This time last year, Highclere Castle was just another struggling English family home with the usual 5,000-acre estate, 50-plus bedrooms, portraits by Van Dyck, Victorian gothic design by Charles Barry (who also did the Houses of Parliament), towers, follies, tapestries, heraldic shields and attached museum of Egyptian artefacts from Tutankhamun’s tomb. And the usual collapsing roofs and millions of pounds worth of debts.
But what a difference a popular, prime-time, period drama series can make. Today the house is the most famous stately home in the world – known as Downton Abbey – with a future perhaps more secure than at any time in its 450-year existence.
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