Coronavirus has turned one of Britain’s oldest aristocratic families into an impromptu television production and broadcast unit.

Normally the Earl and Countess of Sandwich would be welcoming thousands of visitors to the historic Mapperton House & Gardens in West Dorset. However, the lockdown means that Mapperton has been forced to close its doors, and so the family has turned to live stream video technology to ensure that the public can continue to enjoy a visit to the magnificent Tudor/Jacobean house and 15 acres of gardens.

Now anyone can join the weekly YouTube live tours during which the Earl and Countess of Sandwich appear as tour guides, showing daughter-in-law Julie Montagu around the family seat.

Julie is no stranger to the cameras as she has recently completed filming the first series of ‘An American Aristocrat’s Guide to Great Estates’ for the Smithsonian Channel, which premieres in the US in May. During the series Julie – who comes from Chicago, Illinois – visits some of the Britain’s grandest houses and finds out how their owners have adapted their use in the 21st century.

Behind the camera is her husband, Luke Montagu, Viscount Hinchingbrooke, an entrepreneur who founded a series of media and education ventures, including London’s Met Film School.

And even the next generation has become involved: 13-year-old Nestor Montagu acts as vision mixer and sound recordist.

More than 2,500 virtual visitors from Budapest to Seattle and Puerto Rico have watched the live-streamed tours so far. And the tours are interactive – viewers can ask the Earl and Countess questions via chat during the broadcast.

While the tours are free to join, donations towards the upkeep of the house and gardens are welcomed as the estate normally relies on visitor income to help pay for repairs and maintenance.

The Earl of Sandwich said: "When we realised that we would have to close Mapperton during the lockdown we wanted to find a way to offer people a virtual visit. Fortunately I have an enterprising son and daughter-in-law who knew about livestreaming.

"During the tour I will of course talk about the invention of the sandwich – but there are many other stories to tell and interesting things to see. For example, the first Earl of Sandwich brought King Charles II back from Holland for the Restoration, while the fourth Earl sponsored Captain Cook’s voyages in the Pacific, including to Hawaii, previously known as the Sandwich Islands."

Julie Montagu, Viscountess Hinchingbrooke, adds: "I really enjoyed presenting the series for the Smithsonian Channel. However I didn’t expect to be filming again so soon. But it’s great fun to be able to do this with my parents-in-law, and to welcome virtual visitors from all over the world. Please join us and feel free to ask questions as we go."

During the coronavirus crisis Mapperton is also supporting the local community. Mark Pile is usually head chef at the Mapperton Coach House café but now volunteers his time to produce simple homemade meals for isolated and vulnerable local people, while members of the Montagu family help with packaging and delivery.

Tours are being held on Tuesdays at 4pm UK time / 11am EST. Virtual visitors can register to join the live stream at or visit Mapperton’s YouTube channel at