Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, the multi-millionaire musical impresario, has expressed a wish to purchase Highclere Castle, near Newbury, Berkshire. The Victorian castle has been the family seat of the Carnarvons since the 1670s, and was home to the fifth Earl of Carnarvon, who funded Howard Carter’s discovery of Tutankhamun‘s tomb (watch the video).
Andrew Lloyd Webber’s offer came after the current Earl applied for permission to sell pieces of land on the fringes of the Highclere estate in the hope of raising 11 million to fund badly-needed repair works to the Victorian mansion.
In a letter sent to the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon, as well as to the borough of Basingstoke and Deane, Sir Lloyd Webber wrote: I could provide a secure future for the castle without any development of this kind.
In the letter, seen by The Basingstoke Gazette, he says he would use the castle to display his large art collection, and plans to keep it open to the public. I am longing to provide a permanent home for my art collection. The combination of Sydmonton and Highclere would provide exactly that.
The 8th Earl of Carnarvon, George Herbert and his wife, 8th Countess of Carnarvon, Fiona Herbert, talk to Heritage Key about their ancestor Lord Carnarvon and the archaeologist he funded, Howard Carter.
According to the Telegraph, the Carnarvons are definitely not intending to sell. They quote Lady Carnarvon saying:
We value the estate hugely. My husband and his family have invested money, time, love and passion on it for centuries. I heard he wanted somewhere to hang his paintings. But it is definitely not for sale. We have every intention of being here for the next 150 years.
Currently, the Victorian mansion and its gardens are open to the public each summer, and can be booked for special occasions throughout the year. The building also hosts an Egyptologyexhibition, ‘Egypt at Highclere’,about the search for and discovery of King Tut’s tomb.
Besides an impressive reconstruction of the KV62 tomb paintings (see it here on video, explained by Lady Carnarvon), ‘Egypt at Highclere‘ features various replicas, artefacts brought from Deir el-Bahri and the Valley of the Kings by the fifth Earl of Carnarvon and tons of photographs and drawings illustrating the quest for Tutankhamun’s tomb, only recently discovered in the family archives. With the exhibition go two bookspenned by Fiona Carnarvon, ‘Carnarvon & Carter’ and ‘Egypt at Highclere: The Discovery of Tutankhamun’.