Welcome to Bampton – the village used as ‘Downton’ in the hit TV series ‘Downton Abbey’. Now I know that by naming this channel the Cotswold Explorer we suggest that I would be travelling widely around the region, bringing you interesting insights into the history of the Cotswolds and introductions to many of our extraordinary local food and drink producers. I can assure you that we will indeed be doing this over the months ahead.
That is exactly what we plan to do. It just so happens, however, that my home village of Bampton was chosen in 2009 as the set for the filming of Downton Abbey. This square in which I am standing, is the centre of the village of Downton. The Church behind me, actually St Mary’s Bampton, is the church in which all those weddings, both successful and disastrous were filmed, as well as the tear-jerking funerals and memorials. Sit back, relax, and enjoy this initial overview.
Downton Abbey is a huge success. It has brought thousands of visitors from around the world to this sleepy village. More than 27,000 last year and certainly over 30,000 this year. With this huge interest in mind we thought it a good idea for us to provide the millions of Downton Abbey fans around the world with an insight into what it’s like living in the real village of Downton. The tales of the filming, what it’s like to have stars like Maggie Smith and Hugh Bonneville wandering the streets let alone Shirley Mclean. It is strange how real life in Bampton compares to the fictional life in Downton.
Over the months I will be interviewing villagers who were involved in the filming. There are people whose homes were used as crucial sets in the series, such as the beautiful Churchgate House which was the Crawley home in Downton. I will relate some of the strange tales of the blurring of fact and fiction in the minds of the visitors.
To give one example. The locals are often asked, in all seriousness by visiting fans, where they can find Matthew Crawley’s gravestone.
Let’s get an overview first of all. Come with me and I’ll show you around.