FANS of the smash hit television drama “Downton Abbey” have been flocking to Padiham to see the town’s very own mini Downton.
For historic Gawthorpe Hall can stake a real life claim to the title as it was re-designed by Sir Charles Barry, the renowned architect who also helped to design the real life Downton Abbey which is Highclere Castle, Berkshire.
And the fascination with period dramas like “Downton Abbey”, “Cranford” and “The Paradise” means more people than ever are keen to visit places like Gawthorpe Hall.
Rachel Pollitt from Lancashire County Council, which manages the National Trust-owned hall, said Gawthorpe gets 26,000 visitors a year but she expected this to rise to 50,000.
She said: “There’s no doubt people are more interested than ever in what life was like in these grand houses. Whenever we hold a costumed event our visitor numbers increase. We hear visitors say Gawthorpe is like a mini Downton, which it is.”
There is a strong connection between Gawthorpe and Highclere. The Hall was built in 1605 but Sir Charles Barry restyled all the interiors in the 1850s. He also re-designed Highclere Castle, which is where Downton is filmed. And last weekend visitors to Gawthorpe Hall got a real taste of what life was like.
Gawthorpe’s own version of Downton’s Mr Carson, the burly butler and doughty housekeeper Mrs Hughes, revealed the secrets of life “below stairs” and who really wielded the power as the Hall ran it’s “Meet the Butler and the Housekeeper” open day.
A camera crew from BBC’s “North West Tonight” had earlier filmed at Gawthorpe when presenter Peter Marshall and his team were given a sneak preview of how this stately home was once run thanks to a group of actors who played the roles to perfection.
Visitors were also given an insight into the workings of Gawthorpe in the capable hands of the butler and the housekeeper.
Gawthorpe’s butler, Mr Winfield, was busy in the dining room preparing for dinner, polishing the glasses, laying out the gleaming silver cutlery while Mrs Fairfax, the housekeeper, was busy in the kitchen, which isn’t normally open to the public, making preparations for a banquet.
Rachel added: “People want to take a look and imagine themselves as the lord or lady, when in fact just about all the visitors we get to our meet the butler and housekeeper event would in reality have been servants. These people were highly-paid professionals who knew how to keep a secret – just as butlers still are to this day.”