Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Downton Abbey in Atlanta, part 2

In an older entry of the Harvard University's blog a post was titled "No, it's not just you: why time "speeds up" as we get older." A short article then gives one of he reasons" "...over time, the rate at which we process visual information slows down, and this is what makes time 'speed up' as we grow older..." you can read the argument here. Could be one of the reasons time is speeding up for me. Year 2022 is almost at the finish point but I feel that we should only be halfway through it. It seems that the years quicken as my birthdays accumulate. Last December 2021 I wrote a post on an exhibition in Atlanta on Downton Abbey, part one, and before I could write part two, we were already in March, and too late for a holiday post. But since we are back in a month of December, and the clock is ticking quickly toward year end, below is part two. You may wish to go to part one to look back at some of the photos and explanations - click on "Downton Abbey in Atlanta, part 1."
For those not familiar with the television series Downton Abbey, it is a period drama that was shown during six seasons. It represented an English aristocratic family, the Crawleys who lived at the Downton Abbey estate. We followed their lives from 1912 through the 1920s. The show depicted historical events as well as how life was for the nobility and their servants during this rapidly changing time. Downton Abbey is fictitious but the estate where the series was filmed is in Hampshire, England. The real Highclere Castle, set on 5,000 acres of land, was built in 1679 and is the country seat of the Eighth Earl of Carnarvon, his family, staff and seven dogs. There are 300 rooms in Highclere Castle, the real Downton Abbey, 40 to 50 of them are bedrooms but none have showers - only full baths. (Click on collage to enlarge.)
The estate is open to the public for self-guided tours during the summer months and at Easter and Christmas. I certainly would like to visit it, but this would be the estate as it is now in the 2020's, not as in the post-Edwardian times shown in the series. Exterior shots of the abbey, the main hall, dining room and drawing room use Highclere Castle in the TV series, but the servants' quarters, kitchen and family bedrooms were sets created at the Ealing Studios. The Atlanta Downton exhibit showed those sets, such as the dining room, Mrs. Patmore's kitchen, Lady Mary's bedroom, Carson's pantry plus many artifacts from the show. At this exhibition you really felt like you were in the kitchen and in the servants' quarters. Actually you were, because they do not exist in the real Highclere Castle. There is no downstairs kitchen area there, that area is now devoted to an Egyptian exposition.
I visited the Atlanta exhibition last year early one morning in mid-week. There were not many visitors and I found myself alone in the reconstructed servants' quarters. I took many pictures. It felt like the servants were just around the corner,
and the bell board was going to summon the staff any minute.
Then I entered the kitchen that was so very busy during the TV shows.
Walking by the pantry of Mr. Carson, the butler in the show, I could visualize him writing at his desk.
Back upstairs I entered a large room and sat in one of the chairs. The walls became alive with an immersive, multi-media image projection of several rooms of Downton. In this three-sided video you could see doors open with characters conversing. Then there were black and white scenes of World War 1 with explosions, soldiers running into tranches transporting you to the horrors of this war; more scenes followed and it ended with images of the staff of Downton Abbey.
Moving on in front of Lady Mary's bedroom I could almost see her sitting by her dressing mirror, or reading newspapers in bed.
I took several photos of the gorgeously appointed dining room, decorated for the Holidays.
This was such an expansive exhibition with 50-plus costumes and a multitude of early 20th century artifacts. There were displays explaining the society, the culture and issues of those times; a great number of film clips and photos of the TV show were all around.
A beautiful hat display made me sigh. I own several lovely hats that I never wear. Apart from sun hats for gardening there are not many occasions to wear fancy hats nowadays, at least in the United States.
Several rooms contained actual outfits worn by the actors during the shows. They ranged from riding outfits to country tweeds and lavish evening gowns. There were faithful reproductions of the jewelry and garments aristocratic ladies and gentlemen might have worn in the 1910s through the 1920s in England, as well as their servants' outfits. Some of the dresses, or parts of the dresses, were authentic such as the extensive beadwork on some of the gowns. (Don't forget to click on the collage to enlarge and see better.)
Lady Edith's wedding short sleeve dress was a vintage original garment, I understand. The lace was exquisite. For a 100+ years old lace it looked stunningly fresh, see the first 3 top photos in the collage below.
Many of the gowns had intricate detail work, such as Lady Rose's presentation dress below. It is an adaptation of a vintage original, with a green applique ribbon. The costumes on the TV show were always elegant.
I had come to the end of the exhibit. Mr. Carson, the butler, gave some parting words through a hologram ending with: "Perhaps we'll meet again. You never know."
It had been an enjoyable exhibition - this fully immersive,multi-media extravaganza made me feel like I had visited the Crawleys at Downton Abbey during the yearend holidays.
The gift shop offered many souvenirs from the show, mugs, teas, books, etc.
I already own several books on Downton Abbey including the Countess of Carnarvon's "Christmas at Highclere." It includes a narrative of traditions at the castle, recipes and details on the elaborate Christmas parties there.
In her book, Lady Carnarvon gives a behind the scenes look at the rituals and routines of the castle throughout the Holidays. It tells of Highclere Christmases past and present including the raising of a 25-foot tree in the saloon, an opulent room designed for the 4th Earl in the 1860s. (This is one of 60 Christmas trees thoughout Highclere.) There are beautiful illustrations of the Castle grounds as well.
Cold Christmas 2022 is gone now. I watched King Charles' first Christmas speech on the BBC via youTube. I'll quote some of his ending words: "While Christmas is of course a Christian celebration, the power of light overcoming darkness is celebrated across the boundaries of faith and belief. So whatever faith you have, or whether you have none, it is in this life-giving light and with the true humility that lies in our service to others, that I believe we can find hope for the future. Let us therefore celebrate it together and cherish it always." These are noteworthy words, indeed.
My final words are not that eloquent. I only wish you a Happy New Year and hope that 2023 will bring you joy, happiness and good health; stay well and stay warm,
and ...
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