It may once have funded the most famous ever excavation in Egypt. But the modern-day plight of Berkshire’s Highclere Castle couldn’t be further from the dripping opulence of King Tut’s tomb. For the stately manor, once home to Howard Carter‘s esteemed cohort Lord Carnarvon (orGeorge Edward Stanhope Molyneux Herbert, the 5th Earl of Carnarvon to give him his full name), needs a staggering level of funding if it is to survive the most difficult period in its history. No less than 12 million pounds are needed to repair the building’s sagging treasures – and its current occupant, the Lord’s great grandson the 8th Earl of Carnarvon, admits he’s losing sleep over the manor’s delicate future.
Once a showcase for austere English architecture and glamour, Highclere has witnessed a sharp decline since the superstardom of Lord Carnarvon, who became an overnight celebrity alongside Carter following their earth-shattering discoverys in Egypt.
Images of the castle’s interior published in the Mail Online today reveal mouldy walls, piles of rubble, and collapsed ceilings.
Even some of the pharaohs’ own residences are in better shape than Highclere, which the 8th Earl, 52, argues needs immediate repair work totalling 1.8 million. Stonework is crumbling and ceilings are being soaked into an early grave; even the castle’s inspired stone turrets are on the brink of extinction unless urgent work is carried out. In fact, only the ground floor remains intact thanks to six-figure repair bills, and provides some revenue by hosting weddings and parties. Various fundraising ideas have been mooted by the Earl – most controverially the building of a housing estate in the castle’s grounds. One venture which appears to be working is the castle’s Egyptian exhibition, held in its cellars, alongside two books written by Fiona, 8th Countess of Carnarvon: Carnarvon& Carterand Egypt at Highclere: The Discovery of Tutankhamun. But he admits he fears for the future of a great building which can count itself one of the south of England’s most lavish abodes since its 14th century birth.
“Worrying about how I am going to keep it all going does give me sleepless nights,” the Earl explains to the Daily Mail. “It is a wonderful responsibility and a great privilege to live at Highclere Castle, which is part of the most beautiful landscape in southern England. It is a quite incredible house, set in beautiful 18th century grounds – but with that comes a great responsibility for the building and everything else that encompasses the estate.” How times have changed: just a few years back Highclere was paid regular visits by Her Majesty, a great friend of the Earl’s father. Nowadays the majestic castle faces ruin, and barely makes money from kitschy celeb nuptials, like the wedding of Peter Andr and Jordan in 2005. It may have funded the greatest archaeological discovery of all time, but time is exactly what Highclere doesn’t have right now.
Watch a video featuring Lord and Lady Carnarvon, on the discovery of Tutankhamun, here. You can also purchase Fiona Carnarvon’s books right here at Heritage Key –
Buy Carnarvon & CarterHERE
Buy Egypt at Highclere: The Discovery of Tutankhamun HERE
Image by JB + UK_Planet.