So I was looking at all of the great staircase pictures I got from this garden and realized I’d probably lose some followers if I posted nothing but stairs for over a week. So I’ve compiled them all into this lovely photoset.
Sorry, I think stairs are really pretty. Especially stone stairs. I can’t really explain it.
Tomorrow we’ll return to our regular, non-stair related content. I promise.
855. When one student bullied another student, the bully would find themselves more prone to accidents involving dodgy staircases or floorboards, particularly in front of large crowds, because the castle doesn't put up with bullying.
The British Museum opened its doors to visitors for the first time on 15 January 1759. The Trustees decided that the Museum should be freely open to the general public as well as to academic visitors. However, they were afraid that the collections would be damaged if large crowds of people were allowed into the building. They therefore ordered that visitors should not be admitted unless they held tickets, and that only a small number of tickets should be issued for each day.
Like this ticket, issued for 1 p.m., all tickets were issued for a particular time. Visitors were taken around the Museum in groups of five, each group guided by one of the Under-Librarians. They were taken up the Great Staircase, through the upper rooms and down again to the ground floor. During their tour they were shown the collections of manuscripts, medals, antiquities and natural history.
Would you set foot on this insane, beautiful staircase?
This scaffolding staircase is 95-feet tall, 187-feet long, and definitely not for people who are scared of heights. If you have ever struggled to hold down your lunch while climbing to the top of a waterslide, maybe skip it.
But it’s also beautiful, and has a great backstory. The staircase was built by the Dutch architecture firm MVRDV as a month-long installation for a city-wide festival in Rotterdam, South Holland. The festival celebrates the 75th anniversary of the rebuilding of the city, which was catastrophically damaged by a Nazi airstrike in 1940.
I joined Gareth and Julian on Downton in the very early days. There was a greenlight, a budget and a first episode but that was it so we spent a wonderful late summer/autumn going round the stately homes of Yorkshire – since Downton is set in Yorkshire it made sense to look there first.
Except it wasn’t the first place we saw, Highclere Castle was our first stop as Julian had it in mind when he conceived of the idea and wrote the first script but we kept it on the back burner as a) it wasn’t in Yorkshire and b) it was just a bit too far from London for a daily commute with long filming hours.
The problem was we couldn’t find a complete house in Yorkshire that was the right size and offered everything we needed: a grand driveway, a great hallway and staircase plus several staterooms and bedrooms.We found composites but not the whole thing so, after looking closer to London and not finding exactly what we were looking for, we returned to Highclere and we all agreed it really was perfect.
Just the right size for an Earl in Robert’s position. So we decided it would be our Downton Abbey and we would find a way to deal with the travel problem.
The Look and The Feel:
One of the other big advantages to us of Highclere was that it didn’t look like any of the other houses that we were used to seeing in period drama..it was not Palladian, nor was it Georgian) and we were keen to give DA a different feel.
We wanted it to feel like a contemporary world as if the audience were watching it at the time that the characters were living, for the colours to be bright, the costumes to feel like the clothes that had been chosen from their wardrobes, that every detail should be considered, whether seen on camera or not, in order to create an authentic world.
The music of John Lunn was so key to the overall feel of the drama and when we heard the theme tune for the first time, Gareth and I had no doubts that this was the one…we knew it had to be rousing and exciting and reflect the world and John certainly delivered that several times over.
The challenge and the excitement of casting this ensemble were that we had to create not only a believable family but the entire household and it was clear that it would be a mixture of well-known names and totally unknowns. We were all relieved that the marvelous Jill Trevellick was our Casting Director as it was a daunting task. Hilariously our auditions must have been a weird sight: Jill had broken her foot and was in plaster and on crutches, I had badly broken my arm and had a plate and several pins in it and Brian, our director, had an eye infection so heaven knows what the actors thought of us….it certainly broke the ice at the start of each audition!
Julian and I had just finished a feature film starring Maggie Smith and it was clear from the start that she would make the perfect Violet so we started the process of press-ganging her into to saying yes!
Robert was the next piece of key casting and Hugh was the stand-out choice for all of us (he had also been in the feature with Julian and me) and so we were delighted when he agreed.
Over the following months all the rest of the parts fell into place and it became very clear when sitting in the auditions with Brian and Jill how lucky we were to have so many good actors eager to play these parts. Gradually, frontrunners for each role became clear and the cast came together. I will never forget the goosebumps I had at our first readthrough just looking round the room and seeing this cast step into their roles for the first time.
The moment I read Episode 1, I was hooked and couldn’t wait for Julian to write Ep 2. I’d read the series ‘bible’ and was excited about how he would flesh out the storylines and by the time Ep 3 came in with the infamous Mr Pamuk I could see that it was more than living up to my expectations.
Although we knew by the end of Series 1 that we had a classy series on our hands, we had no idea if it would work on ITV (as large-scale period drama had not been on the commercial channel for over 30 years) but it wasn’t until our audience figures were so good and were climbing every episode that we allowed ourselves to hope for a second series commission.
It came after Episode 3 and we eagerly embarked on development for that at the same time as finishing post production on Series 1…this was a pattern that continued for the following six years…
Once the award nominations started coming and our very surprise win at the Emmy’s for our first season, we realized we were in the midst of something very special both at home and abroad. Never in a million years did we imagine it would sell in over 250 territories all over the world and have such a global impact. I still pinch myself regularly at the sheer scale of it all.
Of course, one of the downsides for producers of this kind of success is that, inevitably, the cast become much sought after which led to some early exits for some of our characters that we had to grapple with…of course, any long-running series needs some new blood in the cast from time to time to keep it fresh but it is always sad to lose a character from the ‘family’ we created.
It also caused logistical problems as we filmed for six months every year and the cast were always being made other offers which they were keen to fit in where I schedule allowed. You can imagine the conundrum when a cast of 25 each has requests for time off!
Most of our problems though were a direct result of the show’s global success so we could hardly complain about that!
It is astonishing to think that Julian wrote all 52 episodes, a truly remarkable achievement, and that he did so in such a tight time frame (he would start writing in September, we would start shooting in Febrary until August and then we would transmit while we were still finishing off the series and then he’d start all over again!). Sometimes this rather intense schedule took its toll….I broke my arm in Series 1 and my ankle in S6, just to neatly bookend it!
There have been so many, each episode has it special moments and these are just a few:
- obviously when we said goodbye to Thomas Howes (William) in S 2 and to Jess Brown Findlay (Sybil) and Dan Stevens (Matthew) in S3 these were huge moments in the series and really sad for everyone concerned.
- The filming of the Mr Pamuk scenes, the Suffragette rally, the trenches, Mary and Matthew’s proposal and their wedding. Indeed all the weddings we’ve had: Daisy and William, Bates and Anna, Edith being jilted by Sir Anthony, Rose and Atticus, Carson and Mrs Hughes and, of course, Mary and Henry. Then there’s Bates’ trial, Anna’s rape, Anna’s arrest, the point-to-point, the car race, the cricket match and not forgetting Violet and Kuragin and Isobel and Merton.
We had great pleasure in welcoming the Duchess of Cambridge to Ealing Studios, the rest of Kate’s family (the Middleton’s) to Highclere, the Duchess of Wessex visited twice and the First Lady of Mexico. Then, of course, there was George Clooney filming for Text Santa alongside our other guests: Joanna Lumley and Jeremy Piven.
For those of us lucky enough to have been involved in this phenomenon from the beginning, we have been part of an unforgettable experience as television history was made. We have formed life-long friendships and will be talking about it – and writing about it – for a long time after the final scene has aired. We are immensely proud of what we were able to achieve together, both cast and crew alike and we’ll miss it terribly.
But it was right to end it now with people still wanting more and now that the last episode has been delivered to ITV, I for one want to enjoy the memories and share the huge joy of being a part of it.