Highclere Castle and Sandham Memorial Chapel – Monday 9th April 2018

Well known as Downton Abbey from the TV series, Highclere Castle, home of the Earls of Carnarvon, also has an exhibition about the discovery of the Tomb of Tutankhamun. Nearby Sandham Memorial Chapel houses Sir Stanley Spencer’s powerfully evocative murals of WW1.

(A report on the visit can be seen here.)

The present site of Highclere Castle  was previously occupied by a mediaeval palace and then a Tudor brick-built house before conversion to a Georgian mansion in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries. But the present appearance is the result of the 3rd Earl giving the commission in 1838 to Sir Charles Barry, who famously designed the Houses of Parliament, to produce a grand mansion.  The transformation internally and externally was completed in 1878.

Our visit will enable us to see not only the main state rooms but also the upstairs bedrooms and the downstairs kitchen and other servants areas. We shall be free to visit the castle individually at our own pace. There are guides in all the rooms. There will also be time to explore the extensive grounds, with parkland designed by ‘Capability’ Brown, and gardens.

At our February lecture we will hear about the Tomb of Tutankhamun, discovered in 1922 by the 5th Earl and Howard Carter. To complement the lecture, we will be able to visit the Egyptian Exhibition at Highclere which tells the story of the discovery and exhibits many objects retained in the Earl’s personal possession as well as replicas and photographs of some of the finds that amazed the world.

The Castle has cafés where we will be able to get morning coffee or tea and lunch….. and a gift shop.

On our way home in the afternoon, we will stop off at nearby Sandham Memorial Chapel for a talk and visit  to this Grade 1 listed chapel. It contains a series of 19 paintings by Sir Stanley Spencer, inspired by his personal experiences during the First World War. The chapel and Spencer’s paintings were commissioned in 1923 by Mary and Louis Behrend (1881–1972) as a memorial to Mary’s brother, Lieutenant Henry Willoughby Sandham who died at the end of the War. The paintings were completed in 1932. Recording every day routine rather than combat, they are perhaps Spencer’s most important work.