How our region’s stately homes have felt the ‘Downton Abbey effect’
- Credit: Archant
The most successful ITV drama of all time will bow out after five years and six series on Christmas Day.
For fans, autumnal Sunday nights may never be the same after the Crawleys perform their swansong.
Will the family's ancestral home be taken over by the National Trust, like so many other estates today?
Could the Crawleys leave, without a shilling to their name? Or will there be a twist no one is expecting?
In our region, the impact of the series has been all too clear in recent years. Our fine stately homes today report on what has been called the 'Downton Effect' – a rise in visitor numbers and a growing fascination among the public since the series began.
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Jo Bosch, marketing and visitor manager at the Blickling Estate, said characters like Mrs Patmore, Downton Abbey's cook, and Carson, the butler, have inspired an interest in the servants as well as their masters.
'Our visitors have talked about Downton since the series first started,' Mrs Bosch said.
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'What it inspired was a shift in visitors' interest from the 'upstairs' and the grand state rooms, that the owners would have used, to the 'downstairs' and the social history and lives of the domestic staff.'
The estate has launched new experiences as a result, such as a butler's recruitment tour, which takes visitors up to the servants quarters in the attics to show how they would have lived and worked.
At the 191-room Holkham Hall, estate director David Horton Fawkes said visitor numbers have been growing since the series began.
'Undoubtedly people mention Downton Abbey,' he added. 'People are always fascinated by what goes on in these houses, and now they feel they have an even greater interest.'
Lord and Lady Leicester live in Holkham Hall with their four children, with the estate covering Holkham and Wells beach, Pinewoods Holiday Park, The Victoria Hotel and Restaurant and more. They have around 205 staff covering the house and estate.
'Having a family living in the house is of great interest to visitors,' he added. 'People are intrigued in the people who live here and the lives they lead.'
The Houghton Estate, in north west Norfolk, is also lived in by a family and chooses to open the house up throughout the year as a way to generate income.
Robert Miller, agent and director of the estate, said: 'People are fascinated with the past. This house was built by Sir Robert Walpole, Britain's first prime minister, and people are really intrigued by that. The house has been open to the public since 1976 and it's very much part of what Houghton is about. The family, who live here, want to share it with visitors.'
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