The Crawley family are set to fling wide the doors to the Abbey in series six, reveals Downton’s executive producer Gareth Neame. Robert, Cora, Mary and co will open up their crumbling country manor in one of the final episodes, and let members of the public snoop around their home.
But it doesn’t mean the family will be moving out, or getting life-long complimentary English Heritage memberships…
“The family will decide to open the house to the public,” says Neame, quickly adding: “This isn’t the National Trust! Or a 365 day a year revenue initiative; no, this is a one-off and very informal and impromptu.”
“This storyline is important because for almost all of us, our relationship with these historic houses is that we purchase a ticket and go and visit them. And in doing so, we immerse ourselves in a piece of living history, at the same time as preserving such places for generations to come.”
As well as tying up plot lines and providing the show’s dedicated fans with a satisfying ending, “there’s another dimension to season six which is immensely important to me,” Neame said.
“Firstly, to demonstrate that this show has always been about the end of an era and we’ll reveal that this way of life is inevitably coming to an end. And secondly, I would now like audiences to make a direct connection between the show and their own lives.”
“I’d love the audience to now see these characters as people they might know and recognise. Daisy could be someone’s grandmother who worked in service… Mary, Edith and Sybil’s children could just about be alive today. And although we inhabit a radically different early 21st century, we’re still inextricably linked to that era – it wasn’t just a place and time on its own – this is a part of where we come from.”
The plot twist mirrors reality for Highclere Castle, the grand country house which played host to the show for six years. Even if fictional Downton Abbey won’t be permanently installing a ticket office, Highclere, which the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon call home, is currently open to the public. In fact, fans of the show can wander around the familiar grounds, pause in the dining room, and even walk down Downton’s grand staircase, from just £5 a ticket.
Downton Abbey returns to ITV on Sunday 20th September
Sign up to the Radio Times newsletter for the latest TV and entertainment news