Downton Abbey venue forced to cancel weddings due to worker shortages after Brexit

6 February 2023, 17:02

Highclere Castle doubles as the set of Downton Abbey
Highclere Castle doubles as the set of popular period drama Downton Abbey. Picture: Alamy

By Hannah Holland

The owner of the stately home where Downton Abbey was filmed has blamed Brexit for causing worker shortages that have forced the venue to cancel their popular large-scale weddings.

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Highclere Castle in Hampshire, familiarised by period drama, Downton Abbey, has been forced to scrap weddings after Brexit caused worker shortages in the hospitality industry.

The lavish venue has hosted weddings both on and off the screen, with Katie Price and Peter Andre choosing the castle to tie the knot in 2005.

Set within the 5000-acre estate, the castle double as home to the fictional Crawley family played by actors including Hugh Bonneville and Maggie Smith in the series which has been watched by more than 120 million viewers.

The huge success of Downton Abbey attracted interest in Highclere Castle
The huge success of Downton Abbey attracted interest in Highclere Castle. Picture: Alamy

Whilst Highclere Castle usually hosts up to 25 weddings a year, it has no weddings booked for 2023 and just one small event scheduled for 2024.

The owner of the 17th century caste, Lady Fiona Carnarvon, shared with The Independent: “Brexit has undermined the wedding industry at Highclere, and it has really all been about the effects of leaving the EU.

“It is a matter of fact that Brexit has caused such a retraction of people available to work in the hospitality business that we realised we simply cannot guarantee that we can find enough staff to put on an event of the quality that we would want.

We have tried everything but there is no point pursuing the quest any further.”

Lady Carnarvon explained that before Brexit, European students studying in the UK could fill the work vacancies throughout the summer - but that they are now faced with a 30-page form to apply to work in the UK.

Lady Carnarvon, owner of Highclere Castle, says they have "tried everything" to solve their worker shortage
Lady Carnarvon, owner of Highclere Castle, says they have "tried everything" to solve their worker shortage. Picture: Alamy

According to a report by think tanks Centre for European Reform (CER) and UK in a Changing Europe, Brexit has led to a shortfall of 330,000 people in the UK labour force.

In 2019, over 40 per cent of the hospitality industry was made up of EU workers but that figure had fallen to 32 per cent two years later.

A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said: “The government understands current pressures facing the hospitality sector and established the Hospitality Sector Council to help drive the recovery and rebuild the resilience of the sector after the pandemic.

“The UK cannot rely solely on overseas labour.

"We are investing an additional £3.8bn into skills and further education in England over this Parliament to ensure workers can develop the skills businesses need.”

Read More: Rishi Sunak hails 'huge strides' in harnessing Brexit freedoms as Britain marks three years since leaving EU

Read More: UK set to have weakest major economy in the world and become only G7 nation to shrink

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