Beyond the Pale

Downton Abbey: Costume Drama Heaven?

Just as the call of a cuckoo is held as the first sign of Spring; surely nothing heralds the start of Autumn more certainly than the clarion call of confirmed National Treasure, Dame Maggie Smith in a Sunday evening costume drama.

Downton Abbey is a brand new series by Oscar-winning writer Julian Fellowes (he of Gosford Park fame and – his most recent film – The Young Victoria) and it begins tonight on ITV1 at 9pm. Fear not, American chums, apparently you will be able to feast your eyes by seeing this on PBS in January 2011.

The sun is rising behind Downton Abbey, a great and splendid house in a great and splendid park. So secure does it appear, that it seems as if the way of life it represents will last for another thousand years.

It won’t.

Set in a stunning country house (actually filmed in Highclere Castle, Hampshire) in 1912, Downton Abbey will follow the turbulent lives of the Crawley family and the servants who work for them. I know one shouldn’t pre-judge, but I think it’s quite a safe bet that I’ll be glued to the screen for every episode!

“In 1912, England was teetering on the brink. Apparently placid, still rooted in the traditions of many centuries, it would be less than ten years before the First World War and the Jazz Age had ripped every certainty to shreds. This is the moment when we enter the world of Downton Abbey, the great house of a great family, where the Granthams and their daughters preside over a household in the charge of Carson, the butler, and Mrs Hughes, the housekeeper. All these people must, in their different ways, deal with the changes that are coming. The cast, led by Maggie Smith as the Dowager, Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern as the Earl and Countess of Grantham, Dan Stevens and Penelope Wilton as the unwanted heir and his mother, and a staff led by Jim Carter as Carson, and Phyllis Logan as Mrs Hughes, will bring the halls and passages of Downton to life, with splendour, discipline and passion.” – Julian Fellowes

To say I am excited would be something of an understatement.

I mean honestly – a fabulous setting, drool-worthy costumes, a pedigree cast & Oscar-winning writer: what’s not to like? There’s an excellent page dedicated to Downton Abbey at the Enchanted Serenity of Period Films blog – the Meet the Characters section being particularly useful, I think.

The Ladies of Downton Abbey (from Enchanted Serenity pucture gallery)

This looks set to be the cosy costume drama of choice for the Autumn season – and how refreshing that it should NEW! You know I love my Austen adaptations and am a sucker for bit of Dickens, but the endless cavalcade of re-hashes can become (dare one say) tiresome over time. To have something specifically written – and by a writer of such prestige – is a real treat.

Ring for the butler, darlings, and demand tea and crumpets.

(P.S: Searching for images of tea & crumpets was harder than I imagined. I was found screaming “That’s NOT a crumpet!” many a time. Had to settle on this beautiful picture which also includes scones (via the Brambleberry Cottage and Tea Shoppe). Am all calm, now.

I was inspired to put together an Etsy Treasury (a curated collection of themed items, all available from the diverse sellers on, hoping to evoke the Edwardian era, and cosy costume dramas in general… I do hope you enjoy browsing around these gorgeous shops!

Direct links to items listed, left to right:

1st Row: 1) Three Red Apples, 2) Decades, 3) Pink Burlesque, 4) Christmas Angel

2nd Row: 1) The Church of Vintage, 2) Luna Shoes UK, 3) An Era’s Ambiance, 4) Attila Design

3rd Row: 1) Jennifer Whitmer, 2) Floremark Shop, 3) Crochet Lab, 4) Divine Y

4th Row: 1) Giardino, 2) Ghost Love Jewelry, 3) Redthreaded, 4) Katarina Couture

Well,dears, it begins in under 20 minutes, so forgive me whilst I hop off to butter my crumpets (so to speak)!

Until next time,

Yours dramatically,

Miss Nightingale



5 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Gorgeous pieces! Thank you for including my monocle.

; )



Comment by D.

Great news about Downton Abbey, too bad I won’t see it until Jan:(
Love the historically themed treasury…thank you so much for including my Edwardian Thank You notes! Off to look at the other lovelies…

Comment by giardino

Oh, this is such a great blog. I adore the captivating photo at the top. Thank you for including my silk flower pin.

P.S. So happy you found your crumpet!

Comment by Jennifer

I thought I was the only one excited for this! Enchanted Serenity has been leaving bread crumbs all month and I’m totally hyped.

Arianne from A + B in the Sea

Comment by arnique

Oh I love period dramas too! Shame I missed it last night… I’ll be sure to catch up.
Thank you so much for featuring my little crumpet hoop!

Comment by Annabelle

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