Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Ghosts, Earls & Downton Abbey

6th Earl of Carnarvon
Someone made me think of my old law office earlier today. It was at 335 Bay Street in a building since demolished to make way for a massive modern office tower.

The building was called "Herbert House" named after its owner's family - Henry Herbert, 6th Earl of Carnarvon. He died in 1987, but I ran into his son, the 7th Earl on an annual visit to inspect the building. Like much of English nobility, he was wearing a fairly disreputable topcoat and I wondered if he was someone's elderly legal aid client until the guy on the desk told me who he was.

His grandfather funded Carter's expedition to Egypt that found the tomb of King Tut and their family home is better known today as the building that serves as the stately home in Downton Abbey.

Before he died in 2001, the 7th Earl was a great friend and racing manager to HM Queen Elizabeth II, known as "Porchy" after his courtesy title, Lord Porchester. He refused to sell Herbert House (even though it was a nondescript "B-class" office building) because his father had named it after him. As soon as he died, the family sold it for development, no doubt to help pay for the upkeep of "Downton Abbey".

Oh yes - and the building was haunted. A man in a bowler hat, white shirt and suspenders was seen often after hours by tenants and security at 335 Bay Street, usually around the basement boiler room, but sometimes in the halls and stairwells. More than one security guard quit after asking him his business and him disappearing into thin air. I wonder where he moved to.

Sometimes I go into the new building and look up into the atrium and can picture my desk floating where the 2nd floor used to be.,_7th_Earl_of_Carnarvon