When it was originally broadcast back in March, Doctor Thorne delighted Downton Abbey devotees – especially those who like really big houses. Anthony Trollope’s novel flits between three estates but five were used to film the ITV adaptation, and nowadays they’re all open to the public.
West Wycombe House
Greshamsbury Park is better known as West Wycombe House. It might be familiar: it also had cameos in Downton Abbey, Little Dorrit and Cranford.
This Palladian villa in Buckinghamshire was constructed as a pleasure palace for politician, libertine and Italophile Sir Francis Dashwood in the 18th century. It’s looked after by the National Trust these days but Dashwood’s ancestor, Sir Edward, still lives here with his wife and family.
You can stroll in the grounds from April to August but the house is only open to the public from June. West Wycombe is also worth a visit for its historic cottages and caves, which Sir Francis excavated so he could hold meetings for his exclusive Hellfire Club there – the Order of the Friars of St Francis of Wycombe – who were rumoured to be devil-worshippers in their day.
For more information, visit: nationaltrust.org.uk/west-wycombe-park-village-and-hill
This Georgian manor in west London is where you’ll find Greshamsbury Hall’s elegant ball room. Built in 1780s, it was once described as Horace Walpole as “the palace of palaces”. Nowadays it’s also a National Trust property and holds events throughout the year including a historic embroidery workshop, a barefoot walk for National Meadows day and the first London Flower Show in September.
For more information, visit: nationaltrust.org.uk/osterley-park-and-house
The turrets, domes and gargoyles of this Tudor stately home in Hertfordshire don’t have a cameo in Doctor Thorne but a couple of its bedrooms do: Scatcherd’s in Boxall Hill and Lady Arabella’s in Greshamsbury Park were both filmed here. Knebworth was home to the Victorian novelist Edward Bulwer Lytton and The Rolling Stones, Queen, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd all played at its music festival.
For more information, visit: knebworthhouse.com
This neo-gothic castle in Herefordshire doubles as the exterior of Courcy Castle. You’ll also recognise the inside as Boxhall Hill. Built in 19th century, it’s the private family home of the Hervey-Bathurst family and sits in 5,000-acres of parkland in the Malvern Hills, which is officially an area of outstanding natural beauty. It’s a popular (and pricey) wedding venue because guests can stay in its 12 grand bedroom and two holiday cottages. They hold lots of events including an Easter treasure hunt, a chilli festival in May, a “knights’ school” for young jousters.
For more information, visit: eastnorcastle.com
Yes, it’s the exterior of Boxhall Hill, which is better known as Tyntesfield – a Georgian mansion in Wraxall, North Somerset. It used to belong to Victorian businessman and religious philanthropist William Gibbs, who made his money from importing the excrement of Peruvian and Bolivian seabirds and bats that was used as fertiliser. These days Tyntesfield is a National Trust property thanks to a fundraising campaign to stop it being sold to a private buyer.
For more information, visit: nationaltrust.org.uk/tyntesfield
This picturesque village in rural Wiltshire doubles as the market town of Barchester in Doctor Thorne. Visitors can look around Lacock Abbey and the Fox Talbot museum, which chronicles the history of photography. It’s named after William Henry Fox Talbot, who lived at the abbey and created the first photographic negative in 1835.
For more information, visit: nationaltrust.org.uk/lacock-abbey-fox-talbot-museum-and-village
Finally, if you fancy a stroll around Greshamsbury Village, head to Castle Combe in Wiltshire. Very little remains of the castle, which was built by the Normans on the site of a Roman fort. In the Middle Ages, the village below housed weavers who used the river to power their wool mills. When you’ve finished admiring the pretty cottages, you can sign up for a session at Castle Combe’s driving circuit where you can try karting, off-road driving in 4x4s and do a skid-pan course.
For more information, visit: visitwiltshire.co.uk
Rebecca Front talks historic houses:
Doctor Thorne is on Wednesdays ITV Encore 9pm