Maintaining your own Downton Abbey

Maintaining your own Downton Abbey

With Christmas fast approaching, the final Downton Abbey festive special is already causing a stir. The Crawleys’ final appearance on our screens will be set on New Year’s Eve 1925, and with rumours of plenty of heartbreak and happiness, the blockbuster is the talk of the Christmas TV Schedule this year.

If the grand Christmas tree, large pile of presents and lavish parties from previous festive specials spending Christmas at Downton Abbey wouldn’t be half bad. While it may look ideal, we were also keen to explore how much we’d be forking out each year to live in and maintain the real Downton Abbey - Highclere Castle - where the drama is filmed. 

Highclere Castle is worth an estimated total of £72m, including grounds, and has over 300 rooms, 60 of which are bedrooms and are currently maintained by a staff of 70. The Victorian castle is built on 1,000 acres of parkland, so you can imagine the maintenance takes quite a bit of organisation and doesn’t come cheap.  

Estimated Annual Maintenance Costs

Maintenance Type


Energy costs (Gas, electric and oil)




(Based 32 live in characters on Downton Abbey and not including costs of garden maintenance)






£16,000 (For a modern CCTV system and a fitted home alarm)



Total estimated minimum annual maintenance cost:



With so many rooms to heat it’s unsurprising that energy costs are one of the highest outgoings for maintaining a stately home. Mod cons such as double glazing are often hard to come by in Grade 1 listed buildings. Consequently Highclere’s 170 single glazed windows substantially increase heating costs.

Laura Shack from the National Trust estimates that the cost of the energy consumption of a stately home, similar in size to Highclere Castle, is £50,000 in oil and £35,000 in electricity.  


There is an estimated number of 30 bathrooms throughout Highclere Castle and based on the 32 live in characters on Downton Abbey this can run up a hefty water bill. “By using our average daily use for household customers of 160 litres each per day, we can estimate the 32 characters might use a massive 5,120 litres per day in the house alone,” said Andrew Tucker, Water Efficiency Manager at Thames Water. “This water use would give an annual water bill of around £3,800 but, given the watering needed to look after the stunning grounds and gardens, the overall cost would be considerably higher.” According to Tucker, the Downton Abbey characters would have to dig considerably deeper than the average household today, which around £372 per year.


Rupert Sweeting, head of the Country Department of Knight Frank, said that staffing a stately home is by far the most significant cost. Sweeting stated that for day to day maintenance you'd need “a butler, cook, secretary, grounds people and cleaning staff” as a bare minimum. All in all the estimated staff cost for the 70 employees currently working inside the castle is nearly £400,000.


 “The Castle has 1,000 acres of Parkland and 5000 acres of farm and woodland. There are also various gardens, herbaceous borders, the Wood of Goodwill as well as all the follies,” stated Lady Carnarvon, current chatelaine of Highclere. Lady Carnarvon told us that the parkland and farm are maintained by two and a half gardeners and an apprentice.

Gary Rainford has been Head Gardener at a National Trust run stately home of a similar size for over 20 years. He told us that maintaining and landscaping a garden such as Highclere’s would cost an estimated £115k a year. He works with four gardeners/landscapers and around 80 volunteers on over 17 acres of garden. 


Security cannot be neglected in stately homes. According to the security company Fitted Home Alarms, the most common mistakes stately home owners make is “leaving it to luck.”

Ash, from Fitted Home Alarms would recommend a “modern state of the art security system that covers both inside and outside of the property.” Ash says a combination of security cameras, alarm detectors and alarm bells and sounders to trigger any unusual activity, as well as a central security room, where all the control units can be securely placed, should be set up. 

Building maintenance

Highclere Castle, as it now stands, was designed in 1842 by Sir Charles Barry. The building therefore needs constant maintenance in order to keep numerous wars, house fires, an alleged Egyptian curse and time from catching up with it.

In 2009 at least 50 rooms were deemed uninhabitable after seeping water caused stonework to crumble and ceilings to collapse. The Carnarvons, who currently own and live in the castle, announced in 2010 they needed to find £11.75m for essential repairs for Downton Abbey to continue to be filmed there. Fortunately, they were able to raise the money and rejected Andrew Lloyd Webber’s offer to buy the castle from them.

Home Insurance

To understand the exact nature of the risks attached to insuring a stately home, such as Downton Abbey, we would work with our experts to understand the full reinstatement of the property and contents. Many of the items at Highclere Castle are irreplaceable and a cash settlement would need to be agreed.

We would use 3D imaging software to support the architects in the event of a major loss, so a room could be restored to its original glory should any damage occur. A full fire and security survey would also be carried out in order to ensure that, as the owner, you are completely minimising risk to the property and the staff.

Highclere Castle's art collection

Before Highclere Castle became the filming location for Downton Abbey it was visited largely for the vast collection of art and artefacts kept within its walls.

The 5th Earl of Carnarvon famously joined archaeologist Howard Carter on a number of trips to Egypt including the excavation Tutankhamun’s tomb. Eerily, the 5th Earl of Carnarvon died just a few months after returning from the excavation having allegedly fallen victim to an Egyptian curse.

Tutankhamun Sarcophagus


The rooms of Highclere castle are rich with antiquities from the Earl’s Egyptian travels, as well as a number of other priceless valuables such as:

A 1635 portrait of King Charles I by Anthony Van Dyck, featured on Downton Abbey in the dining room.

The walls of the saloon are lined with 400-year-old embossed Spanish leather.

The music room is home to a Mahogany desk and chair that once belonged to Napoleon.

18th century silk bed hangings in the bedrooms.

A library of nearly 6,000 vintage books.

Dining Room - Downton abbey or Highclere Castle


If you had your own Downton Abbey, you would need contents insurance and an expensive security system to ensure all your assets were protected.

Having emptied a casual £72m from your wallet you would need a further £668,200 minimum every year to run and maintain your very own Downton Abbey.  Unfortunately, this is unrealistic for most of us so we will have to continue to live out this lavish festive fantasies vicariously through the Crawleys, if only for one more episode.




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