Downton Abbey: 'Sorry ma'am, the butler's out snowboarding!'

Continuity errors, anachronisms, gaffes, and plain clangers can't halt the rise of period drama

It has become the water-cooler TV hit of the autumn schedule. Downton Abbey, ITV1's First World War period drama centring on the everyday lives and scandals of the Crawley family and their servants, generated 11.6 million viewers on its debut night last month.

Fans rave about the drama's script, penned by the Oscar-winning writer Julian Fellowes, and its cast, ranging from Dame Maggie Smith and Hugh Bonneville, to Penelope Wilton, Elizabeth McGovern and Jim Carter. Together they have produced the most successful new drama on any channel since February 2009, earning an instant second run of eight episodes to air next year.

Yet despite lavish praise for the riveting, racy storylines, appreciation of the grand Edwardian country house setting, and swooning over Brendan Coyle's sturdy portrayal of the handsome valet John Bates, a growing band of critics is causing ripples among the show's fan base.

On blogs and fan forums, Downton Abbey is being picked apart, studied and lambasted – not for its content or weak plot, but for its minute and often overlooked historical inaccuracies, ranging from the far-fetched portrayal of the servants' "very good life" to the appearance of a stray TV aerial.

Here are just a few of the historical gaffes spotted by sharp-eyed online sticklers for authenticity.

1. "Lady Sybil Crawley talking about a 'professional, qualified woman' when there was no such creature in 1912."

2. The use of the word 'boyfriend'. According to one posting: "'Boyfriend' first appeared in The Times in 1933. From the context it was presumably the name of a racehorse, but it did not appear in those august pages again until 1955. I know that The Times used a more formal English than would be experienced in the everyday conversation below stairs, but this does suggest to me that it is unlikely that servants would have used the word 'boyfriend' in 1912."

3. "Maid walking up to her mistress to ask after her mother – the presumption of the girl! I wonder if she can get away with it because this is set north of Watford where 'we speak as we find'. In many houses the servants were obliged to turn and face the walls when their 'betters' were walking along the same corridor."

4. "Pity there were errors such as showing a rooftop view complete with a TV aerial and a car from 1921, etc."

5. "I think it was an episode that aired the week before last, there was a street scene and there was a modern street sign with bold black lettering. I couldn't believe what I was seeing."

6. "Confused timing – when the Titanic sank, the characters said they'd be in mourning 'until September', yet it was made clear that September was reached in episode 1. Also, Albania became independent in November 1912, which was why the Turk was visiting, so it should be October-ish time at the minute, but it is so obviously filmed in the summer."

7. "I'm a bit unsure about the whole 'nudge-nudge, wink-wink, Thomas isn't a ladies' man' business. Wouldn't they be quite disgusted by it? And wouldn't it make him very vulnerable?"

8. "Bit of a clanger, playing 'After You've Gone' on the piano. It wasn't written till 1918!"

9. "If the frequent mentions of Thirsk and Ripon are anything to go by, Downton is supposed to be somewhere in the Vale of York. I still haven't heard anything approaching a North Yorkshire accent yet."

10. "My only quibble would be that surely a house of the size that this one is made to look on screen would have many more staff than it appears to have?"

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Sport
David Silva strokes home his and City's second goal
football
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
film
Extras
The Tesco Hudl2: An exceptional Android tablet that's powerful, well-built and outstanding value
indybest

News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricket
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drinkAuthor DBC Pierre presents his guide to the morning after
Life and Style
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

Ashdown Group: Analyst Programmer (Filemaker Pro/ SQL) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days, pension, private medical : Ashdown Group: A highly...

Ashdown Group: IT Support Analyst - Chessington

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Service Desk Analyst - Chessington, Surrey...

Charter Selection: Graphic Designer, Guildford

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Charter Selection: This renowned and well establish...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas