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Corsets, class warfare, and picky critics: Julian Fellowes reveals the secret history of Downton Abbey

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Screenwriter Julian Fellowes in front of Highclere Castle
Screenwriter Julian Fellowes in front of Highclere Castle Credit: Andrew Crowley

A couple of years before he proposed Downton Abbey, award-winning television producer Gareth Neame was flicking through the channels on his TV when he stumbled across Upstairs Downstairs, the Seventies British drama series about an aristocratic family and their servants.

Neame, about 40 at the time, had never seen the programme; he assumed the generation below him would never have seen it either. Not long after, while visiting Lanhydrock, a country house in Cornwall, he noticed that the servants' quarters were incredibly well preserved. Slowly, the idea for a new show began to percolate in his mind...

The glint in Neame's eye would go on to become one of the most spectacularly successful British...

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