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Ten Secrets of Downton Abbey


  • Dame Maggie Smith, who portrayed Violet Crawley so brilliantly throughout, never watched an episode of Downton Abbey. Dame Maggie said that she didn’t want to spot all of the mistakes that she had made and not be able to do anything about them.
  • Highclere Castle has a real ghost. One of the former housekeepers is usually heard more than seen; as she moves around her keys jangle at the end of the chain that she wore around her waist.
  • The Ritz Hotel featured in many of the glamorous party scenes. The Ballroom at The Ritz was a favourite location throughout the series and features in one of the last scenes ever shot.
  • The Dowager Countess may be a pillar of British society, but it turns out that she almost left her husband and children for the wild-eyed, mysterious Russian Prince Kuragin. His wife shows up just in time to thwart a rekindling of their romance.
  • Julian Fellowes has admitted that some of the storylines are based on factual events from his own family history. The death of the Turkish diplomat was one notable example.
  • Mrs Hughes’ sitting room befits her status as head of the household and the grand sherry and tea set are an important feature. The evening glass of sherry with Mr Carson is an important part of the day.
  • The ‘downstairs’ scenes are filmed on a set. The kitchens at Highclere are modern and wholly inappropriate for the filming requirements so the set has been created from scratch.
  • The stunning costumes were a huge part of the show, but they had different origins. Many were made for the show, but some were original 1920’s which were hugely valuable. At the other end of the spectrum, some were simply borrowed from other films and TV series.
  • The bells to summon the servants were outdated. Many grand houses had replaced the bells with a light system to summon their servants. The makers of Downton Abbey kept the bells because they were so well-loved by the cast and audience.
  • The props have to be authentic and eBay has proved to be a valuable source of required items. Mrs Patmore was not the only one worried about the introduction of an electric food mixer: the programme makers thought they would have to make one until they found the real thing on eBay.