On a brief weekend trip to New York, I had the opportunity to view Downtown Abbey: The Exhibition. The glamour and drama of Masterpiece’s six season worldwide hit is now accessible to everyone. Upon entering The Exhibition, you are greeted by Mr. Carson, the all knowing butler who provides the guests with a brief overview and rules of exhibit.
Greeted again by Carson and Mrs. Hughes, guests begin their tour in the Downstairs of the house, viewing various costumes worn by our favorite downstairs characters, Thomas, the footman, Anna, the ladies maid, Daisy, the house maid and the cook, Mrs. Patmore. Around the corner, the kitchen is replicated in fine detail with the props used in the show. You can also apply for a job at Downton by taking a brief quiz based on your knowledge of how an estate house should be run. Your suitability may surprise you.
Next door is the servant’s hall you find the piano and the bell board displayed. The servant’s hall was used for meals and where Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes maintained the running of the house. Continuing on you enter Mr. Carson’s inner sanctum, his office. This is where Carson finally asked Mrs. Hughes to marry him. “Of course, I’ll marry you, you old booby. I thought you’d never ask.” She told him.
Moving Upstairs to the library, you enjoy a video montage from memorable scenes from the show. A row of costumes are displayed from Lord Grantham’s military dress uniform and Henry Talbots’ tuxedo to dresses worn by the three sisters and Lady Grantham. Also featured is the jewelry that completed the ensembles.
The dining room, while not as massive as shown on TV with the Van Dyke painting of Charles the First dominating the room, it is magnificent. “Nothing succeeds like excess,” as the Dowager Countess said. The elegant touches are shown in the multi-piece ornate place settings. Moving on, you enter Lady Mary’s bedroom. The dressing table and bed are just as you remember as well as some of Lady Mary’s nighttime attire. Two of the Dowager’s Countess, Violet Crawley’s costumes is displayed alongside her writing desk. You can also watch a short video of scenes from Violet’s sitting room.
Following the ever charming Dowager Countess are multiple displays about each character and props associated with that character. Mrs. Hughes house keys, Mrs. Patmore’s cookbook and Daisy’s school books. Also on view is the wireless and the telephone that pushed the Crawley family and Downton into a new era. Photographs and props related to all the characters encapsulate this portion of the exhibit and guests can also learn about the real conditions during the era of Downton Abbey. Hall boys, footmen, ladies maids were common in the big estate houses in England in the early 1900’s when conditions may not have as fine as those portrayed in the show.
Heading up to the third floor, guests view more costumes, shooting party attire and the wedding dresses of Lady Mary and Lady Edith. Several of the ladies hats from the series are also shown. The detailing in the costumes is magnificent and must be seen to be truly appreciated. The dressing gong sits just before the final farewell video presentation where Lord and Lady Grantham and Carson and Mrs. Hughes bid you a fond farewell. Carson also peaks our curiosity that we may meet again.
The Exhibition lives up to all the fans expectations. Throughout the exhibit you overhear fans as they trade favorite moments from the show and well as the Dowager’s famous one-liners. “What is a weekend?” The exhibition will be in New York through April before moving on to tour the US. Tickets are easily available for purchase online. As expected the weekends are very busy so if you have the opportunity, visit during the week, it will be much less crowded and you can spend time with your favorite characters.
All photos by Charlene Scott