The 10 Biggest Downton Abbey Period Blunders

Downton Abbey
To be quite honest, you can all sod off..

A cup of tea, a piece of toast, a pair of slippers and an intravenous fix of class A period drama. For millions of us, Downton Abbey is the only answer to the depressing back-to-work Sunday night vibe. The parties are over, the whisky is back in the cupboard and a bit of period drama porn is the only thing left to keep us going. But for some viewers, whilst DA may be gentile, engrossing and beautifully crafted it is also historically inaccurate.

Writer Julian Fellowes lost his rag during the first series when viewers insisted on pointing out all his mistakes, claiming that people who point out inaccuracies are “socially insecureâ€?. Historian and broadcaster, A.N. Wilson, called it a ‘fantasy’ portrayal of Edwardian country house life. His exact words were far more amusing, according to Wilson it is all “b*******, basicallyâ€?.

Fellowes has since apologised to his eagle-eyed fans (but probably not Wilson). But here at OTB, we enjoy rubbing salt into wounds, however crusty they are. So here is our top 10 list of Downton clangers, dropped by Fellowes and dutifully observed by viewers.

Sorry Julian.

10. Hitting a bum note
In one episode, ‘After You’ve Gone’ on is played masterfully on the piano. A beautiful song, a great pianist, but unfortunately it wasn’t written till 1918! Oops.

9. A very big house in the country
The house is massive, right? And there are how many servants? Surely, some viewers have insisted, surely…there would have been more servants. Either that or they must don roller skates so as to clean all the rooms efficiently. And that would open a whole other can of worms.

8. Bad signs
One episode showed panned back to show a wide view of a quaint street, quiet pedestrians shuffling about, cars pootling around and…a one-way sign with bold black lettering. Wha?!

7. Foul service
Some disgruntled viewers have noticed that butlers and footmen would not be wearing white tie, as Rob James Collier is here. This could be the point at which we all just take a deep breath and enjoy the programme or just go out and enjoy oneself.

6. Date with disaster
The series begins with the untimely death of the heir of Downton Abbey. And characters claim that they were in mourning until September…but it was made clear that September was reached in episode one. So why is it so darn sunny all the time – it was obviously not October now was it?

5. Relationship trouble
The servants’ use of the word boyfriend has been identified as rather inappropriate by some language-lovers. Apparently, the use of the word ‘boyfriend’ did not appear until 1933, in The Times as the name of a racehorse. It did not appear again until 1955. Highly unlikely servants would have been banding it around, even in a posh joint like Downton.

4. Bad reception
The appearance of a TV aerial caused outrage amongst some eagle-eyed viewers. The TV was not first demonstrated properly until 1926 and it was most certainly not available in homes until a few years after that…improving signal was definitely not a priority in 1912.

3. Car crash TV
The car pictured below is a Ford Model T. It certainly looks the part as it bumbles along the village lanes. But unfortunately for Fellows and his fellow producers, it is the 1921 model according to internet afficionados. With series one set in 1912, rather a glaring error dontcha think?

2. Pane in the glass
PVC conservatories? In 1912? I don’t think so Mr Fellowes!

1. Double yella’
As far as we are aware, horses could not be issued with parking tickets. There were no ‘horse wardens’. And considering that in the early 20th century there was a grand total of about 9, 000 drivers on the roads – parking spaces were probably not an issue.

As this clip shows cars were hardly a major concern for the time-pressed traveller

No matter how hard we try to pick out the flaws in this, the darling of modern- day British drama, nobody can take the p*** like a bunch of off-duty TV comedians:

Some pictures courtesy of The Daily Mail

  • One point to make regarding number 6. I remember the line you mention in the blurb, but the characters fear they COULD be in mourning until September, not that they have been.

  • Serge

    The thing is, I simply can’t forget the digital Pocket Watch we were shown in the first episode……

  • walsh

    so what do you want? a history lesson on a sunday evening, or some better than average bubblegum entertainment? my preference is the latter. life is hard enough without nit picking every historical inaccuracy.

  • Chris hall

    I love DA and have just watched it all again, my contribution is the GB on the car plates surely that is very modern? But who cares!

  • Alice Whitehead

    Re #6: if that photo is from the episode I think it was, the garden party in the last episode of Season 1, that’s the day England declared war on Germany, August 4th, 1914. The Titanic sank on April 16, 1912. They would not still have been wearing mourning.
    Regarding the autos shown that had not even been built yet, though, that does bother me. There are many brass cars still in existence that could have been shown; it’s an error that there’s no excuse for, especially since they spent SO much time on making sure Lord Grantham’s medals were correct, and I bet most viewers paid no attention to that.

  • Mike

    OK..i just got into this show…love it…now you all seem like avid viewers, yes, ….then you would have noticed that halfway through the first season Lord G said something like…Oh Poshy posh…Bates has been here 2 years, i cant picture this place without him Poshy poshy poshy…..right so…yes the Titanic went down in 1912…and yes Germany declared war in 1914…and the first season spans that entire time period…its all good…enjoy the show and quit wallowing

  • Lisa fierstein

    Two blue-eyed parents cannot have brown-eyed children. Genetically impossible.

  • ann white

    In Episode 3, Thomas is helping Kamal dress for dinner. Kamal is wearing a more European tie — it hangs straight down with a knot at the top. However at dinner he is shown wearing the traditional bow tie like the rest of them.
    Also the dog is referred to as male in the first episode and is a female in all that follow.
    Lady Rosamude’s home is referred to by Lord Grantham as “her new house in Belgravia”. Yet when Lavinia visits, the home appears to be the home that she and her deceased husbad bought when they married.
    And whatever happened to Evelyn Napier that was coming to stay at Downton when it bacame a convalescent home? hmmmm?
    I still think its the best program on TV — love it.

  • Did anyone else notice, while waiting to go on the picknick, one of the old cars had a license plate EX 1945? What was that?

  • Jacki

    Has anyone else noticed Lady Edith has a dress on with a purple collar, with a Biba design on it…I can’t believe they let that slip through the net. Biba is a 1960s design!! I love the programme, only started watching it this week on the Iplayer, and am completely hooked and now understand what the fuss is about….BUT I have seen Edith in this dress now twice…Episodes 3 and 6 Series 1, I think!

  • Jessica Skye Davies

    Well since we’re picking nits:

    Paragraph 1 – the program is gentile? I’m sure you mean “genteel.”
    Point #5 – the word you mean to use is “bandying,” not banding.

    I’ll excuse a handful of historical inaccuracies in the grand scheme of such a large production (well written, well performed, etc). Especially those stupid little things like TV aerials or PVC greenhouses which happen to be in the background for a split second. It’s hard to block a shot around every mod-con.

    But two glaring misuses in a short article? Hmmm….

  • Sheila

    In response to the person who commented on the blue/ brown eyes thing. Two blue eyed parents CAN produce a brown- eyed child. This is NOT genetically impossible.

  • Jude

    Cork tipped or filtered cigarettes first appeared in 1936 yet have featured in Downton Abbey.
    Also my genetics lessons certainly taught that no brown eyed child could come from two blue eyed parents so support Lisa Fierstein rather than Sheila on this one. Believe this fact can place in doubt the paternity of the child (in the real world).

  • Clark Bayles

    Oh please. Just enjoy the show for crying out loud. And blue eyes can have browns it is just not common.