10 Behind The Scenes Facts About Downton Abbey

Unfortunately, the brilliant series, Downton Abbey, is over and done with, but fans can remember the show through these 10 behind the scenes facts.

Sir Julian Fellowes’ British historical drama, Downton Abbey, became quite the rage when it first began a decade ago in 2010. The show, with its lavish period costumes, opulent settings, to say nothing of Lady Violet Crawley’s jaw-dropping one-liners, took the audience back in time when the grandiose lifestyle of the Brtish aristocracy was gradually on its way out, ushering in in its place a more modern outlook towards life.

The series grabbed a fair number of awards during its six-season run, and the cast and writers got significant attention. Over the years, there were more than a few interesting goings-on on behind the camera, some fun and some not so much. Take a sneak-peek into 10 behind the scenes facts of this beloved period drama.

10The Series Was Shot In A Real Live Castle

For those who don’t know already, Downton Abbey was shot in an actual country estate. The palatial mansion surrounded by acres of lush greenery that fans grew to adore is actually Highclere Castle, in Hampshire.

The castle dates back to the mid-19th century and currently belongs to the Earl of Carnarvon. Tourists and fans can take a tour of the castle and experience the many staterooms and sprawling lawns that the historical drama opened up to the public imagination.

9Downstairs Was All Sets

The downstairs folks at Downton Abbey have just as complicated lives as do those upstairs, if not more so. However, fans will be disappointed to know that what they are used to seeing as the kitchen, the servants’ hall, and the maids’ rooms are all part of a massive set.

The castle in Hampshire, it seems, was used mostly for the scenes upstairs, where the lords and ladies of the great house enacted their very own family drama and sat down for lavish dinners. But the kitchen and the rooms below stairs are built on a soundstage.

8Clothing The Male Actors Was A Headache

Accuracy in fabric and costumes is of course a major part of filming any historical drama. The series’ historical advisor, Alaistair Bruce, has stated that finding the right size clothing for the male actors was a bit tricky.

Men at the time did not work out religiously, nor did they have toned muscular frames and bulging biceps. Apparently the costume department was a bit hassled running after the men with their stiff collars, trying to get them to look as close as possible to the men during the period that the show was set in.

7The Food Was Real But Stale

The folks at Downton ate a lot. In fact, their sumptuous meals cooked by the dynamic Mrs. Patmore and her underlings were a feast for the eyes.

However, turns out the food that was served on the plates was real enough, but not particularly fresh. The lobster, which made an appearance in almost every major meal, was frozen and used repeatedly throughout the shoot. Actress Sofie McShera, who played kitchen maid Daisy, mentioned that the frozen food would actually start stinking up the set, at times. It seems the actors even had a name for the long-suffering lobster–‘Lobstergate.

6The Food Wasn’t The Only Thing Smelling

As it happens, the food wasn’t the only thing smelling! The costumes weren’t very fresh either. Curiously enough, for a series that holds on to the nostalgia of the British etiquette, the story behind the scenes wasn’t quite as perfect as that in front of the camera.

Actress Sofie McShera told Harpers Bazaar that their costumes didn’t get washed regularly. The ladies had thick patches stitched into the underarms of their dresses which were washed, but apparently not the dresses themselves.

5The Corsets Were A Nightmare

It wasn’t just the smell though. The women on the show were expected to wear corsets to help maintain their shape and posture, but the corsets proved an absolute nightmare for the actresses who weren’t used to wearing such tight garments underneath their everyday clothing.

Corsets were traditionally used all over the world as a tight undergarment meant to highlight the beauty of the feminine body and the female actors had to wear these bodices under their gowns and dresses to stay true to the time. However, this was particularly difficult to get used to for most of them, so much so that Dame Maggie Smith actually refused to wear them after a while and managed to get away with it.

4The Upstairs Folks Had One Bedroom Between Them

Elizabeth McGovern who played Lady Grantham stated that the grand bedrooms that the lords and ladies were shown hanging out a lot, pondering their life’s decisions or having scandalous shenanigans in, were really just one.

Yes, it might seem odd since bedrooms were shown so frequently – much of the interactions between Lord and Lady Grantham, as well as that between Lady Mary Crawley and her maid Anna, took place inside bedrooms. Yet, the crew used just one bedroom, which was redecorated over and over depending on what was being shot, to capture the different scenes.

3Edith And Andy Are A Couple

Lady Edith had quite a tragic, complex life for the majority of her time on the show. From losing her beloved to becoming pregnant out of wedlock and not being treated as equal to her older sister Mary, Edith had a difficult time until her arc became happier by the time the series ended.

However, Laura Carmichael, who plated the ill-fated second Crawley sister, found love easily on the sets of Downton Abbey. Carmichael started dating co-star Michael Fox, who joined the hit period drama as the footman Andy in season 5. The actors keep their personal lives private and have been together for several years now.

2Michelle Dockery Went Through Unbelievable Tragedy

Lady Mary Crawley lost the love of her life when her husband and father of her newborn son died in a shocking car crash. Fans all over the world wept into their pillows and nursed their shattered hearts as Matthew died moments after finding out that he had become a father.

Unfortunately, in a devastating parallel to her screen character, Michelle Dockery, who played Mary, actually did lose her fianceé in real life. Dockery had been dating public relations executive John Dineen and the two had met through Dockery’s Downton co-star Allen Leech, who played chauffeur-turned-family Tom Branson. Dineen was then diagnosed with cancer and passed away sometime after the two got engaged. The fact that Mary’s arc in the series made her a widow soon after would naturally have been unimaginably difficult for the actress.

1Maggie Smith Wasn’t Elated With Downton

One of the best things about this early 20th-century historical drama was the Dowager Countess, Lady Violet Crawley, played with gusto by none other than Dame Maggie Smith. The character brought a generous sprinkling of dry British humor and sarcasm to every frame she walked into, towering over everybody else and having everyone minding their p’s and q’s.

The Dowager Countess was an instant hit, but unfortunately, the actress herself wasn’t as taken by the series as her fans seemed to have been. Maggie Smith is known to have stated that she did not find her role in the popular drama highly satisfying. Given that she is a powerhouse performer and quite literally one of the last few of her generation, it is unsurprising that she should find working for popular television not particularly challenging.

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