Tea at Highclere Castle?

It might be served in a room like this

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One does not just slurp down a cup. The space is meant to enhance a certain type of experience. It embraces a style of living that is out of favor these days.  And yet, as out of fashion as it may be, we still crave it. We still want enhanced experience. and take it if we can get it.

That was the attitude that drove the Third Earl of Carnarvon to engage a noted architect to produce this type of building

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The design is by Sir Charles Barry, who was working also on the redesign of the Houses of Parliament. The Jacobethan pile is called Highclere Castle.

Jacobethan? What a strange word. It was coined by John Betjeman who said

The style in which the Gothic predominates may be called, inaccurately enough, Elizabethan, and the style in which the classical predominates over the Gothic, equally inaccurately, may be called Jacobean. To save the time of those who do not wish to distinguish between these periods of architectural uncertainty, I will henceforward use the term “Jacobethan”

Here is Barry who might not have approved of the term.

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And here is the 3rd earl who made the design become real

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Highclere Castle symbolizes a certain lifestyle that is all the more fascinating because it no longer dominates society.

Wodehouse would have approved the use of Highclere Castle for Totleigh Towers

In Wodehouse’s fictional world, Totleigh Towers is situated close to the village of Totleigh-in-the-Wold, of which Sir Watkyn Bassett is the squire. Bertie’s college friend, Harold ‘Stinker’ Pinker, is the curate of the village. Totleigh Towers is also the residence of Sir Watkyn’s insipid, soupy daughter Madeline (who believes that Bertie is pining for her, when he isn’t), his ward, Stephanie ‘Stiffy’ Byng, and the butler, Butterfield. Roderick Spode, the amateur dictator and close friend of Sir Watkyn, is also a regular guest.

And of course, we know it as Downton Abbey

The series, set in the fictional Yorkshire country estate of Downton Abbey between 1912 and 1925, depicts the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their domestic servants in the post-Edwardian era—with the great events in history having an effect on their lives and on the British social hierarchy. Such events depicted throughout the series include news of the sinking of the RMS Titanic in the first series; the outbreak of the First World War, the Spanish influenza pandemic, and the Marconi scandal in the second series; the Irish War of Independence leading to the formation of the Irish Free State in the third series; the Teapot Dome scandal in the fourth series; and the British general election of 1923, the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, and the Beer Hall Putsch in the fifth series. The sixth and final series introduces the rise of the working class during the interwar period and hints towards the eventual decline of the British aristocracy.

The place and the attitude that the place symbolizes make both types of story work.  You might think of these stories as attitudes on parade.

Time for tea?

BTW, in case you are wondering, the Jacobethan style caught on in the 19th century this way

In 1838, with the Gothic revival was well under way in Britain, Joseph Nash, trained in A.W.N. Pugin‘s office designing Gothic details, struck out on his own with a lithographed album Architecture of the Middle Ages: Drawn from Nature and on Stone in 1838. Casting about for a follow-up, Nash extended the range of antiquarian interests forward in time with his next series of lithographs The Mansions of England in the Olden Time 1839–1849, which accurately illustrated Tudor and Jacobean great houses, interiors as well as exteriors, made lively with furnishings and peopled by inhabitants in ruffs and farthingales, the quintessence of “Merrie Olde England“. A volume of text accompanied the fourth and last volume of plates in 1849, but it was Nash’s picturesque illustrations that popularized the style and created a demand for the variations on the English Renaissance styles that was the essence of the newly revived “Jacobethan” vocabulary.


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