In today’s post, Lady Carnarvon offers a behind-the-scenes account of what it’s like to open your home to a film crew—and the excitement and challenges that come along with it. Downton Abbey fans will love this revealing guest post, and Lady Carnarvon’s wonderful book.


Tune-in for the final episode of Season Two of Downton Abbey this Sunday, February 19th, 9:00 PM on PBS MASTERPIECE.  More features and behind-the-scenes info about the series can be found at You can also now add Season 2 to your DVD or Blu-ray collection here.


From Lady Carnarvon: Downton Abbey is filmed on and off at Highclere throughout the spring and summer months. The next series is about to begin the process all over again.


The second “War” series was a huge challenge for all of us, as Julian Fellowes writing the story and script, wanted visually to demonstrate the effect of the First World War on the house. It is widely known that Highclere Castle was transformed into a proper hospital with 30 nurses, a resident doctor, and surgeons on operating days to look after patients coming back form the front.  Julian decided to portray it as convalescent home.


During last summer I was writing about the “Real Downton Abbey”, the patients, the love and kindnesses, the loss and the aftermath. Lost in my books and devastating letters I would dive out of my sitting room in the heart of the Castle running straight into amputees,  nurses and soldiers from the fictional drama - I was obviously going in search of tea to calm my own spirits. It was utterly surreal. Occasionally I played the piano in the evening in the Drawing Room to silent bandaged patient dummies on the metal beds who at least couldn’t complain when I kept playing the same bars. I did prefer not to find them in the dark.


En route for tea one afternoon I found the crew wanted to pretend to move furniture around to clear the way for the arrival of patients. They had started to ask if they could move things but began to do it all wrong. There are often useful mnemonics to remember and in that case it is to remember you carry a chair by the bottom but a woman in your arms. It at least made them laugh nor did they forget how to move chairs.


Our dogs thoroughly enjoy the arrival of the Downton crew. The first source of amusement is the back packs which are part of the scene for the technical recces. The dogs quickly associated them with sandwiches, they might have been lunch for the owner but may well be a morning snack for an adroit Labrador or spaniel.  This is followed by the catering buses and then the waste food at the end of each day.


Highclere Castle has always had a reputation for superb cuisine and the best chefs - indeed I hope we serve excellent food today. I always felt sorry for all the Dining Room scenes in “Downton”, where the food is produced for camera first thing and sits here for ages whilst a scene is filmed. Almina Carnarvon, the 5th Countess, who ran the hospital served delicious food, home brewed beer, and whisky to such good effect that some of the patients wrote back to her later  saying they now in fact needed to go on a  diet. She felt that it was the whole treatment of body and soul that could aid a patient’s recovery. She rolled her sleeves up, gave her time, her smiles, and undoubtedly her money with complete generosity. I felt humbled to research about her, about someone who simply did all she could for other people – for complete strangers most of whom became friends and wrote that they owed their lives to her. What a legacy.



by Blogger Ellen_Scordato on ‎02-17-2012 11:35 AM

Perfect timing: I just decided to buy the 1st and 2nd seasons of Downton. What fun! Highclere is quite an edifice. It was in the TV version of Jeeves and Wooster and in King Ralph, as well. Plus the King Tut connection w/the 5th Earl. What a house! Looking forward to reading Lady Carnavon's view from the inside.

by Shamrockgirl62 on ‎02-20-2012 03:05 PM

I love Downton Abby, just started watching and am catching up with older episodes on my wonderful NOOK tablet.  I love this blog it's great.  Keep it up.

About Unabashedly Bookish: The BN Community Blog
Unabashedly Bookish features new articles every day from the Book Clubs staff, guest authors, and friends on hot topics in the world of books, language, writing, and publishing. From trends in the publishing business to updates on genre fiction fan communities, from fun lessons on grammar to reflections on literature in our personal lives, this blog is the best source for your daily dose of all things bookish.


Since 1997, you’ve been coming to to discuss everything from Stephen King to writing to Harry Potter. You’ve made our site more than a place to discover your next book: you’ve made it a community. But like all things internet, is growing and changing. We've said goodbye to our community message boards—but that doesn’t mean we won’t still be a place for adventurous readers to connect and discover.

Now, you can explore the most exciting new titles (and remember the classics) at the Barnes & Noble Book Blog. Check out conversations with authors like Jeff VanderMeer and Gary Shteyngart at the B&N Review, and browse write-ups of the best in literary fiction. Come to our Facebook page to weigh in on what it means to be a book nerd. Browse digital deals on the NOOK blog, tweet about books with us,or self-publish your latest novella with NOOK Press. And for those of you looking for support for your NOOK, the NOOK Support Forums will still be here.

We will continue to provide you with books that make you turn pages well past midnight, discover new worlds, and reunite with old friends. And we hope that you’ll continue to tell us how you’re doing, what you’re reading, and what books mean to you.