Ripon inspired me - says Downton writer

The cast of Downton Abbey and, below, the 3rd Lord Grantham and his daughter Lady Mary Vyner who lived at Newby Hall in the early 19th century (s)

The cast of Downton Abbey and, below, the 3rd Lord Grantham and his daughter Lady Mary Vyner who lived at Newby Hall in the early 19th century (s)

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Months of waiting have came to and end for Downton Abbey fans this weekend, as the ever popular Sunday night behemoth returned to the screen.

And for Ripon, it means one of the city’s most famous exports is back in the spotlight.

Thomas Philip Weddell, the 3rd Lord Grantham, owner of Newby Hall from 1792 to 1852 (s)

Thomas Philip Weddell, the 3rd Lord Grantham, owner of Newby Hall from 1792 to 1852 (s)

Despite filming 200 miles to the south, at Highclere Castle, Berkshire, the series has an unmistakable link to the Ripon.

Now the Oscar winning writer behind the series has spoken about the inspiration he has taken from Ripon and towns around Yorkshire.

Screenwriter Julian Fellowes – famous as the writer of films Gosford Park and the Young Victoria – has revealed that his school days at Ampleforth College left his with a love of the county and the Yorkshire accent, played a part in setting the programme in the area.

He said: “It was a joint decision to set the show in Yorkshire, as we wanted a sense of Downton being far from London, and the Yorkshire accent is a particularly attractive one.

Lady Mary Vyner, who was given Newby Hall by her father the 3rd Lord Grantham, soon after her marriage in 1859 (s)

Lady Mary Vyner, who was given Newby Hall by her father the 3rd Lord Grantham, soon after her marriage in 1859 (s)

“Once it had been decided, I put it in that particular area because I was at school at Ampleforth, so the towns of Ripon and Helmsley and Thirsk and Malton, and places like Easingwold and Kirkbymoorside all figured in my childhood and teenage years.

“I cannot tell how many feeds I ate at the Black Swan (always then known as the Mucky Duck) in Helmsley, and I remember that in those days Ripon boasted the best restaurant in the county, or supposedly so. I forget what it was called, might it have been The Deanery? Anyway it was quite near the cathedral, and it was the greatest possible treat to be taken there.

“I love Ripon, I love all those towns, although I dare say they are rather different now from the places I knew when I was growing up.”

The fictional Downton Abbey is only a few miles from Ripon – as became evident in the early episodes. In only the second episode, the new heir Matthew Crawley horrified the family by working as a solicitor in Ripon, and later in the first series the youngest Crawley sister’s dramatic trip to an election night riot – happened in Ripon. When the biggest scandal of the series erupted with the Turkish diplomat Mr Pamuk’s death in Lady Mary’s bed – the undertaker came from Thirsk, and as the third series began, the local area again made an appearance on a sign post pointing the way to both Ripon and Thirsk.

And a stately home near Ripon could claim even closer links. Newby Hall, just four miles from Ripon, was once home to a real life Lord Grantham, albeit more than 100 years earlier than his fictional counterpart.

The 3rd Lord Grantham’s inherited Newby Hall in 1792, and his family, like the Crawleys of Downton, was beset by complicated inheritances. Newby Hall came to him from his cousin William Weddell, who died without children, and passed to Lord Grantham’s daughter - another Lady Mary – on her marriage in 1859.

With the financial problems facing Downton Abbey, could this be a clue to the future for the Crawley family?