If you’re a fan of Downton Abbey you’ll no doubt know that Highclere Castle is the filming location for the Crawley family’s country seat. But you might not know that Basildon Park played host for the filming of the 2013 Christmas special and last night’s 2014 season finale.
Despite being an 18th century Georgian mansion near Reading, the interior of the National Trust property featured as Grantham House, the Crawley family’s London home and scene of a coming out ball and almost a right royal scandal at Christmas, and more recently Lady Rose’s wedding reception.
The location tour and exhibition are additional attractions at Basildon Park which also includes a 1950s kitchen and a house filled with beautiful paintings, fabrics and furniture. The mansion is set in 400 acres of parkland and was lovingly rescued and recreated by Lord and Lady Iliffe in the mid 1950s. They restored the interior after salvaging 18th-century architectural fixtures and fittings from all over the country.
Twenty five years later they handed their home over to the National Trust making sure that Basildon Park would be maintained in all its glory. And as with so many NT properties it is glorious. Room after room of sumptuous furnishings and art treasures, including the Octagon Drawing Room with its ornate ceiling frieze, 18th century religious canvases and piano. Then there’s the Crimson Bedroom , resplendent with original damask hangings on the state bed and featured as Lady Mary’s boudoir last night.For Downton fans there are guided tours plus lots to see around the house, including a dining table set with Crawley family place names, photographs of scenes from the episodes placed on easels in the rooms where they were shot and costumes on mannequins. In a separate building there’s an exhibition of photos from the filming and a video which explains in detail which rooms were used and some of the most significant historic objects and artefacts. There’s also photos from other film shoots at Basildon Park including the 2005 version of Pride & Prejudice.
The 1950s kitchen is filled with all sorts of memorabilia and sometimes has volunteers doing baking demonstrations and creating wonderful smells. Meanwhile outside there are lovely gardens to wander through, including Lady Iliffe’s Rose Garden and lots of parkland and woodland with lovely views to the Chilterns and the Thames.
So Basildon Park is well worth a visit if you’re not a Downton fan and if you are, it’s the perfect place to get a Crawley family fix between series.
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