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Sunday, April 14, 2024

His Lordship Slept Here

I arrived late to the conversation about “Downton Abbey,” the British series on PBS’s “Masterpiece Theater.” I missed the first two seasons. However, I’ve seen all three episodes this season and read about the show’s creator, Julian Fellowes, most recently in the December 2012 issue of “Vanity Fair.”

Settling in to watch this season’s first episode, I was struck by the views of “Downton Abbey.” It recalled Harlaxton Manor, the University of Evansville’s British campus, located near Grantham, England. Then, I heard the show’s patriarch character addressed as “Lord Grantham.” As viewers know, the story is about the family of Robert Crawley, Seventh Earl of Grantham. Though I’ve never heard of any connection between Harlaxton Manor and Downton Abbey, I was curious to explore, especially as I visited Harlaxton Manor with my husband in 2005 to write a story for Evansville Living, “College in a Castle.”

The exterior views of Downton Abbey are of Highclere Castle in the county of Hampshire. Highclere was designed in the 1830s by Sir Charles Barry, who also designed the Palace of Westminster. Both have a sand-colored stone exterior and Gothic Revival turrets.

Harlaxton Manor is in Lincolnshire and was built by Gregory Gregory from 1837 to 1845 in Jacobean, Elizabethan, and Baroque styles. The University of Evansville began using the property in 1971 as its British campus, though it was owned by William Ridgway, a trustee of the university, until 1986. Since then, the University of Evansville has actively renovated and restored the manor.

Earl of Grantham was a title created in 1698 in the Peerage of England. (Fellowes uses the title fictitiously.) The title is now extinct. Though there are no direct connections, I enjoyed this bit of research and recalling the vision of the only manor house I’ve visited, Harlaxton Manor.

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