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'Downton Abbey' Synopsis and Other Essential Information


'Downton Abbey' Synopsis and Other Essential Information
Credit: Courtesy of © Nick Briggs/ITV for MASTERPIECE


Take a trip back to the early 1900s when King George V ruled England and meet the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants from Yorkshire, England. Taking place immediately following the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, Lord Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham is devastated when his heir is killed on the doomed ship and forced to welcome his distant cousin Matthew Crawley, a lawyer from Manchester, to Downton Abbey, the family's prized country home. Along with the Crawley family, the series also follows the entertaining lives of the many servants who keep Downton Abbey running smoothly.

Series Premiere:

January 11, 2011

When Does it Air?:

During its regular season run, Downton Abbey airs on Sunday nights (check local listings for times). The series also airs repeats throughout the year. Episodes can be found on Hulu.com, Amazon.com and Netflix. It is not yet available on iTunes.

'Downton Abbey' Cast - The Crawley's:

  • Hugh Bonneville as Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham
  • Elizabeth McGovern as Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham
  • Michelle Dockery as Lady Mary Josephine Crawley
  • Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith Crawley
  • Jessica Brown Findlay as Lady Sybil Crawley-Branson
  • Dame Maggie Smith as Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham
  • Dan Stevens as Matthew Crawley
  • Penelope Wilton as Isobel Crawley
  • Shirley MacLaine as Martha Levinson (Beginning season 3)

'Downton Abbey' Cast - The Servants:

  • Phyllis Logan as Mrs. Elsie Hughes (The Housekeeper)
  • Rob James-Collier as Thomas Barrow
  • Jim Carter as Charles Carson (The Butler)
  • Siobhan Finneran as Sarah O'Brien (Lady Grantham's Maid)
  • Rose Leslie as Gwen Dawson (Maid)
  • Joanne Froggatt as Anna Smith Bates (Head Maid)
  • Amy Nuttall as Ethel Parks (Maid)
  • Brendan Coyle as John Bates (Valet)
  • Rob James-Collier (Footman/Valet)
  • Lesley Nicol as Beryl Patmore (The Cook)
  • Sophie McShera as Daisy Robinson Mason (Kitchen Maid)

Where is the Series Filmed?:

The series is filmed in various locations throughout London and Buckinghamshire, England, with the main exterior shots of Downton Abbey filmed at Highclere Castle, Highclere, Hampshire, England. The servants quarters are filmed at Ealing Studios in London.

Time Periods:

  • The first season spanned the years April, 1912 (immediately following the sinking of the Titanic) to August, 1914.
  • Season two spanned the years 1916 to 1919. there was also a Christmas special that takes place in 1919.
  • The third season is rumored to take place in 1920.


  • Visiting England? Fans of the series can visit Highclere Castle during the summer months.
  • The series was originally supposed to air as a mini-series, but it was an instant hit with viewers and soon became a bonafide drama series. It was entered as a mini-series for the 2011 Emmy Awards, and then changed over to the drama series category for the 2012 Emmys.
  • Dame Maggie Smith announced that she would not stay with the series beyond season three.
  • Series creator Julian Fellowes was accused of ripping off parts of Louisa May Alcott's classic book, Little Women.
  • George V was the king of England during this time frame.


In its first year, Downton Abbey scored several Emmy and Golden Globe nominations and wins, including:
  • 2011 Emmy Win: Outstanding Miniseries or Movie
  • 2011 Emmy Win: Outstanding Supporting Actress In a Miniseries or a Movie - Maggie Smith (Elizabeth McGovern was also nominated)
  • 2011 Emmy Win: Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special
  • 2011 Emmy Win: Outstanding Writing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Dramatic Special
  • 2012 Golden Globe Win: Best Miniseries or Television Film (Maggie Smith, Elizabeth McGovern and Hugh Bonneville also were nominated)
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