In­side the real Down­ton Abbey

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & In­dul­gence -

There are por­traits by Joshua Reynolds, a loom­ing Van Dyk mas­ter­piece in the din­ing room, and ren­der­ings of blood­ied swans and pea­cocks. Young earls in wait­ing, painted in silk suits and lace col­lars, sur­vey the whole af­fair with tight, se­ri­ous faces.

In the dou­ble-room li­brary, ped­i­mented book­cases house more than 5600 vol­umes and on dis­play are myr­iad pho­tos of the royal fam­ily on ca­sual vis­its to High­clere. This vast cham­ber is where Down­ton Abbey’s Earl of Gran­tham dis­cusses the work­ings of the house with his head but­ler. A ran­dom peek at one book­shelf re­veals aris­to­cratic sport­ing tomes with ti­tles such as The Art of Wild­fowl­ing, Fa­mous Fox Hunters and Letters to Young Shoot­ers.

In the men’s smok­ing room, with its worn leather lounge suite and faded tan­ger­ine walls, the ceil­ing has al­ways been plainly painted, a room at­ten­dant tells me, be­cause of the dam­ag­ing ef­fects of nico­tine as the gen­tle­men with­drew after din­ner to puff away and waf­fle over whiskies. By con­trast, the airy draw­ing room, pre­serve of the ladies, is lined with French spring green silk and fea­tures dis­plays of 18th-cen­tury bird-pat­terned Meis­sen china.

It’s easy to imag­ine Mag­gie Smith, who plays Vi­o­let, Dowa­ger Count­ess of Gran­tham, sit­ting up­right in the chintzy morn­ing room, for­ever on the verge of a bit­ing com­ment. Cer­tain piv­otal scenes take place in the bed­rooms off the first-floor gallery. Ap­par­ently many Down­ton Abbey fans want to see ‘‘the red one’’ (the rose­c­oloured Stan­hope Bed­room) in which the fetch­ing Turk­ish diplo­mat Mr Pamuk’s body is laid out after his heart at­tack while tryst­ing in Lady Mary’s bed.

The Mer­cia Bed­room, one of four linked cham­bers along the south side of the house, is per­haps the pret­ti­est (used by Cora, the Count­ess of Gran­tham, in Down­ton Abbey) but the Carnar­vons pre­fer the front­fac­ing Her­bert Bed­room, which is linked to the li­brary be­low by a spi­ral stair­case; shoes, make-up and bed­side books are in ev­i­dence (Lady Carnar­von ap­pears to be read­ing Jane Austen).

The gar­dens, spread across more than 400ha, are a de­light, with wild­flower mead­ows, yewarched walk­ways, an av­enue of beeches, and plant­ings of figs and crabap­ples. A folly on the east lawn makes a lovely van­tage point to sur­vey the park, de­signed in 1774 by Ca­pa­bil­ity Brown with his trade­mark un­in­ter­rupted vis­tas.

Clearly the Carnar­vons are grate­ful to fam­ily friend Ju­lian Fel­lowes, cre­ator of Down­ton

Lord and Lady Carnar­von

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.