Downton Abbey effect spurs visits to Britain's historic homes
Wealthy Americans are flocking to visit the UK’s historic houses as a result of the popularity of BBC series Downton Abbey.
Rose Balston, the founder of Art History UK, takes a range of customers, from blue chip companies to private individuals, on walking history tours around the UK.
One of the most exciting growth areas for the business is tours of Britain’s historic houses: “My American clients want access to historic houses in the countryside,” she told the Sunday Telegraph.
“We are beginning to forge relations with some of Britain’s greatest country houses - particularly those with historic art collections. Our clients want to meet the owners and discuss everything from the Van Dyck in the drawing room, to the ghosts in the attic and bursting pipes in the cellar.”
Ms Balston has received interest in the following houses: Wilton House, Highclere Castle (where Downton is filmed), Waddeston Manor, Blenheim, Houghton Hall, Chatsworth, Haddon Hall and Hardwick Hall.
“Many have good collections and would so happily accept a £2,000 cheque in exchange for entertaining a family of Americans for an hour and letting me show them their art collection,” said Ms Balston, who launched Art History UK in 2010. “Fired up by saucy Lady Mary, delightfully stuffy Carson and other Downton Abbey types, our high-net worth Anglophile American clients are particularly interested in these experiences.”
Downton Abbey is one of Britain’s most successful TV exports. The first episode of the fourth series of Downton, broadcast earlier this year, drew a record audience in the US with 10.2m viewers for PBS - the highest-rated drama season premiere in the network’s history.
The Downton Abbey effect has spawned a number of crazes, from a spike in the sale of starched collars at the Barker Group, which has exported 80,000 of these vintage collars this year, to a butler revival: British butelrs are now in demand across the globe, according to the International Butler Academy.