Real Countess of Downton Abbey helps celebrate support group 30th anniversary


John Flanagan, Countess of Carnarvon and Kath Burgess, chairman of the Severnside Support Group St Peter's Hospice John Flanagan with the Countess of CarnarvonA special lunch to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Severnside Support Group for local charity St Peter’s Hospice was attended by the ‘Real Countess of Downton Abbey’.

Lady Fiona Countess of Carnarvon gave a talk to guests about life at her home Highclere Castle, which is the setting of BBC1’s Downton Abbey, and what it’s really like behind the scenes.

The Countess of Carnarvon was joined by members of the support group which has raised in excess of £300,000 since it was formed in 1985, in aid of Bristol’s only adult hospice.

St Peter’s Hospice head of supporter relations John Flanagan said: “We had a wonderful lunch with the Countess of Carnarvon who told us many fascinating stories about her exciting life at Highclere Castle. It was a lovely event enjoyed by all, especially those who are fans of the show.

“It was also a wonderful chance to celebrate the amazing work of the Severnside Support Group who have worked tirelessly over the past 30 years to arrange fundraisers and events for the hospice raising over £300,000.

“Without the support of such groups we could not continue caring for those with life-limiting illnesses and their families.

“The Countess of Carnarvon was so impressed when we told her about the work we do at the hospice that she has arranged to pay us a visit next year to meet with patients, staff and volunteers. We’re really looking forward to welcoming her.”

As Bristol’s only adult hospice, St Peter’s Hospice cares for more than 2,670 patients each year as well as supporting family members.

All services are provided free of charge but this care costs around £18,630 a day. For around £14,000 of that, the hospice relies on gifts in wills, kind donations and funds generated by the hospice shops.

Lady Fiona Carnarvon is the wife of George Herbert, 8th Earl of Carnarvon. Today, she manages affairs at Highclere Castle, home of the worldwide television drama Downton Abbey, including overseeing its grounds and gardens and many special events such as the Egyptian Exhibition in the cellars of the Castle.

Fascinated by Highclere’s history, Lady Carnarvon has written four books. The first two are about the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, who discovered King Tutankhamun’s tomb with Howard Carter in 1922 while the third Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere, became a New York Times Bestseller.  An amazing tale, the book covers the same period as the first two series of Downton Abbey, beginning in 1894 with the marriage of 19-year-old Lady Almina into the Carnarvon family and continuing through the Great War.

The latest book moves the story into the 1920’s and focuses on the remarkable American heiress who came to reign at Highclere Castle: ‘Lady Catherine and the Real Downton Abbey’.


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