Upstairs, Downstairs (1971 TV series)

Upstairs, Downstairs is a British television drama series produced by London Weekend Television (LWT) for ITV. It ran for 68 episodes divided into five series on ITV from 1971 to 1975.

Upstairs, Downstairs
Created by
Developed byAlfred Shaughnessy
Written by
Theme music composerAlexander Faris
Opening theme"The Edwardians"
Ending theme"What Are We Going To Do With Uncle Arthur?"
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
No. of series5
No. of episodes68 (list of episodes)
Producer(s)John Hawkesworth
Running time50 minutes
Production company(s)LWT
Original networkITV
Picture format576i (4:3 SDTV)
Audio formatMono
Original release10 October 1971 (1971-10-10) 
21 December 1975 (1975-12-21)
Followed byUpstairs Downstairs (2010 TV series)
External links

Set in a large townhouse in Belgravia in central London, the series depicts the servants—"downstairs"—and their masters, the family—"upstairs"—between the years 1903 and 1930, and shows the slow decline of the British aristocracy. Great events feature prominently in each episode but minor or gradual changes are also noted. The show stands as a document of the social and technological changes that occurred between those 27 years, including the Edwardian period, women's suffrage, the First World War, the Roaring Twenties, and the Wall Street Crash. It was a ratings success for ITV and received outstanding acclaim worldwide, winning multiple awards.

A BBC Wales and Masterpiece-produced continuation, Upstairs Downstairs, was broadcast by BBC One in 2010.


Upstairs, Downstairs was originally an idea by two actress friends, Jean Marsh and Eileen Atkins, for a comedy called Behind the Green Baize Door.[1] It would focus on two housemaids, played by Marsh and Atkins, in a large English Country House in the Victorian era. They soon added a family upstairs, as Marsh recognised "Servants have to serve somebody".[2] In summer 1969, they took this idea to Sagitta Productions, which was run by John Hawkesworth and John Whitney.[1] They soon removed the comedy element, changed the setting to a large English Townhouse in Edwardian London and the title became Below Stairs. It was first offered to Granada Television in Manchester, but they declined as they already had a period drama, called A Family at War, about to start.[1] However, Stella Richman, the Controller of Programmes at London Weekend Television, saw potential, and in April 1970, the first series was commissioned.[1]

Characters were then developed, but when Alfred Shaughnessy, an old friend of John Hawkesworth, was called in as script editor, he changed much of the detail to make the characters more realistic. Honor Blackman was short-listed for the role of Lady Marjorie and George Cole for that of the butler, Hudson.[2] Jean Marsh was already slated to take the part of Rose Buck, the headhouse parlourmaid. Eileen Atkins was scheduled to play the other maid, Sarah Moffat, opposite Jean Marsh's Rose, but was playing Queen Victoria in a stage show at the time, so Pauline Collins took the role. Gordon Jackson was offered the role of Hudson after it was decided that Londoner George Cole would not be suitable to play a Scotsman.[1] The programme took many names, including Two Little Maids in Town, The Servants' Hall and That House in Eaton Square. It was called 165 Eaton Place until just before the production of the first episode when it was changed to Upstairs, Downstairs, following a suggestion from John Hawkesworth.[1]

Despite having a champion in Stella Richman, the show suffered from internal politics at the station, most notably from the sales department who could not see the attraction of a period drama, and master tapes of the programme spent nearly a year in storage awaiting a transmission date.[1] Eventually the network had a space in its schedule at the unfashionable time of Sunday nights at 10:15 and called upon LWT to fill it. They chose Upstairs, Downstairs, and with no promotion of the show, there was little expectation of success. However, audiences steadily grew and the series became a hit.[1] In the United States, Upstairs, Downstairs was aired as part of PBS' Masterpiece Theatre.

Cast and characters


The stories depict the lives of the wealthy Bellamy family ("upstairs"), who reside at 165 Eaton Place in London's fashionable Belgravia, and their servants ("downstairs").

The household is led by Lady Marjorie Bellamy (née Talbot-Carey), daughter of the Earl and Countess of Southwold, and her husband Richard Bellamy MP, the son of a country parson. They married despite the objections of her parents and set up house at 165 Eaton Place, one of several London properties owned by Lord Southwold. Richard is a politician, and several plots revolve around his political ambitions and conflicts arising from his desire to follow his conscience and his allegiance to his father-in-law's politically-conservative Tory party.

Richard and Lady Marjorie Bellamy have two children, James and Elizabeth, who are, respectively, in their early twenties and late teens when the series starts in 1903. In 1912, James's ill-fated wife Hazel becomes the new mistress of the house, and the following year, Richard's ward, Georgina, comes to live at 165 Eaton Place.

The original servant staff comprises the authoritarian butler Mr. Angus Hudson, cook Mrs. Kate Bridges, pragmatic head house parlourmaid Rose Buck, sweet Irish kitchen maid Emily, eccentric footman Alfred, mischievous under-house parlourmaid Sarah, who dreams of a dramatic life beyond servantdom, coachman Pearce, and Lady Marjorie's lady's maid Maude Roberts. Over the years they are joined by Edward, a cheeky footman who later becomes a chauffeur; Daisy, the parlourmaid who eventually marries Edward; Thomas Watkins, the devious chauffeur who dabbles with Sarah's affections; and Ruby, the slow-witted kitchen maid.

In the episode "Another Year" from series 4, Hazel Bellamy notes that there are two families living in the house, one upstairs and the other downstairs, which she likens to a related family: Mr Hudson and Mrs Bridges are the father and mother; Rose, the eldest daughter who lost her man at the front; Edward and his wife, Daisy; and Ruby, the youngest child.

First series, set in 1903–1908

The first and second series span the period 1903 to 1910, during the reign of Edward VII. In 1903, Sarah Moffat applies for a job as under-house-parlour maid for the Bellamy family, pretending to be of French parentage but soon revealed to be illiterate, English, and with no work history. Later in the year, Lady Marjorie poses for Bohemian artist Mr Scone (which he pronounces "skoon"), who over the same period paints an intimate portrait of Sarah and (an imagined) Rose; he exhibits both pictures juxtaposed at the Royal Academy. Fearing a scandal, Bellamy threatens to sack the two maids but is dissuaded by Scone. Later the Bellamys go on vacation to Scotland, and, with Mr Hudson gone, the servants carouse drunkenly through the house only to be caught by son James, who promises not to disclose their misbehaviour. James and Sarah later have an affair that results in Sarah's pregnancy. James is banished to India, and Sarah is sent to live at the Southwold estate for the duration of her pregnancy.

Around 1905, daughter Elizabeth returns from Germany, to be prepared to be presented to the King and the Queen Consort at a social event, but her rebellious, headstrong nature causes her to flee the event. She has a talk with her servant Rose, who lectures her on the importance of duty and that it applies to everyone in the household.

Elizabeth soon falls in love with German Baron Klaus von Rimmer, who later turns out to be gay. He is caught by Rose in a room having sex with Alfred, the footman, and flees Eaton Place, before the police arrive to arrest them, as this was illegal at the time. The ″baron fled, dumping Elizabeth and taking Alfred with him instead!″ Not wishing Elizabeth to know the real reason for his departure, she is told that he is a spy. Alfred is replaced by Edward Barnes, a young and naive footman whose fun-loving and immature nature initially annoys Mr Hudson.

In the summer of 1906, Lady Marjorie is enchanted by her son's friend Captain Charles Hammond, and has an affair with him. Her conscience gets the better of her and she breaks off the affair. Lady Bellamy leaves with Rose for the country, but while Rose is gone the new under-house-parlour maid, Mary Stokes, arrives in service pregnant, having been raped by Myles Radford, the son of a powerful politician and family friend. Richard Bellamy attempts to help her but the Radfords refuse to take responsibility and the legal system proves ineffective. Mary quits her job with the Bellamys, but departs with a small gift of money from some of the servants.

The following year, 1907, Mrs Van Groeben arrives from South Africa and Emily falls madly in love with her footman, William. They spend several of their days off together, but Mrs Van Groeben gets wind of the affair, and, considering Emily to be beneath William, forbids him to see her. But the affair may have ended anyway, as William drops Emily like a stone when he learns of his mistress's disapproval, suggesting he never really cared about her anyway. Emily is madly in love, however, and cannot bear life without him. She commits suicide. Mrs. Bridges, distraught with remorse over Emily's death, steals a baby from its pram outside a shop and hides it in her room. The baby is returned to its parents by Richard and Lady Marjorie, and Mrs Bridges only escapes a jail sentence after Hudson agrees to marry her once they are no longer in service. The role of scullery maid is first replaced by Doris, then by Nellie, and then finally by Ruby, a hardworking young woman who is rather slow and is frequently scolded by Mrs Bridges.

In 1908, the daughter Elizabeth marries a young poet, Lawrence Kirbridge.

Second series, set in 1908–1910

Somewhat indifferent to his new responsibilities as a householder, Lawrence also avoids the baseness of marital relations with Elizabeth, preferring her pure and muse-like, and their marriage remains unconsummated. Elizabeth has a brief affair (arranged by her husband) with her husband's publisher, which results in her becoming pregnant, later giving birth to a daughter, Lucy Elizabeth. She joins a group of militant suffragettes and attacks the home of a prominent politician, which results in her being sent to prison, only to be bailed out shortly thereafter by a wealthy Armenian gentleman called Julius Karekin. She later becomes involved with Karekin, who buys her a hat shop. But Karekin is more interested in buying his way into British society than he is in Elizabeth's affections. He buys the lease of 165 Eaton Place after the Bellamys are forced to sell in the aftermath of Lady Marjorie's father's death in 1909. He offers the lease to Elizabeth who then gives it to her parents. Richard and Lady Marjorie are in Karekin's debt.

Sarah returns to Eaton Place on the night the Bellamys host the King; Sarah goes into labour, but the baby, a son, is stillborn. James eventually returns from India just before his mother's birthday on 6 May 1910 (which coincides with the death of King Edward VII), and brings with him his brash and gushing fiancée, Phyllis, the daughter of an army veterinarian. James eventually breaks off the engagement, however, after deciding that Phyllis is not right for him.

Elizabeth eventually moves to America in 1910 after her split from Karekin and divorce from Kirbridge. She is later said to have married a man named Dana. Sarah and Thomas Watkins, who had previously been employed as the valet of Lawrence Kirbridge, fall in love, resulting in Sarah becoming pregnant again. They eventually leave service. While in the Upstairs, Downstairs episode "A Family Gathering" it is stated that Thomas and Sarah were married, this fact is disregarded in the spin-off series Thomas & Sarah.[3]

In episode 9 of this season, "An Object Of Value", veteran British actress Cathleen Nesbitt made a guest appearance as Lady Southwold, Lady Marjorie's mother. At the end of the second season, actresses Rachel Gurney (as Lady Marjorie) and Nicola Pagett (as Elizabeth) permanently left the series, although Gurney would appear briefly in the premiere episode of the third season ("Miss Forrest"). Pagett's character of Elizabeth would never be seen again although she was constantly mentioned throughout the remainder of the series. Both Gurney and Pagett were replaced, respectively by actresses Meg Wynn Owen as Hazel Forrest Bellamy, James's wife; and Lesley-Anne Down as Georgina Worsley, Richard's ward and James's cousin.

Third series, set in 1912–1914

Lady Marjorie, her brother Hugo Talbot-Carey (the Earl of Southwold), and his new wife (widow Marion Worsley) die in the sinking of the RMS Titanic, her last known words being uttered to her maid—"Keep this for me, Roberts"—as she hands over her jewellery box. Miss Roberts returns alive refusing to let anyone touch the jewellery box, believing she is keeping it for Lady Marjorie. Richard's new secretary, Hazel Forrest, wins the hearts of all when she very gently persuades Miss Roberts to open the box. That means accepting Lady Marjorie is gone and she breaks down into sobs, as she cries, "I tried to save her! I tried to make them [the life boat] go back! I tried to save my Lady."

Richard had hired Hazel Forrest to type the biography of his father-in-law, the old Earl of Southwold, which he is writing. Soon after, she and James fall in love and eventually marry. Hazel becomes mistress of the household, and they are happy for a time but start to grow apart due to James's habitual self-serving ways, but this estrangement is worsened by a miscarriage in the spring of 1914.

Georgina Worsley, James's step-cousin, comes to live with the Bellamys at Christmas 1913, aged 18. Georgina is the orphaned stepdaughter of Lady Marjorie's brother Hugo. She decides to "steal" some food from the pantry and offer it to the family of Daisy, the new parlourmaid, but she is horrified when she discovers Daisy's family live in the kind of abject poverty she has never had to experience.

Rose, the head houseparlourmaid, is shocked when Alfred, the Bellamys' former footman, turns up at Eaton Place one night. He claims he's been sacked by his former employer and is homeless. She agrees to hide him in one of the basement rooms, but is horrified when it later transpires Alfred is actually on the run from the police having murdered his previous employer. After taking Edward hostage in the coal cellar, Alfred is arrested and eventually hanged for murder. The following year, Rose briefly becomes engaged to an Australian sheep-farmer called Gregory Wilmot whom she meets on an omnibus. She agrees to move to Australia with him, but later becomes frightened of making such a leap, and changes her mind, deciding to remain in the life she knows at Eaton Place.

Richard, who has had to sell the lease of the house to James after Lady Marjorie's death (all her money passed on to James and Elizabeth), makes money after a share tip-off from a member of his gentleman's club. Richard is later unjustly accused of insider dealing, and it is only the intervention of Hazel and Hudson that saves his career and reputation. (This plot was inspired by the Marconi scandal of 1912).

During a visit to Somerby, the country house of James's school-friend Lord "Bunny" Newbury in the Autumn of 1913, Edward unwittingly becomes the witness in an impending divorce case when he spies rising Tory MP Lord Charles Gilmour leaving the bedroom of a fellow MP's wife. Edward is put under pressure to lie and change his story, but he refuses, and the case is withdrawn after pressure from Richard.

The servants are offered a day's holiday in Herne Bay in Kent in August 1914. They enjoy a rare day out together, and Hudson goes so far as to offer a song on the vaudeville stage, but their enjoyment is curtailed by the announcement that Britain is about to go to war with Germany. Hudson sings "Rule Britannia" instead.

In the Christmas episode of that third season "Goodwill To All Men", Cathleen Nesbitt returned for a second and final appearance as Lady Southwold.

Fourth series, set in 1914–1918

James serves in World War I, is seriously injured in a trench battle and brought home, amid much difficulty, to recover. He is nursed by his step-cousin Georgina, who now volunteers as a VAD Nurse and serves in France during the war. Georgina and James develop a close understanding and affection during the war but do not go so far as to become lovers. Downstairs, Edward signs up and fights in the trenches, Hudson serves as a Special Constable, Rose works as a bus conductress, and Ruby leaves Eaton Place to work in a munitions factory in Silvertown, returning to service after the Silvertown explosion. Hazel, unknowingly echoing her late mother-in-law Lady Marjorie, has a brief affair with an RFC Lieutenant named Jack Dyson who, like herself, has risen from the ranks of the middle classes. He is killed while James is at home on leave. Rose meets up with Gregory Wilmot again. After overcoming their emotional and practical hurdles, she finally agrees to marry him on his return from the war and follow him to Australia. Unfortunately he is killed in action. Rose is heartbroken but Gregory has left her £1275 in his will, enough to make her independent in her retirement. Edward returns, and while not physically wounded, suffers badly from shell shock and goes into hospital. He speaks to Richard, who comforts him as if he were his own son, assuring him that mental wounds are as real as physical, and no mark on his character.

The fourth season ends in 1918 with the close of World War I. Both James and Georgina return from their wartime duties. Despite the celebration and relief that the war is over, Hazel, who is about 35 at this time, contracts the worldwide influenza pandemic. She tragically dies and the Bellamy household is devastated over her loss. Grief-stricken, James lets Georgina comfort him, but she wisely stops him from any further closeness.

When the series ended its fourth season, Meg Wynn Owen left the show with her character Hazel dying of influenza. Towards the end of that year, two new characters were introduced - Frederick Norton, James's assistant in the war (played by actor Gareth Hunt) and Virginia Hamilton, a young widow with three children (played by actress Hannah Gordon). Both actors would become regular cast members during the fifth season.

Fifth series, set in 1919–1930

According to Jean Marsh and Simon Williams, at the end of the fourth season, they, along with other cast members, were eager to move on to other projects. However, with much persuasion by the producers and writers, they, along with the rest of the cast, agreed to do a fifth and final season showing the Bellamy family and staff entering the decade of the twenties and ending the series with the start of the Great Depression. During that season, Marsh and Williams reduced their appearances on the show both appearing in only 11 instalments out of the sixteen episodes produced. In addition, eight new cast members were added to the series, which included two servants, Frederick and Lily, played by Gareth Hunt and Karen Dotrice; Richard Bellamy's new wife, Virginia (played by Hannah Gordon); Virginia's two children Alice and William (Anne Yarker and Jonathan Seely); Shirley Cain as Miss Treadwell, the children's governess; Madeleine Cannon as Lady Dorothy (Dolly) Hale, Georgina's self-centered, catty, fair weather friend; and Anthony Andrews as Lord Robert Stockbridge, Georgina's fiancé and husband.

At the start of the fifth season, James is still grieving over Hazel's death. Richard has married a young widow named Virginia Hamilton, whose character was introduced in the fourth season when she asked Richard, along with his solicitor Sir Geoffrey Dillon (played by veteran British actor Raymond Huntley), to defend her son Michael, aged 17, who was facing a court martial charge for cowardice in the war. Michael was acquitted of the charges but was killed in the war shortly after. During this time, Richard and Virginia fell in love and became engaged to be married. In the first instalment of the fifth season, "On With The Dance", Richard and Virginia are just returning to London from their honeymoon. James is in a quandary because with only himself and Georgina living at Eaton Place, there is not enough for the servants to do and therefore, James feels he will have to dismiss them from their jobs and ultimately, sell the house. He tries to persuade Richard and Virginia to move in with him and Georgina, but Virginia is stubborn and adamant about finding a house of her own. Collaborating with Georgina, James invites Richard, Virginia, and her two children, Alice, aged 10 and William, aged 6, to tea. The house suddenly comes alive with their visit. James, Georgina, and the servants welcome them wholeheartedly to the point where Virginia is finally convinced that 165 Eaton Place is the perfect home for her family. As a result, she, Richard, and the children become residents of the house. Alice becomes very attached to Rose, who is soon given duties that keep her upstairs with the children and the new Lady Bellamy. Richard is elevated to the House of Lords as Viscount Bellamy of Haversham in the New Year Honours List of 1917.

Downstairs, Edward and a pregnant Daisy have left Eaton Place and are replaced by Frederick (James's batman during the war) and Lily, respectively. Edward's job prospects are dim, and Daisy loses their baby due to malnutrition; both are re-hired at Eaton Place as chauffeur and house parlourmaid, respectively. Rose becomes children's maid and later Lady's Maid to Virginia when the children are sent off to school.

In the fifth episode of that season, "Wanted: A Good Home", William is sent off to a boarding school while Alice resumes her schooling with Miss Treadwell. To compensate for William's absence, Rose gives Alice a dog - a cairn terrier named Thimble. While Lord and Lady Bellamy are away on a trip, Miss Treadwell quickly assumes the role as head of the house alienating the other servants as well as mentally and physically abusing Alice and the dog. Upon their return, Lord and Lady Bellamy dismiss Miss Treadwell and she leaves in disgust. Richard and Virginia then decide that Alice should go to a day school for her studies. After that instalment, Alice, William, and the dog are never seen again, although they are frequently referred to, and Alice returns for a brief appearance in the final episode.

Downstairs, romance blooms between Hudson and Lily, but she spurns him and Lily leaves her position as housemaid at Eaton Place in the seventh episode "Disillusion". Frederick leaves service at the Bellamy house in the eleventh instalment "Alberto" when he discovers the allure of escorting young upper-class women to balls and other functions. Also during this season, the roles played by actresses Jenny Tomasin and Joan Benham were expanded to show more character depth. For Tomasin, the role of the childlike, simple-minded kitchen maid Ruby Finch was showcased in two episodes - the eighth instalment "Such A Lovely Man" where Ruby meets a man named Herbert through magazine correspondence, but rejects him because "he was no Rudolph Valentino"; and the fourteenth chapter of this season, "Noblesse Oblige" in which Ruby, fed up and disgusted with Mrs. Bridges's treatment of her, temporarily leaves her position at Eaton Place after they have a bitter quarrel. Benham's character of Lady Prudence Fairfax (or "Pru" as she was affectionately referred to) had been featured throughout the previous four seasons as a long time close friend of the Bellamy family who was a delightful social butterfly always welcome at family parties and events, as well as a bit of a harmless gossipy flibbertigibbet. However, in the fifth season, Benham was able to show another side of Lady Prudence - as a wise, kind, loyal, loving, and devoted friend to the Bellamys in two instalments - in the fourth episode "Joy Ride" and the eleventh episode "Alberto".

In the roaring 20s, Georgina and her friends rebel against the depression and hard times of the past war, but her frivolity and merriment are brought to a quick end — firstly by the suicide of a friend who professes his love for her and threatens to kill himself if she doesn't marry him, making good on this threat in the schoolroom at 165 Eaton Place, while a roaring 20s party rages below; secondly, by Georgina accidentally killing a working class man early one morning after borrowing Richard's car without asking (and without Edward driving) in order to win a prize for completing a scavenger hunt. Her friends, part of the set of moneyed, bored and pleasure-seeking "bright young things", desert her at the inquest, except the very rich but shallow Lady Dolly Hale and the seemingly dull Lord Stockbridge, heir to a dukedom, who defends her despite his family's wishes. He is in love with Georgina and she very quickly falls in love with him. James never settles and is unable to come to terms with his war experiences and Hazel's death. Restless, he stands for Parliament, but is not elected.

Lord Stockbridge's parents send their son on a trip around the world to try to wean him from Georgina, under the guise of helping him discover whether his feelings are true. James returns from America in October 1929, where he has visited Elizabeth and become rich through speculation on Wall Street. Rose allows James to invest the money Gregory left her when he died in the war, but the market crashes and James loses everything. James had also "borrowed a fair bit" that he now is unable to repay. He has disgraced his family and taken advantage of a member of staff who trusted him. Depressed and ashamed of his entire life, he goes to a hotel in Maidenhead where he commits suicide.

The final episode, set in 1930, finds things looking up at Eaton Place as Georgina is married to Lord Stockbridge on 12 June 1930. Mr Hudson and Mrs Bridges also finally marry, and take the uneducated but surprisingly shrewd kitchen maid, Ruby Finch, off to the seaside with them, to run a guest house called "Seaview" (however, one can only see the cliffs from the top bedroom window, over the other houses). When asked by Rose how she feels about becoming part of the Hudsons' household, Ruby says "They'll not last long and I'll have guest house all to meself." Lord Bellamy has delivered his retirement speech to the House of Lords. He and Virginia retire to a small villa in Dorset, keeping Rose Buck in their employ. Young Edward and his wife, Daisy, are elevated to the posts of butler and Head House Parlourmaid in the country household of the Marquess and new Marchioness of Stockbridge.

The last scene shows Rose taking a final walk through the now empty rooms at 165 Eaton Place, which is up for sale. She hears the voices of Lady Marjorie and Mr. Hudson and the sounds of many incidents she had witnessed over the years, but when she finally hears the voice of James, talking about Gregory's honourable death in the war, she realizes that it is time to move on and leaves through the front door.


Upstairs, Downstairs ran for five series from 10 December 1971 to 21 December 1975. The first four series had thirteen episodes each, while the final series had sixteen. Due to an industrial dispute over extra payments for using newly introduced colour equipment, during which broadcasting unions refused to allow their members to use colour cameras, the first six episodes of the first series were shot in black-and-white, and when colour production resumed, the first episode was remade in colour. Two endings were made, which could be shown depending on whether the black and white episodes were broadcast by the channel. The original untransmitted black-and-white version of the first episode is believed to have been wiped.

The opening credits of each episode featured a cartoon from the magazine Punch, and the lettering was drawn by the graphic designer Terry Griffiths. The theme tune was composed by Alexander Faris and entitled The Edwardians. It won an Ivor Novello Award.[2] Part of this tune would be made into the song What Are We Going to Do with Uncle Arthur?, sung by Sarah, with lyrics written by Alfred Shaughnessy. Pauline Collins released this as a single in 1973. The theme tune was also used as the processional march for the church wedding of Elizabeth and Lawrence in series 1, Episode 13: For Love of Love.

Many writers wrote episodes throughout the five series, including Alfred Shaughnessy, John Hawkesworth, Fay Weldon, Terence Brady and Charlotte Bingham, John Harrison, Julian Bond, Raymond Bowers, Jeremy Paul, Rosemary Anne Sisson, Anthony Skene and Elizabeth Jane Howard.


Each episode of Upstairs, Downstairs was made in a fortnightly production schedule. The book Inside Updown has a detailed production history. The first week and a half would be spent rehearsing, with two days in the studio - the latter part of the second day being used for recording.[1] Location footage was usually shot beforehand. The exterior shots of 165 Eaton Place were filmed at 65 Eaton Place with the "1" painted on.[1] Upstairs, Downstairs was one of the first major colour productions to be made by LWT.[1] Interior sequences were first recorded in LWT's first studio production area in Wembley in London, for all of series one and the episode "A Pair of Exiles" in series two. For the rest of series two and for the remaining three series the interior sequences were recorded in LWT's brand new studio complex called Kent House, or as it is known today The London Studios on London's Southbank.

Herne Bay features in series three, episode thirteen "The Sudden Storm", when the staff take a day out to the seaside.[4]


Upstairs, Downstairs was nominated for and won many national and international awards, winning two BAFTA awards, two Royal Television Society awards, three Writers Guild Awards, eight Emmys, and a Golden Globe. It was nominated for a further seven BAFTAs, nine Emmys and four Golden Globes. It was nominated for the BAFTA Television Award for Best Drama Series in 1972, 1973, 1975, and 1976, winning in 1972 and 1974. Pauline Collins was nominated for Best Actress in 1973 for her portrayal of Sarah Moffat and Gordon Jackson was nominated for Best Actor for playing Mr. Hudson in 1975.[5]

In the United States, Upstairs, Downstairs was honoured for both the Primetime Emmy Awards and the Golden Globe Awards. In 1974, 1975, and 1977 it won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series. In 1975, Jean Marsh won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, while Bill Bain won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series. The following year, it won for Outstanding Limited Series and Gordon Jackson won for Outstanding Single Performance by a Supporting Actor in Comedy or Drama Series, while Angela Baddeley was nominated for Outstanding Continuing Performance by a Supporting Actress in a Drama Series. In 1977, Jacqueline Tong was nominated for Outstanding Continuing Performance by a Supporting Actress in a Drama Series. For the Golden Globes, Upstairs, Downstairs won the Golden Globe Award for Best TV Show - Drama in 1975 and was nominated again for the same award in 1978. Jean Marsh was nominated in 1975 and 1977 for Best TV Actress - Drama.[5]

Alfred Shaughnessy, script editor and frequent writer, was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award twice for the episodes "Miss Forrest" and "Another Year". John Hawkesworth, frequent writer and producer, was nominated for Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series for the episode "The Bolter". Fay Weldon won a Writers Guild of America Award for Best British TV Series Script of 1971 for "On Trial".


Following the final episode of Upstairs, Downstairs many ideas for spin-offs were thought of. These included having the new Lord and Lady Stockbridge buying back 165 Eaton Place and an American company wanted to make a programme based around Hudson and Rose immigrating to the United States. Jack Webb was interested in a series of Marsh and Gordon Jackson reprising their roles as head of a Los Angeles Employment Agency.[6] Another idea, called You Live or You Die, was to have Frederick Norton seeking his fortune in the US. A further idea would have followed Hudson, Mrs Bridges and Ruby running their seaside boarding house, and this probably would have been made had it not been for the death of Angela Baddeley on 22 February 1976. The only spin-off to make it onscreen was Thomas & Sarah, which broadcast in 1979, and this followed the adventures of Thomas and Sarah after they left Eaton Place.

A short-lived CBS series entitled Beacon Hill, which aired in the fall of 1975, was loosely based upon Upstairs, Downstairs; its executive producer, Beryl Vertue, was Jean Marsh's literary agent and had been responsible for helping sell the original Upstairs, Downstairs to LWT.[7]

In 2011, the BBC ran a series entitled "Royal Upstairs Downstairs" in which Tim Wonnacott and Rosemary Shrager tour country houses visited by Queen Victoria. Tim tours the Upstairs concentrating on the architecture and events of Victoria's visit, while Rosemary concentrates on the downstairs, demonstrating recipes cooked for the Queen.


Each series of Upstairs, Downstairs was accompanied by a novelisation, with additional detail in each, but also with some episodes missing. All books were published by Sphere Books. The novelisation of the first series, Upstairs, Downstairs or the secrets of an Edwardian household, was written by John Hawkesworth and published in 1972. Hawkesworth also wrote the series two novelisation, In My Lady's Chamber and this was published in 1973. The following year, Mollie Hardwick's novelisation of the third series, The Years of Change, was published and she also wrote the 1975 The War to End Wars, the fourth series novelisation. The fifth series, which was longer than the others, was novelised in two books, both by Michael Hardwick and published in 1975. They were called On With The Dance and Endings and Beginnings.

As well as these novelisations, five books were separately published, again by Sphere Books, with each being the biography of a main character before the series started. Rose's Story was written by Terence Brady & Charlotte Bingham and published in 1972. The following year, Mollie Hardwick's Sarah's Story and Michael Hardwick's Mr Hudson's Diaries were both published. Mr Bellamy's Story, by Michael Hardwick, was published in 1974 and Mrs Bridge's Story by Mollie Hardwick was published in 1975. Also in 1975, The Upstairs, Downstairs Omnibus, featuring all five slightly edited stories, was published.

John Pearson published The Bellamys of Eaton Place (a.k.a. The Bellamy Saga) in 1976.


The BBC series The Duchess of Duke Street is widely seen as the BBC's answer to Upstairs, Downstairs, not least because some of the same producers and writers worked on it, and it also has a theme tune by Faris. The 1990 BBC sitcom You Rang, M'Lord? also featured a similar situation. In the early 1990s, Marsh and Atkins created another successful period drama, The House of Eliott, for the BBC. In 1975, an American version, entitled Beacon Hill, debuted but due to low ratings it was soon cancelled, running for just thirteen episodes. Tom Wolfe called the series a plutography, i.e. a "graphic depiction of the lives of the rich".[8]

A Monsterpiece Theater sketch on Sesame Street, introduced/narrated by Cookie Monster (as Alistair Cookie a play on Alistair Cooke, who was at that time the host of Masterpiece Theater), was entitled Upstairs, Downstairs and featured Grover running up and down a staircase until collapsing from exhaustion.[9]

In 2000, a stop-motion animated series called Upstairs, Downstairs Bears, co-produced by Canada's Cinar and Scottish Television for the CITV block, was based upon Upstairs, Downstairs.[10] Ironically, it happened to air on the very last day of London Weekend Television's broadcasting under that brand (as part of the CITV block) on 27 October 2002; the next day LWT was subsumed into ITV London.

Company Pictures' 2008 television series The Palace has been described as a "modern Upstairs, Downstairs" as it features the points of view of both a fictional royal family and their servants.[11]

From November 2008 to January 2010 variations (played in different styles, e.g., a fugue, jazz, calypso, death metal) of the theme music were played on BBC Radio 4's PM programme to introduce a segment entitled "Upshares, Downshares", in which Nils Blythe ran through the day's business news.[12] In November 2010, with the composer Alexander Faris's blessing, a special CD of collected versions was released to raise money for the charity Children in Need.[13][14]


In 2009, the BBC announced it was to broadcast a revival of the series, with Jean Marsh reprising her role as Rose alongside a new cast in the same Eaton Place household. The new series was created and written by Heidi Thomas. The first series aired from 26 December 2010. Eileen Atkins appeared in the first series, but left her role before production on the second series began.

DVD releases

Region One

Upstairs, Downstairs was first released to Region One DVD in December 2001 by A&E Home Entertainment. During 2002, it released the remaining series and then released Thomas and Sarah on DVD in 2004. The individual releases have also been collected together into two boxed sets, the second of which, The Collector's Edition Megaset, also includes Thomas and Sarah. These are all out of print. In 2011 Acorn Media released Upstairs Downstairs: The Ultimate Collection which includes Thomas and Sarah and 25 hours of special features in a 40th Anniversary 26-disc set.

Region Two

Upstairs, Downstairs was originally released on DVD by VCI in Region 2 (UK). The colour episodes of the first series were released in 2001 followed by the other series finishing in 2003. In 2004, the black-and-white episodes and the first episode with the original ending were released. Thomas & Sarah was released in matching packaging in 2004. In 2005, VCI stopped making these DVDs, none of which had included any extras.

Network Video released the entire programme series-by-series from 2005 to 2006. The episodes were digitally remastered and the black-and-white episodes were put in chronological order in the first series. Some episodes also featured audio commentaries, the LWT logo, commercial bumpers and the original preceding countdowns. In addition, each series was accompanied by a special one-hour documentary relating to that series featuring new and archive interviews. The fifth series release also featured the 1975 documentary Russell Harty goes... "Upstairs, Downstairs". In 2006, a boxed set featuring all the DVDs was released.

DVDs of the series have also been released in Denmark, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden.

Region Four

Universal DVD released all five series to DVD in Australia and New Zealand. These were later deleted. Timelife issued the series as a mail-order collection. ITV began re-releasing the series in Australia in January 2013.

The show is rated PG in New Zealand for its low level violence.

See also


  1. Inside UpDown—The Story of Upstairs, Downstairs. Kaleidoscope Publishing. 2005. ISBN 978-1-900203-13-5.
  2. "Upstairs, Downstairs - Thomas & Sarah". Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  3. "Kent Film Office Upstairs, Downstairs Article". Kent Film Office.
  4. "BBC Guide". BBC. 2005.
  5. Midgley, Neil (10 October 2009). "Upstairs Downstairs returns to BBC". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 27 May 2010.
  6. Bart Andrews and Brad Dunning, The Worst TV Shows Ever (New York: EP Dutton, 1980), pp. 7–14
  7. Wolfe, Tom (15 June 1986). "Snob's Progress". New York Times. Retrieved 12 July 2007.
  8. "Sesame Street Monsterpiece Theater: Upstairs Downstairs". YouTube.
  9. "Upstairs Downstairs Bears (2001-2002)". Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  10. Conlan, Tara (11 January 2007). "ITV commissions Buckingham Palace drama". Media Guardian. London. Retrieved 27 December 2007.
  11. "The Upshares, Downshares theme tune". PM Blog. BBC. Retrieved 7 November 2011.
  12. Mair, Eddie (18 October 2010). "Upshares Downshares CD. How do you get one?". PM Blog. BBC.
  13. Mair, Eddie (26 January 2010). "Upshares Downshares: Hear all the music and give to Children In Need!". PM Blog. BBC.
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