Sandy Mitchell’s FT Weekend feature – ‘The Real Downton Abbeys’

—11th July 2018

RedBook founder Sandy Mitchell explores the efforts and investment it takes to keep a country house going and how to make it pay

A large country house can devour cash, but some are making it pay, whether through weddings, tours or other schemes. In a major article for FT Weekend, Sandy offers his insights on how and why on earth the owners do it, delving into the economics and logistics, First stop Highclere, the real Downton.

Copyright Financial Times

“Blonde, groomed, glamorous, the woman in dark, full-length silk at a rain-battered party on a Friday evening on the endless lawns of a country house was ebullient.

She has just secured a B-17 second world war bomber along with a fleet of other vintage aircraft for a fly-past at a charity event at her home, she tells me with a spreading smile. She has just sold out a series of 300-seat public talks in her saloon. And she has just started work on a book, her fifth, on her home and her predecessors as chatelaine.

She has not always been so cheerful. Far from it. “I would wake at 4am every night and wonder what we would do,” says Fiona Carnarvon, wife of Geordie, the 8th Earl of Carnarvon, recalling her early years at Highclere Castle in Hampshire, her voice and eyes falling.

I sought out Carnarvon because I am on a mission to learn what it truly takes to keep the show on the road at a country house. What effort? What investment? And, after all, why do it?”

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