Downton Abbey | Universal Pictures

Downton Abbey | Universal Pictures

 

It's time to dust the chandeliers, polish the silver and light the drawing-room fire - Downton Abbey the movie arrives on the big screen this week.

Set two years after the TV series which ended in 2015, the film sees the Crawley family and their servants welcome a visit from King George V and Queen Mary. 

To celebrate, we've rounded up some other stories of famous stately homes and the colourful characters in them. If you like Downton Abbey, you'll love these books.

The Shooting Party by Isabel Colegat (1980) 
It is the Autumn of 1913, and Sir Randolph is hosting an annual shooting party for his friends and relatives at Nettleby, his rural Oxfordshire estate. As the landed gentry, gamekeepers and servants gather, tensions start to rise as the ritual slaughter begins - concluding in one fatal accident. The Shooting Party is an enjoyable poignant read, partially because of the knowledge that Great war was about to begin and change the way of life for these characters forever. 

Jeeves and the Wedding Bells by Sebastian Faulks (2014)

Over the years, Downton Abbey celebrated its fair share of weddings. We rejoiced when Lady Mary and Mathew finally made it to the church and wept like babies when Lady Edith was jilted at the altar.

If these were some of your favourite moments from the series, this is the book for you. Bertie Wooster is staying at the stately home of Sir Henry Hackwood in Dorset with his butler, Jeeves. On this occasion, it is Jeeves enjoying life in the drawing-room while Bertie finds himself below stairs - much to his discontent. His predicament is, of course, all in the name of love. A gloriously witty novel from Sebastian Faulks using P.G. Wodehouse’s much-loved characters.

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh (1945)

Castle Howard in North Yorkshire has served as the backdrop to a number of films and TV shows, but has remained most iconic as the setting for Brideshead in both the 1981 TV series and 2004 feature film.

The classic story follows Charles Ryder, a middle-class student at Oxford, who is captivated by the eccentric and beautiful Sebastian Flyte. With their friendship cemented, Charles is invited to Sebastian’s family home where he is enchanted by the magnificent stately home and the decadence of its aristocratic inhabitants. As Charles becomes more embroiled in the family's affairs, he soon discovers a conflict to the fairy-tale lifestyle they lead. A reflective and nostalgic novel about class, family and homecomings.

Ashenden by Elizabeth Wihide (2013)

Ashenden is a beautiful eighteenth-century house which takes centre stage in this story. As we move through two and a half centuries of its history, we witness the house from its beginnings through to the present day. Each chapter weaves the stories of Ahenden’s inhabitants, its owners and workers and explores the lasting effects each have on the house. A love letter to the English country manor and a vanished way of life.

Penhallow by Georgette Heyer (1943)

We all rooted for Lady Mary, her outraged mother and loyal servant Anna as they carried the body of Kemal Pamuk, who died suddenly in her bed, back to his own room. Thankfully for Lady Mary, Pamuk’s death was declared from natural causes, and she avoided the scandal.

In Heyer’s Penhallow, something more sinister is at play. The story takes place in a large country house in Cornwall in the interwar period, where Adam Penhallow, a tyrant to both his relatives and servants, is found dead on the eve of his birthday. There are more than a dozen prime suspects - but which one of them turned hatred into murder? You’ll need to read it to find out.

The Long Weekend by Adrian Tinniswood (2018)

With more drama than all six series of Downton put together, The Long Weekend depicts the real-life stories that took place in England’s grand country estates. Drawing on hundreds of memoirs, letters and diaries, Tinniswood brings to life the real voices of the people who inhabited this world, both upstairs and downstairs. From disgruntled butlers to unhappy heiresses, this is a fascinating glimpse into the extravagance and harsh reality of life between the wars.

At Home at Highclere by Lady Carnarvon (2019)

Downton Abbey has made its real-life location, Highclere Castle, one of the most iconic houses in the world. Fascinated by the history and people of Highclere, the current Lady Carnarvon explores four extortionary weekends from 1866 to 1936 when the greatest and most celebrated figures of the age were invited to stay. As well as insight into how these parties were managed, the book also includes plenty of recipes so you can create your own Downton experience at home.

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