Tales from the City- A house that’s not an Abbey- Downton Abbey.

Highclere Castle

Highclere Castle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was asked a few days ago, why is Downton Abbey called an abbey when it’s just an awfully big house? It is of course a fictional name for the great house in the beloved show, Downton Abbey.  But there are many old country houses called xxxxxAbbey. This Abbey naming of houses occurred in 1538  due to the Dissolution of the Monasteries Act. Shortly after the lands and buildings were sold to the wealthy. Many of the wealthy had their own little houses of prayer, and I imagine the naming of these houses was a tribute to their belief in God.  Most houses that have the name Abbey attached to it, were either once abbey’s, or were built on the site of abbeys, demolished or no longer in use.

Downton Abbey is actually Highclere Castle in Hampshire. It’s on the site of a former ecclesiastical property and was used by the bishops of Winchester in the 12th century. It does have a Monk’s Garden.

Westminster Abbey is another example of an Abbey that is no longer an abbey, as there are no monks living about the place, praying.

Really? How interesting…. Really, Carson, what is that woman talking about? Monks, Gardens, honestly…

Did I sound like the Dowager Countess?

What an ugly moniker.  Dowager, there is a Dowager hump which sounds awful. The word is just the title for a widow who now owns the property and behaves with the utmost dignity. In this case we have the beloved Maggie Smith portraying the Dowager Countess of Grantham. Perfection in casting! I adore Maggie Smith, and I am throughly enjoying this series.

One of my favourite bits of the show, is the introduction, the slow shot of  Lord Grantham and his golden lab walking up towards Downton Abbey. Apparently Pharaoh, played by Roly, had to be replaced as he did not get on with the dogs at Highclere during filming. Just what he did he get up to?

About susan sheldon nolen

It’s rare to catch me without coffee, a form of camera, or my beloved wire fox terriers. I love the history, the art, and it’s a massive part of my life, as I either paint, write, or get interrupted by my dogs, reminding me of the real world. I hope you enjoy your time here. It’s such a privilege to have readers.
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