The nation is obsessed with Downton Abbey, with the 5th series now in production. Undoubtedly, part of the delight of the drama is the meticulous attention to detail with which each scene is set. Downton shows period detailing at its best. Here are some of the props that the art department used to give such stunning results.
We often overlook the role of paper goods when thinking about historical authenticity. Before the days of electronic communication, photocopiers and emails, everything had to be hand-written, which led to a great proliferation of printed material. Letters, newspapers, labels, and restaurant menus all have to be supplied by the props department, who had to source originals as well as create reproductions. If the plot demands that a story appear in a newspaper, the art department will make it.
All the food in Downton Abbey is real. Lisa Heathcote, the food economist who is in charge of food for the production, drew on Mrs Beeton’s famous Book of Household Management for her inspiration. Although the food is real, it has some unsavoury ingredients included, to help it look good throughout the day’s filming. Some of it is varnished, making it as solid as a rock, to help retain the ‘just made’ look. She admits that some of the actors really enjoy tucking in to the edible food during a meal scene, but if there are multiple takes, this can be a problem, as the food runs out.
There are a large number of original vehicles used in Downton Abbey, and these have been something of a headache to source. You can see Lord Grantham’s famous 1911 Renault Landaulette, Horace and Daphne Bryant’s 1908 Napier and a whole range of other vehicles including a First Class Train Carriage at Downton Station at the Downton Abbey Wikia.
The kitchens are a delight for Kitchenalia obsessives, and most of the items are originals. Several of the characters are alarmed by the introduction of electricity to the domestic sphere, and the stern cook Mrs Patmore is particularly perturbed by the arrival of an electric mixer below stairs. The original early electric hand mixer used is an original, sourced from ebay and reconditioned.
Once you start looking at the props in a production like Downton Abbey, you soon to realise the enormous amount of care each production needs, and the work that goes into creating period authenticity. We can supply any of the props you need to recreate a Downton feel to your production, from early train carriages to kitchen equipment.