With Christmas basically here, the Downton Abbey festive special is already causing us fans excitement. The return of the Crawleys and the confirmed appearance of George Clooney, means the Edwardian favourite will be top of the Christmas TV Schedule this year.
If the festive trailer teasers are anything to go by, spending Christmas at Downton would be a dream come true for most of us. But while it may look idyllic, we started to think about how much we’d be spending each year to maintain the real Downton Abbey – Highclere Castle where the drama is filmed.
Highclere Castle is worth an estimated £72m. Including grounds, it has over 300 rooms, 60 of which are bedrooms and are all maintained by a staff of 70. The castle is built on 1,000 acres of parkland, so as you can imagine there is a lot of maintenance and that won’t come cheap.
Estimated Annual Maintenance Costs:
- Energy bills – £85,000+
- Water – £10,022.13 (Based on 32 characters that live in Downton Abbey, not including garden maintenance costs)
- Staff – £383,400
- Maintenance – £65,000
Totalling – £543,422
With lots of rooms to heat, it’s not surprising that energy costs are one of the highest outgoings for maintaining a stately home. Double glazing is not an option in Grade 1 listed buildings. Consequently Highclere’s 170 single glazed windows substantially increase the heating bills.
It’s estimated that there are around 30 bathrooms throughout Highclere Castle and based on the 32 characters who live in Downton Abbey this can run up a big water bill. As an owner of Highclere Castle you could expect a water bill of £10,000 a year at least – a far cry from the average household bill of £400 in the UK.
Staffing a stately home is by far the most significant cost you would face as an owner. For day to day maintenance you’d need “a butler, cook, secretary, grounds people and cleaning staff” as a bare minimum. All in all the estimated staff cost for the 70 employees currently working at the castle is nearly £400,000.
Highclere Castle was designed in 1842 by Sir Charles Barry. The building needs constant maintenance in order to keep the numerous wars, house fires, an alleged Egyptian curse and time from catching up with it.
In 2009 at least 50 rooms were deemed uninhabitable. Seeping water was found and had caused stonework to crumble and the ceilings to collapse. The Carnarvons, who currently own and live in the castle, announced that they needed to find £11.75m for essential repairs, this would then allow Downton Abbey to continue to be filmed there. Fortunately, they were able to raise the money and reject Andrew Lloyd Webber’s offer to buy the castle from them.
This in itself is a very complex task. To understand the exact nature of the risks attached to insuring a stately home, such as Downton Abbey, our experts would need to understand the full re-instatement of the property and contents. Many of the items here at the castle are irreplaceable and a cash settlement would be needed.
3D imaging software would be used to support the architects in the event of a major loss, so a room could be restored to its original glory should any damage occur. A full fire and security survey would also be carried out in order to ensure that, as the owner, you are completely minimising risk to the property and the staff.
Before Highclere Castle became famous as the filming location for Downton Abbey, it was visited largely for its collection of art and artefacts. The 5th Earl of Carnarvon joined archaeologist Howard Carter on numerous trips to Egypt including the excavation Tutankhamen’s tomb. The Earl died just a few months after returning from the excavation, he had allegedly fallen victim to an Egyptian curse.
The rooms of Highclere castle are rich with antiquities from the Earl’s Egyptian travels, as well as a number of other priceless valuables, including: a mahogany desk and chair that once belonged to Napoleon, 18th century silk bed hangings and a library of nearly 6,000 vintage books.
If you had your own Downton Abbey, you would of course need contents insurance and an expensive security system to ensure all your valuables were protected.
So having spent £72m on your dream castle, you would need a further £543,422 minimum every year to run and maintain your very own Downton Abbey. Unfortunately, this is unrealistic for most of us! So we will happily continue to live vicariously through the Crawleys and watch the festivities on Christmas Day.