Help Save Downton Abbey’s Cotswolds Film Location

Many of Downton Abbey’s scenes are filmed in the medieval Cotswolds village of Bampton and as I was writing about this lovely place in the sequel to my book Cotswolds Memoir: Discovering a Beautiful Region of Britain on a Quest to Buy a 17th Century Cottage I came across this appeal (below) by Hugh Bonneville for a donation to help restore Bampton’s Old Grammar School (Downton Cottage Hospital in the series).

After I made a donation I was thrilled to receive this reply (below)

Thank you

Here is a revisit to my blog giving the history of ancient buildings used in scenes in Downton Abbey and lots more about the lovely Cotswolds village of Bampton.

A Downton Day Out

A Tour of Bampton’s Downton Abbey Locations 

Highclere Castle, Location for Downton Abbey- Daily Mail

The charming village of Bampton in the Cotswolds is used as a background to a number of outdoor scenes in the immensely successful television series Downton Abbey and this lovely spot is well worth a visit. Not only is it interesting to see where scenes of Downton Abbey are shot but there are many other attractions in Bampton that would make a leisurely sojourn there very memorable.

Bampton, or as it was once known Bampton-in-the-Bush, is situated in the county of Oxfordshire in the Thames Valley and is about four and a half miles southwest of Witney.

Visitors strolling around Bampton will recognize a number of buildings and streets that were used in scenes in Downton Abbey.

St. Mary’s Church

One of the locations frequently filmed in the series is Bampton’s church, St Mary of the Virgin which dates from the 12th Century. This church, like many ancient buildings in Britain was built on the foundations of an earlier structure and incorporates parts of the older building in the new edifice. In this case, St. Mary’s church was erected on the site of an Anglo-Saxon Minster. The tower was the only feature of the Minster that was spared and it is now part of the Church. St. Mary’s is also distinguished by its magnificent 13th Century spire.

William the Conqueror gave this church to the Bishop of Exeter and it has been rebuilt and added to many times through the centuries.

Cottage Hospital

Another location used in filming is Bampton Library which was used as the entrance to the cottage hospital that was portrayed in the second series of Downton Abbey.

According to Pevsner and Sherwood’s book The Buildings of England this library was once the Grammar school of St. Mary’s church and was built in 1653.

Isobel Crawley’s house

The Old Rectory which is close by St. Mary’s Church is used for the exterior shots of Isobel Crawley’s house in Downton Abbey. The south side of this building is late 17th Century and features five bays. The back of the house is older with a 16th century arched stone doorway and in the garden wall there is a stone inscribed with the date 1546. Next to the Rectory are 17th Century stables with a gabled dovecote built over them.

The interior scenes of Isobel Crawley’s house, however, are filmed at Hall Place near Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire.

Crawley_House interior

Downton Abbey’s conception


The series is set in the fictional Downton Abbey, a Yorkshire country house, the grand home of the Earl and Countess of Grantham, and follows the lives and fortunes of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants through the reign of King George V.


Gareth Neame of Carnival Films originally conceived the idea of an Edwardian-era TV drama set in a country house and suggested this concept to Julian Fellowes, who had won an Academy Award for Best Writing in the category of Original Screenplay for Gosford Park.


Shortly, thereafter, Julian Fellowes gave Gareth Neame an outline of the first series. Julian Fellowes writes the series, and his wife Emma acts as his story editor.


Bampton Annual Events

In addition to Bampton being used for locations of Downton Abbey this beautiful town features plenty of Cotswolds character and is well known for several quaint traditions that take place every year and have been doing so for the past several centuries. Visitors would do well to time a visit to take in one or more of these fun-filled events after viewing the Downton locations.

Shirt Race

Bampton Shirt Race

Once a year, on the Saturday of the Spring Bank Holiday there is a bizarre pub crawl organized by the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Junketing known as The Bampton Shirt Race. In past times the runners in this race were dressed in night-gowns and would compete in pairs with one runner pushing the other in a trolley. There was a time when there were fourteen pubs in Bampton and the race stops at every location for the competitors to down a large quaff of beer. Many of those public houses have now been converted to private residences but a stop at these former pubs is still included in the race. Nowadays, the race consists of larger teams using many different kinds of cobbled-together wheeled vehicles, such as prams, wheelbarrows and even wheelybins. These are used to transport the competitors who are costumed in outlandish fancy dress. There are prizes for the best outfits.

Morris Dancers

Morris Dancing

Bampton is well known for its Morris dancing which has been practiced in the village since the late eighteenth century. The town supports three world-renowned Morris Dance teams and the dancing is performed throughout the Monday of the Spring Bank Holiday in the latter part of May, beginning at 8.30 a.m. In the evening, visiting teams join in the dancing. Much is made of the traditional fertility cake which everyone samples as it is carried around the streets with the dancers.


May Garlands

The charming tradition of May Garland making by the children of Bampton began several centuries ago. It takes place at 11a.m. in the market square on the Monday of the Spring Bank Holiday.

Donkey derby

Donkey Derby

A Donkey Derby is run on the Monday of the August Bank Holiday, and organized by the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Junketing. This begins at 2 p.m. at Sandford’s Field. In addition to the donkey races (all the jockeys are children) there are bric-a-brac stalls, skittles, Aunt Sally, crockery smashing and much more.


The Mummers

The Mummers perform plays on Christmas Eve every year. These plays have been performed since the nineteenth century in Bampton but are most likely much older. These dramas have been handed down through family tradition by word of mouth as no scripts exist. In the Bampton version there are ten characters including Robin Hood, Father Christmas, a Prussian King, St. George etc. The plays are uniquely performed in two acts instead of the customary one. Pagan rituals may have figured in the original plays as the plot involves many scenes of characters being finished off and then magically being brought back to life. This could perhaps symbolize the end of the old year and the beginning of the new. Watching the Mummers perform is a wonderful highlight of the Christmas season.


Ladies of Downton Abbey

Bampton Pubs and Restaurants

After all this fun a little refreshment might be in order.

The Romany Inn On Bridge Street in Bampton is an unassuming pub serving typical but good pub food.                                                               Accomodation available.

The Horse Shoes On the High Street in Bampton. No food or accommodation http://www.bamptonoxon-                                                                             

The Trout at Tadpole Bridge Is well known for its fine dining and serves the best food for miles around. It is  just five minutes’ drive down the road from Bampton in Buckland Marsh Diners come as far away as London to eat at this excellent riverside gastro-pub. In summer there are tables in the garden which leads down to the Thames. Stroll by the river with a pre-dinner drink. Accommodation available.

Cotswolds Memoir:

Now available in Paperback, Kindle and Audio Book

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Discovering a Beautiful Region of Britain
on a Quest to Buy a 17th Century Cottage
(Larrabee Libraries)

A portion of the proceeds of every copy of this author’s book COTSWOLDS MEMOIR: Discovering a Beautiful Region of Britain on a Quest to Buy a 17th Century Cottage is donated to Cotswold conservation institutions. Available on



Visit Landmarks of the Cotswolds that Reflect its Beauty

The shimmering, cool rivers, ponds and streams of the Cotswolds provide a wonderful mirror-image of the beauty of this forgotten-by-time region. Here are some reflections of the Cotswolds, captured in several of its most treasured landmarks.
Visit these lovely places and enjoy a few calming moments of contemplation by the soothing sounds of trickling water.

1Kiftsgate Garden

Kiftsgate Garden, near Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire
This garden, created by three generations of women, is a must-see. A series of interconnected garden rooms and descending terraces offer spectacular views, some of which are reflected in a pond overlooking an endless vista of the Cotswolds.

2Cornwell Manor in the Cotswolds is a Grade II listed Manor House in West Oxfordshire

This lovely garden evokes images of Downton Abbey in Edwardian times with beautifully gowned women and suave men in tuxedos, chatting, as they drink a pre-dinner sherry. Perhaps these dinner guests stroll, on a warm summer’s evening by the reflecting waters of the fountain, before pairing up to take their places in the elegant dining room of this matchless 17th Century manor.

4Prior Park Garden

This National Trust Grade I listed garden, Prior Park, just south of Bath, Somerset, is built high on a hillside with spectacular views of Bath as just one of its many attractions. It was created by local entrepreneur Ralph Allen and begun in 1734. There are few flowers and no formal beds in this garden; it is all about breathtaking views, restful green lawns, reflecting water from the lakes and a sculptural Palladian bridge, creating a mellow mood that is immensely pleasing.

5Shilton Open Gardens

Shilton, tucked away in the Shill Brook Valley, near Burford, Oxfordshire is a charming village with much to boast about. There is a traditional pub, The Rose and Crown, which serves delicious food, and camera-ready ducks that occasionally cause cars to swerve out of their way as they cross a nearby ford. The flower-bedecked gardens are so beautiful that they are opened to the public once a year for the National Garden Scheme. It was at an open garden that this wrought iron bridge was glimpsed, its delicate pattern making a mesmerizing reflection in the stream below.


Westbury Court Garden

Westbury Court Garden near Gloucester and the Severn River on the edges of the Cotswolds is a revelation. It is the only 17th Century restored Dutch water garden in Great Britain. The National Trust rescued it in 1967 using an engraving of the garden from 1707 as a guide for its restoration. The calming trickle of the lily-covered canals, and the endless reflections from the gently rippling water make this garden a wonderful place for peaceful relaxation.


Little Faringdon Mill Near Lechlade

There has been a Mill on this site for over a thousand years which is evident from its Domesday Book listing. The two photographs of the mill, above and below, give an indication of its idyllic setting with a charming barn and weeping willow trees reflected in the streams that lazily weave around this lovely property.

Photographs by Randall Montgomery ©2014 Available for purchase at


Cotswolds Memoir_DizWhite

New! Cotswolds Memoir is now available as an AudioBook in addition to Paperback and Kindle

Click below to order

A portion of the proceeds of every copy of  COTSWOLDS MEMOIR: is donated to Cotswold conservation institutions.

Prior Park Garden in the Cotswolds – A National Trust Must-See


Prior Park is a must-see landscaped garden built high on a hillside with spectacular views of Bath as just one of its many attractions.
IMG_4641This National Trust Grade 1 listed garden was created by local entrepreneur Ralph Allen and begun in 1734.
IMG_4621Allen, who made his fortune by reorganizing the post office, took advice from the poet Alexander Pope and the garden designer Capability Brown before creating this masterpiece.
IMG_4618There are few flowers and no formal beds in this garden – it is all about breathtaking views, restful green lawns, reflecting water from the lakes and sculptural bridges – creating a mellow mood that is immensely pleasing.
IMG_4657Meandering across the elegant Palladian Bridge, one of only four left in the world, is a joy and there is much more to discover including: a Serpentine Lake, a Cascade, a summerhouse, and a horseshoe walk.
IMG_4655Winding and sometimes steep paths lead to hidden retreats, tranquil lakes, a ruined Gothic Temple, a Grotto and finally, stunning vistas over Bath. Prior Park was the matrix for style that became known as the “English garden”.
IMG_4623-1The Palladian mansion, which tops one of the garden’s sweeping green slopes and overlooks Bath, now houses Prior Park College and was designed by John Wood, the Elder in 1742. He was commissioned by Ralph Allen to build a house “To see all Bath, and for all Bath to see”.


This house, with its classic symmetry, should be on the list of all the overseas visitors who, caught up in Downton Abbey fervor, are now interested in seeing other examples of the great houses of Britain.

Afternoon Tea can be taken at a tiny, clapboard tea house, with outdoor tables, tucked away in the foliage.
IMG_4647A five-minute walk from the garden leads on to a six mile circular walk around Bath, with amazing views, that passes through woodlands, meadows, an Iron Age hill-fort, Roman settlements, and an 18th-century folly.

Prior Park Garden is south of Bath, Somerset, by Ralph Allen Drive, and 3/4 mile (1.2 km) from the Kennet and Avon canal path. BA2 5AH

Click here for National Trust Link


Cotswolds Memoir_DizWhite

New! Cotswolds Memoir is now available as an AudioBook in addition to Paperback and Kindle

Click below to order


A portion of the proceeds of every copy of  COTSWOLDS MEMOIR: is donated to Cotswold conservation institutions.

Downton Abbey’s Portrayal of Debutante Presentation at Court by the author of Cotswolds Memoir

Presentation 2

 Lady Grantham (Elizabeth McGovern) and Lady Rose (Lily James)

Downton Abbey paints a fascinating picture of a royal presentation at court in Episode 4 of the series. The purpose of this event was for the upper class debutantes and eligible bachelors to meet and make suitable marriages.


                King George V and Queen Mary        King George V  (Guy Williams) & Queen Mary (uncredited) 

In Downton Abbey Lady Rose is presented to George V and Queen Mary. A very deep curtsey was required by a debutante as the presentation is made. Debutantes were advised to practice their curtsey and many were nervous about getting it right. Various disasters were reported with Debutantes either tumbling over or being unable to rise after the curtsey without the aid of a hastily summoned courtier.


Lady Rose being presented at court

At the presentation a debutante would be announced to the King and Queen and after a curtsey would make her exit, stepping away from the Royals without turning around, in order not show her back.

A court presentation signaled the beginning of the social season in Britain and Debutantes were required to have a sponsor. It was mandatory that this sponsor be someone who had already been presented to the King and Queen.

Linnie Irwin Sweeney, left, and Elsie Irwin Sweeney in 1923.

Linnie Irwin Sweeney, left, and her daughter Elsie Irwin Sweeney being presented at court in 1923

Court dress followed prescribed tradition, with most girls wearing white evening dresses, although pastel shades where also in order. Three ostrich feathers attached to a veil adorned the debutante’s hair and pearls and jewelry borrowed from family heirlooms were traditionally worn.

Debutantes were chaperoned at dances by any female member of the family who could be induced to volunteer. Many a great-aunt would fall asleep in the small gilt chairs that were provided at these formal balls while the Debutante in her charge would often secretly slip away unnoticed to a nightclub. To many a young girl this would be a far more exciting prospect than a society ball.

George V portrait

King George V

A Sovereign presentation was designed to show off a Debutante as she entered society for the first time and to keep her selection of a husband confined to an elite, upper class circle. There was a lot of pressure on Debutantes to find their future husband at the various balls and entertainments during the first season of her presentation. But sometimes this was not possible and a second or even third season was needed to accomplish this goal.

In addition to the balls there were many other chances for Debutantes to meet a suitable prospective husband such as polo matches, Royal Ascot, tea parties, Thé Dansant and a Debutant’s own coming out party. This festivity was sometimes shared with a sister or cousin to defray expenses.

Presentation 3

Court presentations were removed from the court calendar in 1958 by Queen Elizabeth II,  and attempts by society to continue them without royal patronage were unsuccessful.

This little bit of history portrayed so charmingly in these scenes in Downton Abbey are all the more interesting because, as mentioned, the ritual of court presentation is now no more.

by Diz White author of


Discovering a Beautiful Region of Britain on a Quest to Buy a 17thCentury Cottage. Cotswolds Memoir Cover-2

A portion of the proceeds of every copy of  COTSWOLDS MEMOIR: is donated to Cotswold conservation institutions. Available on


Cotswolds Memoir author writes of Downton Abbey featuring the Prince of Wales and Freda Dudley Ward

Dancing Lady Rose, (Lily James) dances with the Prince of Wales (Oliver Dinsdale)

The Prince of Wales’ first love affair is alluded to in the storyline of Downton Abbey, however the real-life characters that are portrayed are just as fascinating as the action on the screen.

Edward VIII

The Prince of Wales, later King Edward VIII, was the King of England for less than a year before he abdicated to marry Wallis Simpson. But before the king met her he had an affair with the textile heiress and socialite Freda Dudley Ward.


                      Freda Dudley Ward                  Freda Dudley Ward (Janet Montgomery)

This affair, although of long duration, was one among many and Edward’s womanizing and reckless behavior so alarmed his father George V that the King talked openly of not wanting his first-born son to inherit the crown. “After I am gone”, George announced, “this boy will ruin himself within twelve months”.

Edward, Freda and her husband William Dudley Ward

The love affair between Edward and Freda Dudley Ward, (married to the liberal Member of Parliament William Dudley Ward), had begun over five years earlier in 1918 during a First World War Zeppelin Raid. Edward had hurried into a doorway as the bombs dropped around him and encountered Freda who had already taken shelter there. At the time Freda had two daughters and Edward subsequently became very fond of them. Her husband, sixteen years her senior, after discovering the affair, allowed the relationship to continue. Although the liaison was never referred to in the press it was an open secret among the upper classes.

Frieda and Rose
Lady Rose, (Lily James) and Freda Dudley Ward (Janet Montgomery)

Edward, or David as he was called by his close friends and family, considered himself the first ‘modern’ royal and participated fully in the nightlife of the nineteen twenties and thirties. He visited the Embassy Club and many other restaurant and dance clubs, which no royal had ever done before.

Edward met Freda Dudley Ward when he was twenty three years old and after an on and off again affair, broke off their relationship upon meeting Wallis Simpson in 1934. This led to the abdication crises in 1936.

William Dudley Ward divorced his wife in 1931 and in 1937 she married the Spanish nobleman Marques de Casa Maury. That marriage subsequently ended in divorce in 1954.

Wallis Simpson

Downton Abbey highlights an interesting glimpse of history as Freda Dudley Ward was Edward’s first serious love affair. Had he stayed with her and not transferred his affections to Wallis Simpson the course of history would have been significantly changed.

by Diz White author of COTSWOLDS MEMOIR: Discovering a Beautiful Region of Britain on a Quest to Buy a 17thCentury Cottage. Available on Amazon.

Cotswolds Memoir Cover-2

Cotswolds Memoir Author writes about Downton Abbey featuring Ambrose The 1920’s band leader

Ambrose 4

Come Back – the Embassy needs you – Edward. It was this message from the Prince of Wales in a 1925 cablegram to Ambrose, the band leader that finally persuaded him to return to England from New York. It must have been very flattering to have the heir to the British throne begging him to return to the Embassy nightclub with his band. Ambrose was in real-life, exactly as he was portrayed in a season four episode of Downton Abbey – an extremely popular band leader and violinist. He had been very much missed by the Prince while he was away from London. Only a year earlier Ambrose had left the Embassy Club for a much better offer to play at the Palais Royal in New York.

Ambrose 5

Born in the east end of London in 1896, Ambrose had divided his time between London and New York for several years before granting the Prince’s request. Eventually, after returning to the Embassy Club he moved on to the Mayfair Hotel in London where he remained for the following six years. He recorded many numbers with Decca, Brunswick and HMV helping to make him the most popular band leader of the era. Later he opened Ciro’s club and hired the legendary pianist Art Tatum and such talents as Ted Heath and Sylvester Ahola. He discovered Vera Lynn and much later Kathy Kirby.

Ambrose 3

Downton Abbey captures the glamour of this era in its scenes set in the Embassy Club and the viewer is given a fleeting glimpse of Ambrose as he plays his violin. Below are some recordings of how he sounded during the 1920s and 1930s.

If I had a Million Dollars was recorded for Decca at the Embassy Club in 1934

Dancing in the Dark was one of his popular tunes

Hullabaloo, one of Ambrose’ more uptempo numbers was recorded in 1939

Cotswolds Memoir Author writes brief history of Downton Abbey location in The Great Conservatory, Syon Park


The ravishingly beautiful Great Conservatory in Syon Park makes an idyllic setting for Lady Mary to take tea with Lord Gillingham in the series Downton Abbey.

syon park 5

The soaring white metal work of this backdrop contrasts with the lush greenery spilling from the classic Italian planters decorating its interior, creating a gorgeously romantic scene.

syon park 3

The Great Conservatory was designed by Charles Fowler and built in 1830. A Greek cross is the theme of the tropical house and this building’s spectacular glass dome is thirty eight feet in diameter. A conservatory constructed of metal had never before been attempted and its scale is particularly impressive with a frontage of two hundred and thirty feet.

syon park 2

Syon Park’s position, on the banks of the Thames only ten miles from London, is just across the river from Kew Gardens, and attracted the talents of J.M.W. Turner whose painting Zion House, Isleworth captures its beauty.

Sir John Betjeman sang the praises of Syon House and its 200 acre park when he described it as ‘The Grand Architectural Walk’. It is the London home of the Duke of Northumberland, whose family have lived there for more than 400 years. Originally the site of a medieval abbey which was dismantled by King Henry VIII in 1539 the current building and park are now a site of Special Scientific Interest.

Syon’s Italian Renaissance exterior was built in 1547 during the tenure of the 1st Duke of Somerset but it is its famous ‘Adam style’ that distinguishes the house’s interior. This came about when lst Duke of Northumberland commissioned Robert Adam to carry out a refurbishment 1762.

syon park 6

An eclectic mix of architectural influences inspired Adam including Baroque, Mannerist Gothic and Ancient Roman styles. The Long Gallery is one hundred and thirty six feet in length and the state rooms are a must-see as they remain completely intact from the day they were built.

In its march through history Syon House has been visited by or associated with King Henry VIII, Catherine of Aragon, Lady Jane Grey and Charles I.

Syon House and Park, including the Great Conservatory, are open to the public in the summer months and there is every reason, as the 3rd Duchess of Northumberland said, to visit ‘this delicious place’.