Tag Archives: Downton Abbey

The real Downton Abbey

Every fan of ITV’s Downton Abbey will know that is filmed at Highclere Castle in Hampshire, the ancestral home of the Earls of Carnarvon. The third Earl built the present Castle, but it was his son, the fourth Earl (1831 – 90), who in his second term as a Tory Secretary of State for the Colonies achieved notoriety as the man who, through his policies of the enforced confederation of South Africa, indirectly caused the Boer Wars.

Earl of Carnarvon ('Twitters')

Carnarvon was clearly not a man to be trifled with. In January 1864 he had a number of fliers printed and circulated to his neighbours, informing them that 'the want of definite regulations for  admission to or through' his park had obliged him to revise the 'rules'. One of those who received a flier* was the Rector of Highclere, Philip Menzies Sankey, a graduate of Oxford who claimed among his friends, the influential proto-aesthete, Walter Pater. Presumably Rev. Sankey had been obliged to traverse the park in order to get to his church and so a copy of the new 'rules' that governed access would have been useful. Unfortunately, Sankey’s copy of the amended rules, together with his pass-card, which were originally included with the flier, are now missing, which means that we don’t know what these new rules were. However,  I’m sure that 'Twitters', Carnarvon’s nickname on account of his various nervous tics, was scrupulously fair to his neighbours.

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