Highclere Castle is a country house in Hampshire, England built in the Jacobean style, it is surrounded by a 1,000-acre (400 ha) estate and park. It is also the main filming location for the British television period drama Downton Abbey.
Highclere Castle stands on the site of an earlier house, and was designed by Capability Brown. This was built on the foundations of the medieval palace of the Bishops of Winchester, who owned this estate from the 8th century. The original site was recorded in the Doomsday Book. Since 1679, the castle has been home to the Carnarvon family.
By 2009, the castle was in dire need of major repair, with only the ground and first floors remaining useable. Water damage had caused stonework to crumble and ceilings to collapse; at least 50 rooms were uninhabitable. Lord Carnarvon and his family were living in a "modest cottage in the grounds"; he said his ancestors were responsible for the castle's long term problems.
Lady Carnarvon, told the Daily Telegraph: ‘There are a few different ghosts here. We all know who they are. Some people see ghosts, some don’t, it doesn’t matter. ‘But a lot of people have lived here, and I think you can tell when something terribly upsetting has happened in a room.’
Shirley MacLaine the Oscar-winning Hollywood spiritualist, who plays Martha Levinson in the third season of Downton Abbey, noted that Highclere Castle had terrific 'energy'. “It was a fantastic experience; Highclere was haunted and pictures came off the wall,” MacLaine said. “The energy of the castle, grounds, (its) past and the hauntings was inspiring. I am very much into that stuff.” MacLaine added that a possible source of the castle’s supernatural energy may come from the time that King Tut’s tomb was once stored in the castle.
An ancestor of the modern-day Lord and Lady Carnarvon, the fifth Earl of Carnarvon, bankrolled the expeditions that discovered the tomb of Tutankhamen. Parts of the pharaoh’s tomb were transferred to Highclere after the Earl’s mysterious death from a mosquito bite just months after the discovery of Tut’s treasure. His sudden death in Egypt sparked the legend of the mummy’s curse.
Highclere Castle still has some of these centuries-old Egyptian relics, while in the basement are replicas of the contents of the tomb itself: a slice of Egyptian history transported to the depths of the English countryside.