Great Houses with Julian Fellowes

Burghley House

Series 1 - Episode 1 Burghley House



The creator of Downton Abbey visits Downton-esque estates in a two-part documentary to unearth the stories of those who lived there — above and below stairs. He’s a wonderfully jovial presence, like an eager spaniel snuffling around Burghley House in Lincolnshire, looking for drama and intrigue over the centuries.

He finds plenty, too, from an Elizabethan cook accidentally stabbed by the Earl of Oxford to an 18th-century maid caricatured in a mural as the six-breasted goddess of plenty. He traces the stories, Who Do You Think You Are?-style, through archives and letters, though at times we’d be content with a few more visuals of the house itself. The kitchen alone is a sort of fan-vaulted cathedral of food, and was originally staffed, we’re told, entirely by men.


The Downton Abbey creator presents a two-part documentary exploring the history of stately homes Burghley House and Goodwood House through the lives of those who owned them and their servants. Beginning with the story of Burghley House in Lincolnshire, for 500 years the residence of the descendants of William Cecil, chief adviser to Elizabeth I, he learns about the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots, the romantic tale of the Cottage Countess - a farmer's daughter who married the 10th Earl of Exeter - and traces the fate of a cook tragically framed to protect his master's reputation.