). "Duel of Hearts" (1991 - TV, as Belgrave Manor). "King Ralph" (1991 - as the exterior of Lord Graves's [John Hurt’s] house). "Jeeves and Wooster" (TV series - as Totleigh Towers in the 1991 episodes "Jeeves Saves the Cow Creamer" [aka "The Silver Jug"] and "A Plan for Gussie" [aka "The Bassett's Fancy Dress Ball"] and in the 1992 episode "Hot Off the Press" [aka "Sir Watkyn Bassett's Memoirs"] and in the 1993 episodes "Trouble at Totleigh Towers" [aka "Totleigh Towers"] and "The Ties That Bind" [aka "The Ex's Are Nearly Married Off"]). "A Sense of History" (1992 - TV short). "Eyes Wide Shut" (1999). "Miss Marple: 4.50 From Paddington" [aka "Marple: What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw"] (2004 - TV series, as interior -- Great Hall only -- of Rutherford Hall). "Stately Suppers" (2005 - TV documentary, one of 10 half-hour episodes). "Downton Abbey" (2010-15 - TV series, as Downton Abbey).

Author   Colvin, Howard
Year Published   1995
Reference   pgs. 104, 491, 515

Author   Sayer, Michael
Year Published   1993

There are no documents associated with this house.

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