Sarah opened our meeting, gave apologies for absence and welcomed visitors. Subcriptions are due in April, £44 in cash, if possible, in a named envelope. 4 of our members will be attending the Spring Council Meeting. Heather and Sue were thanked for their work producing the new programme. Linda advised that the Romsey Area Produce meeting needs new organisers and if nobody volunteers, any money left in their funds will be donated to Romsey Food Bank.
There is to be a Hampshire Calendar Competition. Photos of Hampshire Heritage should be given to Linda by the end of the year. There is to be a quiz and volunteers please speak to Linda by 15th April. Finally, a form indicating interest in visits was circulated.
Sarah introduced our speaker, Bronda Dossett whose subject was ‘Tales from Downton Abbey’. She began by telling us about Julian Fellows who wrote the series and made the point that his story lines had a lot in common with the real life of Highclere Castle. The contrast of life upstairs, with very little to do other than change clothes and the 16-hour day of the junior staff, who rose at 4.30am to clean and scrub often with caustic solutions and bare hands, could not have been greater. We were shown tiny gloves, miniature handbags and underwear used by the ladies and some pots and pans, which were polished by the staff!
Filming of ‘Downton’ was split between Highclere and Ealing Studios, which, while making life simpler in some ways, caused problems with continuity. For example, a meal prepared in Ealing and served in Highclere could be filmed many days apart so attention to detail was vital. 250 costumes were made and 1000 wigs were used during the series, including corsets and stiff collars which were pretty uncomfortable!
The 5th Earl of Carnarvon lived the high life and liked fast cars and was once seen speeding at 25 mph but failed to stop for the police! He had other estates around England but was not good at managing his money and built up a debt of £150,000! His solution was to marry a rich wife and Almira, the goddaughter of Alfred Rothschild fitted the bill. The Earl lived in Egypt during the winter, where he met Howard Carter and funded his exploration. Later when the tomb of Tutankhamun was discovered rumours of a curse began – but that`s another story!
Highclere was used as a hospital during the war, played host to the Prince of Wales for 3 days at a cost of £360,000 and held lavish, formal dinner parties. It all took its toll! The 7th Earl who was 24 with no estate management experience. had to sell lots of his property and cut down on staff to pay death duties. He decided to keep the horses and ran a successful stud. A descendant of his is still the Queen`s racing manager and she makes frequent visits to Highclere.
Sarah gave a vote of thanks to Bronda and the meeting ended with coffee and a raffle.