Ten things you might not know about Downton Abbey

Ten things you might not know about Downton Abbey

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By Ed Gove,
Monday, 21st December 2015
Downton Abbey, christmas, Hugh Bonneville,finale,
Downton returns to our screens for the final time this Christmas

With Downton Abbey about to make its final appearance on our screen, we've gathered 10 little known facts about the series.

The final episode of Downton Abbey airs this Christmas, so in honour of the event we’re running down our Top 10 facts about everyone’s favourite period drama.


1. Something fishy about this

Fish is no longer served on Downton Abbey. Those dining scenes can take up to 12 hours to film and, as Hugh Bonneville (Lord Grantham) says, “if you put fish on the table at 8am when you start shooting it doesn’t smell so good in a few hours.” 

Downton’s food stylist Lisa Heathcote now dresses chicken fillets to look like fish.


2. An Englishman's home is his... Abbey

Although the show is set in Yorkshire, Highclere Castle is actually a 5000-acre estate in Hampshire.

The castle also features in Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman’s Eyes Wide Shut, 1991’s Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, and BBC sitcom Jeeves and Wooster starring Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie

It was the setting for Peter Andre and Katie Price’s wedding back in 2005.

3. The truth is out there

Gillian Anderson (The X-FilesThe Fall) turned down the role of Lady Grantham, giving Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern the chance to rekindle their onscreen romance.

They have played husband and wife before, in the short lived BBC sitcom Freezing (2007).


4. Napoleon's writing desk

The show’s creator Julian Fellowes is keen to keep the show as historically accurate as possible, from the costumes to the food to the set.

In fact, the mahogany desk and chair that you can see if the music room once belonged to Napoleon.

However, according to Alistair Bruce, Downton’s historical advisor, the accents are not authentic because they would have been just too annoying to listen to.

5. Dressed to impress 

The costumes in the show are often authentic vintage pieces, with costumier Anna Robbins travelling to Scotland and Paris for rarer items.

Costuming the male characters is hard however, according to Alistair Bruce, the show’s historical advisor, as the actors are too muscular. He says “the clothing of that period was not designed to cope with large pectoral muscles and impressive shoulders.”

Dame Maggie Smith’s Dowager Countess has the most ornate dresses on the show, reportedly making the below-stairs cast very jealous. Her outfits are modelled on Queen Alexandra, mother of King George V.


6. Not cheap!

According to Jessica Fellowes, niece of Downton creator Julian Fellowes, the show costs as much as £1 million per episode to produce however compared to many other show’s that is a bargain.

According to IMDb, the online movie database, the Netflix original series Marco Polo cost $6 million (£3.96 million) per episode.

7. Tailor-made roles

Although all the other cast members had to audition for their roles, Julian Fellowes has said that he wrote the parts of Lord Gratham, Mr Bates and Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Gratham specifically for Hugh Bonneville, Brendan Coyle and Dame Maggie Smith.

8. I don’t have to do this, you know?

Despite being stars of a hit show, many of the Downton cast have other careers.

Elizabeth McGovern who plays Lady Cora, is also the lead singer and guitarist of rock band Sadie and the Hotheads.

Michelle Dockery, who plays McGovern’s daughter in the show has obviously inherited her onscreen mother’s musical talent, and is an established jazz singer in her own right. She often performs with McGovern’s band, and also performed at famous jazz club Ronnie Scott’s in London as part of their 50th anniversary celebrations.

Dan Stevens, who has now left the show, has a very literary second life, as the Editor-at-Large of The Junket quarterly magazine. He was also on the judging panel for the Man Booker Prize during his time on the show, for which he had to read 145 books.

9. Dig the Downton dogs

There is a nod to history in the naming of the Downton dogs.

Pharaoh and Isis, who sadly barked his last in series five, were named in honour of the real owner of Highclere Castle, where the show is filmed.

In 1922, Explorer and Egyptologist George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon opened the tomb of Tutankhamun in Egypt’s Valley of the Kings. Isis is the name of the ancient Egyptian goddess of the sun and protection.


10. Friends in high places

Now entering its sixth and final season, Downton Abbey has accrued some famous fans.

Everyone from Katy Perry to Michelle Obama to Tom Hanks has expressed their love of the show.

Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis even went and visited the set at Highclere Castle.

Harrison Ford reportedly requested a cameo role on the show.


And that’s a wrap. All that remains is to sit down, snuggle up and watch what promises to be an incredible finale to a popular series.


The final episode of Downton Abbey airs on Christmas Day at 8.45pm on ITV



All images courtesy of ITV/Carnival Films/Masterpiece

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With Downton Abbey about to make its final appearance on our screen, we've gathered 10 little known facts about the series.