Composer/musical theater impresario Andrew Lloyd Webber ruffled some feathers in the real estate world when he made an unsolicited offer to buy Highclere Castle, better known as the architectural face of Emmy-winning British TV hit Downton Abbey. According to the U.K.'s Daily Mail, Lloyd Webber wanted to purchase the 300 room property from its current owners George and Fiona Herbert, the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon, as a place to house his collection of priceless paintings.
“Although the story seems outrageous enough almost to be amusing, it was also painfully rude that he should feel able to dismiss our dedication and determination to sustain the house for future generations, offering to buy us out,” George Herbert wrote in a 2010 email sent to consultants who were “advising them on a future planning application.”
Lloyd Webber is the composer of musical theater juggernauts like The Phantom of the Opera and Cats, and will see two of his biggest hits, Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita, return to Broadway this spring. He lives on Sydmonton estate near the Newbury, Berkshire home of Highclere. When the current owners applied for a planning permission that would allow them to develop land close to the castle, Lloyd Webber wrote to the local authority saying he’d like to buy it.
His offer may have been seen as gauche, but Downton Abbey fans would hardly blame Lloyd Webber. The aristocratic setting of the Edwardian costume drama is a breathtaking sight, but if their reaction is any indication, the Earl and Countess, who confirmed that her husband had written the aforementioned email, won't be giving up residence any time soon.
Downton Abbey's second season currently airs on Sundays on PBS.