Highclere Castle, better known as Downton Abbey, is a Jacobethan estate in Hampshire, built by Charles Barry, who was also the architect of the Houses of Parliament in London. Today, Highclere Castle is the home of the 8th Earl and Countess of Carnarvon, who open their doors to a limited number of visitors a few times a week.
The current house stands on the site of an earlier house which in turn was built on the foundations of the medieval palace of the Bishops of Winchester, who owned this estate from the 9th century, as recorded in the Domesday Book. King Edward II spent some time here in 1320. In 1679, the place was rebuilt as Highclere Place House, when it was purchased by Sir Robert Sawyer, the direct ancestor of the current Earl. In 1692, Sawyer bequeathed the mansion at Highclere to his only daughter, Margaret, the first wife of the 8th Earl of Pembroke. Their second son, Robert Sawyer Herbert, inherited Highclere, and began its portrait collection and created the garden temples. His nephew and heir Henry Herbert was made Baron Porchester and later Earl of Carnarvon by George III.
In the early 20th century, the castle became home to Egyptian artifacts after the 5th Earl, an enthusiastic amateur Egyptologist, sponsored the excavation of nobles' tombs in Deir el-Bahari in Thebes in 1907. He later accompanied archaeologist Howard Carter during the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922. Today, Highclere Castle houses a vast collection of Egyptian artifacts.