20 February 2012

Upstairs Downstairs: Full of gorgeous clothes, hunks and of course lots of stairs

Every Sunday night for the next six weeks we are all invited to snuggle down with a hot chocolate, a plate of biscuits and a cat purring on our knee and delve into the lives of the people who live at 165 Eaton Place. No there is not another lousy attempt at Big Brother, I’m talking about the latest series of Upstairs Downstairs.

Upstairs Downstairs was originally created in 1971 from an idea by Jean Marsh and Eileen Atkins who actually starred in the show, talk about girl power. For four series it was set in a large townhouse in Edwardian, First World War and in between the wars in Belgravia, London. The series focused on the trials and tribulations of the servants downstairs and their masters, The Bellamy family upstairs. It began with the household being led by Lady Marjorie Bellamy and her husband Richard who was an MP.

The show ran for four years and was a huge hit with audiences being shown in 70 countries, watched by a billion people and it won many awards, it was a sensation. Well all you old followers will be pleased to know that Upstairs Downstairs has returned to our screen and yes you are allowed to scream like it’s a Take That revival. In 2010 there was a Christmas special and it was so popular that it has now been turned into a series which began last night.

 It’s still set at 165 Eaton Place, but it has moved on to 1938, just before war broke out. The head of the household now is Lady Agnes Holland who is a very elegant society women with her husband Sir Hallam Holland. The series begins as the Christmas special left off with Agnes just having her premature baby Veronica. Hallam is pretty stressed due to being in Chamberlian's inner circle. Hallam calls all the household together and says to them 'Tonight this house prepares for war', if anything is going to put you off your dinner, that is.

All the way around London ARP wardens are being signed up, gas masks are being distributed due to the fear of Mustard gas being a popular weapon like in World War 1, trenches are being dug and barrage balloons all over the skies have been put up to protect cities against dive bombers. 

The first episode really gives you a sense of what life was like then and the tension and fear of another World War. It encompasses conscientious objectors, love affairs and a very cute monkey. I won't ruin it for you, but if you like period dramas or just looking at nice clothes and pretty china then this is for you. Plus we have the welcoming of Casper Landry, an American businessman who invented Alka-Seltzer to look forward to. He stays there as a guest and the women of the household fall under his spell, especially Agnes, well he is a suave sophisticated figure of yumminess.

Jean Marsh who I mentioned earlier played Rose Buck, the former parlour maid in the original series and appears in a few of the new episodes. Unfortunately Jean had a stroke so she couldn’t appear in all of them, but hard core viewers will be pleased to see her back.
New characters have been created including Lady Maud's (who was in the original series) younger sister Dr Blanche Mottershead and some more characters downstairs. Lady Persephone Towyn is a new character who is Lady Agnes’s younger sister. Percie as she is known is a fascist and has an affair with a chauffer, well who can blame her their uniform is rather yummy.

Despite the huge amount of sugar in the pantry, downstairs isn’t so sweet, with the cook Mrs Thackerey having a falling out with the butler Mr Pritchard that causes her to storm out, its like a 1930’s Eastenders down there, sadly Pat Butcher with her magnificent earrings doesn’t appear though. But there is still hints of luvvy duvvyness between maids and servants.

What is great is that Lady Pamela Holland who is Hallam's sister is now living at 165 Eaton Place. She was the family's secret and was locked up in a mental asylum due to having Down's Syndrome. The actress Sarah Gordy has Down's Syndrome in real life and its great that she has a lead role in a popular drama series, hopefully more people with difficulties will be able to star in more programmes. Its ability not disability.

So how did they recreate the 1930’s in a 21st century CCTV, IKEA clad world. Exterior shots were filmed at an elegant terrace of Georgian townhouse in Warwickshire, with parking bays and yellow lines covered up, I’m sure along with chewing gum and pizza leaflets.

The interior was built in the BBC studios with walls of the upstairs rooms hung with richly coloured wallpapers of the period and filled with beautifully polished furniture and fittings that were salvaged from real houses. You could watch this just to drool at the interiors with lots of Art Deco, magnificent chandeliers and gorgeous tea sets. There is also a walk-in silver store cupboard with real cakes and tiny sandwiches that are waiting to be served for tea, they wouldn’t be waiting for long if I was there.

Downstairs is very different with dark cramped rooms with tiny windows and iron beds and only a single clothes hook for their clothes. No room for a Justin Bieber photo here. The kitchen has a huge fireplace with stone flooring and an iron cooker. It also has a gi-normous pantry, I’ll meet you in there.

So now we get to the most important thing, the clothes. The series features totally spellbinding gowns, flowing fabrics and men in delicious suits. There are 400 outfits in the show that are either made, bought or hired. Actors even had to wear vintage underwear so the clothes fitted accurately. Make-up and hair is also gorgeous with deep red lipstick and tightly pinned curls. If you love the 30's like I do you will adore this programme and be pausing the programme many times to stare at the beautiful clothes and of course the yummy men in suits, good old Virgin Media.

I did a post about W.E with 30's clothes available on the high street so have a look here. That post was about how to incorporate the 30's into your daily outfits with flared skirts and long hems.

If you missed the first episode last night you can watch it here. You can also watch the old series on Youtube here. So cuddle up with a cup of tea and a plate of biscuits and revel in all the clothes, jewellery and hunky men. Believe me its a real treat, I'd even say its good enough to step away from the Asos Sale for an hour, now that is saying something.

Second Hand Rose


  1. Will definitely be iplayering this one when I get the chance :)

    Love, Elizabeth xx


  2. Too bad this series won't be played in Indonesia anytime soon.
    I agree with you about the dress, make up and hair-do
    So gorgeous and graceful!

    Greeting from Indonesia

    - MrVhallah.com -

  3. I really LOVE programmes like this for two reasons. Firstly, I am incredibly geeky and am absolutely fascinated by history, particularly the war era, and secondly, because men in tailcoats are SO FLIPPING FUDGING ATTRACTIVE.

    Amazing post once again! Keep them coming! :)


  4. this is really interesting! i'm gonna check if they have episodes online. :)

    <3, Mimi
    Udderly Smooth Giveaway

  5. I absolutely loved upstairs downstairs, the old series, and watched every episode, twice!! Havn't seen the new one yet. Thanks for your lovely comments on the valentin brooch so sorry I've not got back to you before now. I just cut out a square of blanket and a slightly smaller square of red fabric to go on top and then added a clock face from an old stop watch and glued a red heart button on to that. Then I sewed the initialls across the corner,hope this is ok? Lucey x

  6. Thanks for the gorgeous photos - unfortunately it's not available here in Aus yet and BBC iview doesn't work here . We do have Ms Fisher starting tonight though - set in 1929 Melbourne. I will try and post some photos. xx

  7. Looks and sounds like a fabulous show!
    Will have to check it out!



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