It may not be the most exciting TV series around, but one thing ITV’s period drama Downton Abbey does well is its locations. Follow me on a tour of the real life Downton.
Although it’s supposed to be set in Yorkshire, the fictional village of Downton is played by the West Oxfordshire village of Bampton on the edge of the Cotswolds.
Bampton’s library is used as a hospital in the programme, and also hosts an exhibition called ‘Downton Abbey in Bampton’ with photographs of the film crew at work, and Downton memorabilia for sale. A visitor’s book shows people have come from as far afield as USA, Australia and Dudley.
For 50p, you can buy a map of the filming locations and spot the programme’s two pubs, The Dog and Duck and The Grantham Arms. Diehard Downton fans could even visit the nearby villages of Shilton (where Mr Bates worked in the Red Lion pub) and Cogges (where Mr Drewe’s Yew Tree Farm is set).
Opposite the library, the last house on the corner of the street called Church View plays host to the village post office. As you can see below, there is an unfortunately placed dog-poo bin on the corner in real life, although the producers cover this up with a post-box.
Bampton’s main draw is its old church complete with spire – St. Mary’s, which has a starring role throughout the series. The characters are frequently seen strolling through the churchyard amongst the ancient gravestones.
These are so old, the inscriptions on many are illegible and those that can be read date back to the late 18th century. Next to the church is the Crawley house, pictured below (so I am told by my wife).
When filming takes place, local residents are paid inconvenience money – one person we spoke to said he was paid £80 per day to park his car elsewhere. I noticed a couple of huge military planes coming in to land at the nearby RAF base at Brize Norton – whether the producers also pay out to the RAF to play ball, I don’t know.
If you fancy a pint in Bampton, you might be disappointed to learn that The Dog and Duck and The Grantham Arms aren’t real – pub signs are put on to the outsides of normal houses. Instead, head to The Romany Inn on Bridge Street, which has live music every Saturday night.
Despite the lack of competition, the only restaurant in Bampton’s centre, Biztro, is actually pretty good. And with accommodation upstairs, it makes the perfect base for those who want to stay the night in Bampton.
The stately home scenes are filmed at Highclere Castle near Newbury in Berkshire, over 40 miles away. You can’t just turn up here, tickets must be pre-booked at www.highclerecastle.co.uk – you’ll be looking at £20 per person for a morning or afternoon session seeing the grounds and the house itself.
Fortunately Kat visited with her Downton-obsessed friend earlier this year, saving me a job. Here are two of their best photos.