Given the worldwide Downton Abbey fever that continues to engulf the U.S., this story was just to good to pass up when I ran across it recently. So, with upfront apologies as to the possibility that this might be a really old story that is past its prime, as it was first reported back in 2010, I bring you the main event of the evening, Downton Abbey vs. Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Seems as though composer and musical theatre giant, Andrew Lloyd Webber, has angered the real owners of Highclere Castle, the setting for the exteriors of Downton Abbey or, the architectural face of the series. Clearly not happy with the way that current owners George and Fiona Herbert, the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon, are taking care of the place, Lloyd Webber wanted to purchase the 300 room property as a place to house his collection of priceless paintings.
The story, as it unfolded back in 2010, had the Herberts filing for a future planning application to develop land that is close to the castle, believing that the only way to preserve the estate would be to sell off portions of the land for future development as the internal structure is in need of much repair. Lord Lloyd Webber of Sydmonton lives near Newbury, Berkshire which is where Highclere is located. Upon hearing of the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon’s plans, Webber, with his Phantom of the Opera, Cats, Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita credits in tow, made an unsolicited offer to buy the estate outright. As you can imagine, the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon were not amused as they strongly feel a sense of duty to maintain their centuries-old family line at the castle.
If that’s not enough to make tabloid headlines, consider this. In the process, without informing the Carnarvons, Webber wrote to the local council offering to buy Highclere Castle, as we said earlier, on House of Lords notepaper. He is a life peer, and since the abolition of hereditary peers, the Earl of Carnarvon is no longer allowed to use Lords-headed notepaper which only threw gasoline on the fire.
Who knows what’s next, but I only wish the Dowager Countess had something to say about all of this….
Quick Downton Abbey factoid:
In trying to get a handle on just what we’re talking about with respect to ‘selling off part of the property’ for future development, consider that the land on which the house sits is more than 1,000 acres, making the estate larger than New York’s Central Park. All makes perfect sense now, right?