Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)

Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)
Oh, to be in England...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

ITV Meridian 'Downton Abbey' Feature

Downton Abbey is a new ITV television series from England, which alas, we have not yet received on this side of the pond.  Thankfully, we have this teaser to whet our appetites which is a "making of" piece by Helen James.  It explains that Downton Abbey is an English Country Home, the seat of the Earl and Countess of Grantham (Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern).  The Earl and Countess, otherwise known as Robert and Cora Crawley, are the head of this aristocratic family.  Cora was an American heiress who marries into the English aristocracy, bringing her fortune to help sustain her husband's costly estate.

This Post-Edwardian drama begins in 1912 just after the sinking of the Titanic, and the first season ends at the beginning of the Great War.  It is written by Julian Fellowes, who wrote the screenplay for Gosford Park, and has some similarities to that wonderful film, in that it has the contrast between the servants downstairs and the moneyed family upstairs, with the twist of having an American lady of the house.

Some standouts are Dame Maggie Smith, who plays Violet, the Dowager Countess of Grantham (Cora's mother-in-law), Hugh Bonneville as the Earl and Brendan Coyle, who plays John Bates, the newly hired valet who was injured in the Boer War. 

Maggie Smith as Violet, the Dowager Countess
Elizabeth McGovern as Cora, the Countess

Brendan Coyle as Bates the lame Valet

Hugh Bonneville as Robert, Earl of Grantham

The location, also a standout, is Highclere Castle, in Hampshire England and the series is worth watching for the gorgeous scenery alone.  The home of the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon, Highclere Castle is open to visitors during summer weekends and select holidays during the year.  It is also available for weddings and events, presumably in order to assist the owners in the expensive upkeep of such a magnificent house and grounds.  I'm sure the income from the filming of this series will help with a few repairs around the place too...

Highclere Castle with the 8th Earl and Countess of Carnarvon
If you want a taste of the actual series, my sister has informed me that it has been uploaded onto YouTube and the opening of the series can be found here.  This link may not work down the road, as ITV may remove it from YouTube, but enjoy it while you can.  My sis says the 10 minute bits are perfect for a lunchtime distraction, but are sort of like potato chips in that you may be unable to stop at one!


  1. Thanks for the heads-up on this series. It looks wonderful. I'm a big fan of upstairs/downstairs type series. Did you watch Manor House in which real people assumed the roles of the servants and those to the manor born? Fascinating.

  2. Yes I did see Manor House. That was really good. I also saw an older show called 1900 house, where a family tried to live like a middle class English family at the turn of the last century for an entire year. The Brits love those historical "reality" shows and I can never tear myself away from them when they are on. This one looks like part soap opera and part historical drama. I'll be on Youtube for weeks now!

  3. I saw the 1900 House as well. Makes me appreciate what my grandmother went through living in a dirty coal-mining town in PA.

  4. Well, I finally finished my YouTube lunchtime diet of LarkRise to Candleford (Season 3), and I have just embarked on the first 10 minutes of Downton Abbey ... I'm hooked already, as you predicted!
    Love, Big Sister

  5. I may be going to visit Highclere Castle in August this year as I going down that way for a family wedding but I'm not 100% sure if I am going to visit 'Downton Abbey' or not yet as it depends on how time we have, distance, etc, but it would be wonderful if I got a chance to see it! As I am disabled & in a wheelchair, I know I won't be able to get around all of it, but I'll just be very happy to be in the place where one of favourite period dramas is filmed! I know that the public are not allowed to take photos inside the Castle but we are allowed to do so outside so I'm determined to get a photo of where Matthew proposed to Mary!

    I'll keep you updated on whether I go or not and if I do I'll post some photos of my visit.

    (Leeds) x

  6. Oh, lucky you! I hope you get as good a tour of Highclere as you did of Haddon Hall. I remember you saying how nice they were and what a great tour you got.

    Fingers crossed that you get to go!

    1. I hope I do too, Jenny! I really would like to go, I'll have to wait and see in August. It would be brilliant to be in the same place where all those wonderful actors were too!

      I wonder if I'll bump into Dan Stevens while I'm there? Hmmm...

      (Leeds) x

  7. Hi Jenny, I am going to Highclere Castle with my family on the 10th July 2012 and I am really looking forward to it!! I will tell you all about my visit! :)

    Kate from Leeds, England. x

  8. Highclere Castle (Downton Abbey) was great! I was so excited! I went round the library, the music room, the ladies sitting room, the drawing room, the dining room, the saloon and the hallway. I was unable to go upstairs but my mum and brother did. They saw Lady Edith's room, Lady Sybil's room, Lady Grantham's bedroom (used in series one) and Mr. Pamuk's bedroom. Me and my Dad looked through a photo album of the upstairs rooms.

    We also went around the grounds and gardens which were wonderful! I felt very sad when I had to leave but my mum gave me a big hug. I also bought a lovely painting of Highclere Castle and a guide book as souvenirs of my visit.

    I can't wait to see Series 3 which starts in September.

    Kate from Leeds x

  9. I'd show you the photos from my Highclere Castle trip, Jenny but I don't how to post photos on your blog.




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