Visitors to the Castle are able to look round some of the 12 bedrooms off the first floor gallery of the Castle. Other bedrooms are now offices, with a further 40 to 50 rooms on the second and third floors, some of which are used by the family today. Many of these have been or are in the process of being refurbished by Lady Carnarvon, using prints and drawings from the archives. She is also working to recreate the children’s nursery rooms.
Arundel bedroom and its dressing room were used as an Operating Theatre and Recovery Room respectively during the First World War. With the blessing of Lord Kitchener himself, Almina, the 5th Countess, turned the Castle into a military hospital, and lead a team of nurses to tend and care for officers and soldiers badly wounded on the front line.
Mercia bedroom is noted for the charming four-poster bed decorated with 18th century silks and matching furniture.
The stone staircase behind the green baize door leading from the Saloon, winds up three floors and down to what were the old staff dining rooms, the cellars, sitting rooms, utility areas and kitchens.
One hundred years ago there may have been as many as 60 members of staff living in and around the Castle, with a House Steward, butlers, footmen, housekeepers, maids, kitchen staff and hall and steward room boys.
The “Downton Abbey” set team have partly recreated the lower flight of these stairs at Ealing, so that the actors can leave the Castle and go down in to the set at Ealing Studios where the staff rooms are filmed.
The stairs here at Highclere lead down to the woodshed, a back door and originally, as in Downton, into the staff dining room and scullery.
The latter rooms however have now been converted into the entrance to the Egyptian Exhibition.
Two main staircases were and are used by the family and their guests: the Oak Staircase and the Red Staircase.
Thomas Allom's great oak staircase fills the tall Italianate tower built by Sir Charles Barry in 1842. Messrs Cox and Son of London took nearly a year to carve and install the staircase between December 1861 and October 1862.
The Red Staircase leads up to the second floor and the former nursery rooms.
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