The Washington Times-Herald

January 10, 2013

'Downton Abbey' castle subject of library talk

By Nate Smith
Washington Times Herald

WASHINGTON — “Downton Abbey,” the hit British television series, has also made it big in the United States with its interwoven storylines of the Crawley family and its servants at the stately country manor.

The series, which started its third season on PBS last Sunday, has many local admirers waiting to see what will happen to the house and the inheritances of the next Earl of Grantham.

Not only the characters have become admired, but the house itself has taken on a life of its own. But the real house, Highclere Castle, is nowhere near Manchester, England, but a short train ride from London.

Carnegie Public Library’s Rick Chambon, a Downton fan, visited the castle last year with his partner Jeff Gumbel. The two have prepared a multimedia presentation of their experience, set for 6:30 p.m. Monday at the library, 300 W. Main St.

The men visited Highclere Castle, which is 50 miles outside London, last September. And like many have seen during the show, the castle is beyond words.

“The setting is spectacular,” Chambon said. “The road into the castle winds for about a mile. It is set up on a plateau, hence the name, Highclere.”

The house is an actual estate, according to Highclere Castle’s own website and home to an actual lord, the Carnavons. Since the series premiered and its popularity boomed, the castle has started taking visitors along the rooms and grounds where the show is filmed.

“You walk in and see something that was on television and the size and details are so much more rich,” Chambon said.

But the history of Highclere is more than just the set of “Downton Abbey.” It has stories all its own. Chambon will spend some time talking about the history of the castle, from its library to the family’s support of the first King Tut exhibition.

“We’re going to focus on the Carnovan family and the events that went on there,” Chambon said. “We will go through the principal public rooms and the grounds, some of the support areas for Highclere. It will be interesting.”

Chambon, like many, has been drawn to the WWI-era drama written by Julian Fellowes due to its interaction between the high-class Crawleys and the servants who keep Downton going. There is also the drama of who will be the next Lord Grantham and will the house continue.

“First of all, Lord Fellowes has written a remarkable script and has a tremendous cast,” Chambon said. “It’s an era that is now gone, but it’s still fairly recent.”

Chambon said response to the presentation has been well received. Preregistration is suggested if one plans to attend. Please call the library at 254-4586 to register. Refreshments will be served.