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Staff Shortage Forces “Downtown Abbey” Owners to Halt Weddings

Highclere Castle, the stately home popularly known as the venue for "Downton Abbey", in Highclere, Britain, halts weddings due to Brexit. The castle where the early 20th century period drama about the lives of aristocrats and their servants was filmed, is facing a shortage of staff.

According to the owners George Herbert and his wife Fiona, the eighth Earl and Countess of Carnarvon, there is a lack of workers from the EU. This has forced them to stop the castle's main business of hosting larger weddings on the site of the Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning show. Weddings made up 40% of the overall business at its height.

"We have stopped being able to offer any weddings of any substantial size because of Brexit. There is no staff”, Fiona said.

The staffing issues reflect the impact of Brexit 3 years after UK’s departure from the European Union. Since then the UK has faced worker shortages in various departments like manufacturing, construction, and logistics. EU students were a vital source of the workforce and the number of students admitted fell by 50% in 2021, and applications dropped by 40%, partly due to uncertainty created by Brexit, university admissions service UCAS said last year.

Revenues from other parts of Highclere's business such as its gift shop which is open to the public in summer have also fallen. According to the owners, the gift shop has also stopped shipping to EU countries which make up a third of the shop's overall business because of the rise in courier costs and paperwork in the aftermath of the EU departure. Furthermore, other trades, such as the export of horse feeds, have also fallen due to high paperwork and legal fees.

"When we go to our usual agencies and try to find people, they are not there," says Carnarvon. "We are wrapped in red tape now in every piece of our business," she added.


The Victorian Castle that sits on a 5000-acre estate used to host around 25 weddings with more than 100 guests a season. Although weddings on a smaller scale are still possible, they are still equally expensive. The owners are now looking for other sources of revenue such as a 35 pounds a bottle gin inspired by botanicals from the castle’s herb gardens such as juniper, lime flower, orange peel, and lavender, paying homage to the rich history of farming and entertaining at his family’s 339-year-old estate. traction in the United States. The Highclere Castle Gin is the second brand partnership the Carnarvon family has formed with entrepreneur Adam von Gootkin since last year’s Highclere Castle Cigar.



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