On location: Basildon Park stars in Downton Abbey
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The elegant 18th-century interiors of Basildon Park in Berkshire lit up the small screen in the Downton Abbey Christmas special.
Starring as Grantham House, the Crawleys’ London residence, Basildon Park was at the heart of the unfolding story as the family and their servants enjoy the social whirl of the summer season.
Producer Liz Trubridge explains more:
'The characters have always talked about it (Grantham House) but this will be the first time we show it on screen – so it’s very exciting. We filmed the exterior in London and needed somewhere to match the scale.'
'Julian Fellowes describes it in the script as "a sort of old palace". Basildon Park works perfectly in terms of style and size.'
With much of the action set at Grantham House, Basildon Park played host to many of the much-loved regular characters from the show as well as Shirley MacLaine who reprises her role as Martha Levinson and Paul Giamatti who joins the cast as Cora’s playboy brother, Harold.
As Amanda Beard, General Manager at Basildon Park explains, the experience was a bit like having the circus come to town.
'Filming has a massive impact: the cast and crew arrive around 7am (some start arriving as early as 5.30) and they’re here until 8pm. They used all of the rooms on the first floor – The Hall, which was decorated with huge displays of silk flowers, arranged by our house steward and florist Neil Shaw.'
'The Octagon Room, which is very elegant, with its red felt walls and gold gilded ceiling was used as a drawing room, while the dining room was transformed into a ballroom and the library doubled up as a study.'
'Many of these rooms would have originally been used for entertaining, so it was amazing to see them brought back to life with music and dancing, eating and drinking…I think the viewers will really feel like they’ve been transported back to another era.'
Off-screen you'll be able to immerse yourself in the world of Grantham House by visiting Basildon Park and joining one of the daily filming house tours at 11:30am.