Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Gosford Park and More Manners of Downton Abbey

Knowing Gosford Park was Julian Fellowes forerunner to Downton Abbey [although it takes place later in 1932], I ordered the DVD.

It too is about the upstairs occupants of an English country house, and their downstairs servants, and it involves some of the same actors too - Maggie Smith and Jeremy Swift [Spratt], but that's where the similarities end.  Gosford Park is a whodunit murder mystery. If you haven't seen it, it's worth seeing.

As you know, I've been watching Season 6 with my daughter, and she wasn't going to be available to watch the final episode with me on March 6th, so we cheated and watched the finale together on Sunday, Feb. 28th on DVD.  [I did, however, re-watch it again last Sunday night on TV without her.]  Like everyone else I'm sad to see Downton end, but Julian Fellowes has a new period drama called Dr. Thorne that will probably make its way to our side of the pond, and he'll be writing The Gilded Age - the millionaire titans of New Your City set in the 1880's, which will begin filming later this year, and there's also the hope of a Downton Abbey movie.

By watching the DVD finale on February 28th, I missed seeing More Manners of Downton Abbey that aired on PBS that night.  Fortunately, it can be viewed online through March 13th, and I've been watching it, and hoping it will be made into a DVD.  Did you watch it?

[Internet Photos]

Alastair Bruce [above] was the historical advisor for the Downton Abbey series.  I loved the facts he shared regarding what afternoon tea would have been like at Downton.

The downstairs staff were likened to 'backstage stage managers' making sure everything ran smoothly for the family.  Alastair stated there’s no better example of the stage management of daily life above stairs than the ritual of afternoon tea.  Tea was an incredibly important part of the day because it made a place where they could stop as a family between lunch – which had finished around 2:00 o’clock – and they didn’t dine until about 8:30 p.m. And it meant for the household staff, the family were all in the library, so the maids could go and clean all the other rooms.  They had the run of the house, and they knew they wouldn’t be disturbed or that they would not disturb the family.

Tea was brought in at 5:00 o’clock, and the whole house knew that.  Anyone who was late for tea was in terrible trouble!  They were sticklers for punctuality.

People drank tea differently below stairs than they did above.  Below stairs, they put the milk in first, whereas above stairs, they put it in second [or last].  The theory goes - according to Alastair - that below stairs the china was of an inferior quality, and by putting the milk in first, they protected it from cracking when they poured in the hot tea.

The aristocracy had a very clear idea of how to bring up children.  They should be seen and not heard.  Except that is, once a day at tea time, when they would be delivered by nanny to spend one hour only with their parents.  When they came down they had to be dressed in their tidiest clothes, from the nursery where they were having fun, into the adult world, where everything was much more stiff and proper.  And the great ambition of a child was to be sufficiently well-behaved to have lunch with the family.  That was an enormous thing to aim for.

Thanks to Julian Fellowes and all the cast for six fabulous seasons of Downton Abbey.  It was a phenomenal series!


  1. I thought it was interesting and never realized the maids were scurrying to get the upstairs rooms cleaned during tea. The first special on Downton manners was good too - it was more about him advising the actors.

  2. I'm glad you enjoyed the last episode twice! Interesting info about the "manners" of tea, upstairs and down.

  3. Downton Abbey was so loved by everyone who watched it and it will be sorely missed. What shall I do on Monday evenings now that there are no more tapes to watch?? The show was on an hour later here so we always had to tape it. The Manners show was interesting and fun to watch. I had to laugh when I learned the aristocracy thought children should be seen and not heard because that is exactly how I was raised although there is no royal blood in me. That's just the way my parents were. My children were raised somewhat differently and they are so much more extroverted than I ever was. But then they all more or less took after their father which is a good thing! My sweet uncle who came from England always poured his milk in first. Thank you for an interesting post, Phyllis, and enjoy your day.


  4. I will miss Downton Abbey. I enjoyed the series so much. Looking forward to seeing it again on DVD. I also enjoyed the special on manners as well as the history.


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