Downton Abbey Keeps Calm and Carries On, Part Two

March 28, 2018


(This is a continuation of the blog that appeared the previous week on 3/21)


When asked about his most memorable scene in Downton Abbey, the actor Hugh Bonneville (who played the patriarch, Lord Grantham) said, “One of the most memorable scenes I can remember was memorable for all the wrong reasons! It’s a tussle that I have with Simon Bricker (who is played by Richard Grant). He’s a houseguest who appears in Series Five.”

The majestic estate in all its glory (in real life Highclere Castle) -- the Great Hall was one of the few places where the family and servants all came together – photo courtesy of Downton Abbey

“It only lasts for around 35 seconds in the finished production, but it took nine hours to shoot it. It should have been a straightforward tussle but it ended up being a really exhausting experience for two middle-aged men who should have known better. Richard and I were very tired and that’s when accidents happen. A couple of weeks later, he told me that I had cracked one of his ribs in the fight. Luckily, Richard is a very gracious man and a dear friend.”


I was particularly taken with the evening gowns the ladies wore. When one is standing inches away from them the beading and embroidery are very visible. I kept thinking, “Are these beautiful creations heavy? How can the actresses sit in these masterpieces?” Two dresses, in particular, were really special. One was for Lady Mary Crawley (played by Michelle Dockery) while the other was for her sister, Lady Edith Crawley (played by Laura Carmichael).

The evening dress worn by Lady Edith – heavily decorated with seed beading, sequin and metallic embroidery, layered over a tiered silk and chiffon scallop hemmed slip – photo courtesy of Downton Abbey


This is another display that stopped me in my tracks. “It was a thing of beauty, though the servants may not have seen it that way. The constant cacophony of its clappers would summon them back to work at any given moment.”

“Each room in the house had a long rope – a pull on this would sound the bell in the depth’s of the servants’ quarters. For the footmen though, it was an improvement on the original system, whereby they had to sit on hard chairs in the Great Hall for hours at a time, in case they were needed.”   

The staff bells for the Study, Drawing Room, Morning Room, Saloon, Library and so on – photo courtesy of Downton Abbey


The exhibition has many visuals or clips from the series dotted throughout. One I really paid attention to showed Maggie Smith playing her Dowager Countess role to the hilt. When I was watching the series I couldn’t wait for Smith to come on because she had all these wicked lines that would have me falling on the floor laughing. Fellowes’ dialogue was superb but her snappy, acidic delivery made it even better. THE NYC DOWNTON ABBEY EXHIBIT ENDS APRIL 2ND.

Lord Grantham and his mother, the Dowager Countess in the Drawing Room – photo courtesy of Downton Abbey

In England, Downton Abbey covers the years 1912 to 1926 – now let’s take a look at the United States and the era from 1920 to 1933.   


Prohibition was a fascinating time in American history. It also prompted us to visit a speakeasy called Raines Law Room at 48 West 17th Street in NYC on a cold Tuesday, January 23rd at 6:00 pm. Since this was an early hour on a day not really considered a “going out” one in Manhattan I thought the place would be half empty. Not on your life! Be sure to make a reservation. If you don’t, you may wait up to an hour for a spot. The only other speakeasy we’ve been to in recent memory is Angel’s Share. CLICK HERE to see our “Girls’ Night Out”.

Raines Law Room – photo courtesy of In New York, January 2018

The name “Raines Law Room” comes from an 1896 law that was passed in an effort to curb New Yorkers’ liquor consumption (good luck with that one). One enters this place by pressing a door buzzer. Once in, you’ll see that it’s very, very dark. There are votive candles on the table – and that’s it. After you’ve perused the cocktail list (we needed a cell flashlight) you signal your waitress by pulling a chain on the wall. We opted for  “Whiskey Business” – a play on “Shifty Business” – that was tasty, strong and perfect for a fun evening in a speakeasy.

Shaun Nelson-Henrick

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