British television series Downton Abbey was first broadcast in 2010, and went on to become one of the world’s most-watched TV dramas, with six series and two spin-off films. The upstairs-downstairs lives of the Crawley and Grantham families and their staff earned an army of dedicated fans.
But although the show was set in Yorkshire – with the village of Downton located somewhere between Ripon and Thirsk – in real life most of the filming took place a lot further south. Highclere Castle in Hampshire was used as Downton Abbey itself. And the village of Downton was actually Bampton in Oxfordshire, just a few miles south of the official boundary of the Cotswolds.
Bampton and Downton Abbey
Bampton’s historic charms and period features made it a perfect filming location for Downton Abbey. The producers were looking for a village which they could take back 100 years. Somewhere with stone buildings that could be from Yorkshire, and ideally somewhere with two separate centres so the production team wouldn’t need to close shops and businesses during filming.
Bampton was a prosperous place in the 17th and 18th centuries due to the leather and wool industry, and many of its pretty golden stone cottages date from that era. But it later became a sleepy place without much new building, making it easy to believe you’re in the early 20th century.
The village is split in two, with the shops and businesses along the main road and the historic buildings and quiet streets around the church which were used for filming. Just a few adjustments needed to be made, like covering a bin with a fake post box and hiding wires and guttering.
Over the years the Downton Abbey cast and crew became familiar figures to the residents of Bampton. They even threw a big party for the villagers when the last series finished filming.
Downton Abbey’s huge popularity now attracts tens of thousands of visitors to Bampton each year in search of filming locations like the church Mary and Matthew got married in, the hospital where Doctor Clarkson worked, Isobel Crawley’s house and the village pubs and post office.
Most of Bampton’s Downton Abbey filming locations are concentrated around the church, so you can easily follow in the footsteps of your favourite characters. Just beware that most places are private residences so be mindful of residents and don’t get too close or look into windows.
You can also pick up a map of ‘The Downton Abbey Mile’ from Bampton Library, which shows all the main locations. It costs £1 and proceeds go towards the appeal to restore the library building. The aim is to raise £71,527 – which is how many pound coins it would take to cover the mile.
Bampton Downton Abbey filming locations
Bampton Library (Downton Cottage Hospital)
The 17th-century building which is now Bampton Library and Community Archive was originally built as the village’s grammar school, thanks to wealthy local landowner Robert Vesey. After falling into disrepair it’s recently been restored – partly due to donations from Downton fans.
On screen the building was Downton’s Cottage Hospital. This is where Doctor Clarkson was based and Isobel Crawley volunteered. Lady Sybil helped look after injured soldiers at the hospital during WWII. And Mary and Matthew’s son George was born there on the day his father died.
Inside there’s a small visitor centre and shop where you can buy the Downton Abbey Mile map as well as books, postcards, souvenirs and local arts and crafts. There’s an exhibition on the walls too with behind-the-scenes photos and stories showing the cast and crew in Bampton.
St Mary’s Church (St Michael and All Angels)
The Church of St Michael and All Angels was one of the main Bampton Downton Abbey filming locations, with baptisms, weddings and funerals on the show all taking place here.
In real life, St Mary’s Church in Bampton dates from the 12th century and was built on the site of an older minster. It’s open to visitors so you can take a look around – this was the only building in Bampton where filming took place inside as well as outside. Look out for the 15th-century Easter Sepulchre and a 1270 stone statue of St John the Baptist who fell off the church roof in 1990.
There’s been a whole host of Downton weddings in the church – some with happier endings than others. Lady Mary married both Matthew Crawley and Henry Talbot here. Lady Edith was jilted at the altar by Anthony Strallan but later married Bertie Pelham. It was also the venue for Carson’s wedding to Mrs Hughes, and where Lady Sybil and Branson’s baby Sybbie was christened.
The churchyard is where Matthew Crawley, Lady Sybil, Matthew’s fiancée Lavinia and Daisy’s husband William are buried – though you won’t see any names you recognise among the graves.
The production team added specially made Downton gravestones whenever they filmed outside the church. Though as the series went on and more characters died it got more of a continuity challenge to make sure all 11 gravestones appeared in the exact same position every time.
Church Green (Downton Village Square)
The square is heart of village life in Downton, with characters stopping for a chat on the way to the shops or the post office. It’s also where the Downton fair took place in series one, complete with a coconut shy, fortune teller and helter skelter. There was also a proposal for Mrs Hughes at the fair who turned down a widowed farmer old flame who asked her to marry him.
Bampton’s Church Green lies between the church and the library, and is a lot smaller than it looks on screen. One thing you won’t see is the Downton war memorial, which was especially made for the show and unveiled during series five in a moving ceremony with all the village attending.
Churchgate House (Crawley House)
Overlooking the green is Churchgate House, which was once Bampton’s vicarage. It’s surrounded by a high stone wall but you can see the top of the house behind it. In Downton Abbey this was Crawley House, the home of Isobel Crawley and her son Matthew. It featured in plenty of episodes, with characters like the Dowager Countess and Lord and Lady Grantham all visiting.
Only the exterior shots were filmed in Bampton though – for the interiors the production team used 18th-century Hall Place in Buckinghamshire instead. But the inside of Churchgate House did get put to use as the Green Room, where the cast would relax between scenes during filming.
Church Close (The Grantham Arms)
Just opposite the church on Church Close is the location of The Grantham Arms, the Downton village pub named after Lord Grantham’s family. Adding a pub sign with a coat of arms, outdoor tables and beer barrels transformed this residential property into a pub during filming.
In the show the pub was where Tom Branson stayed after he lost his job as chauffeur because of his engagement to Lady Sybil – Lord Grantham visits him and tries to bribe him to leave but he refuses. It’s also where scheming maid Edna ‘accidentally’ bumps into the recently widowed Branson. And where Carson sent footman Alfred to stay to avoid Ivy and Daisy fighting over him.
Look out for the house next door too, which briefly featured as Lamont’s Poultry Merchants.
Church View (Post Office and Dog and Duck Pub)
There are also a couple of other Bampton Downton Abbey filming locations on Church View, the road next to Bampton Library. First is the post office, which was run by postmistress Mrs Wigan. It’s where Lady Rose pays to put a card in the window when she’s looking for a lady’s maid.
The interior filming was done in the studio, but the window of Corner Cottage next to the library had a ‘Post Office and Telegrams’ sign and noticeboard added to turn it into the post office.
Also on the same street is the filming location for another Downton village pub – The Dog and Duck. This was where Carson met his old friend Charles Grigg in series one. Again it’s another residential house which was cleverly turned into a pub just by using a few signs and props.
Other Downton Abbey locations in the Cotswolds
Highclere Castle – Downton Abbey itself – is 40 miles (around an hour’s drive) south of Bampton in Hampshire, so you can easily combine a visit to the two locations in one day. But Bampton isn’t the only Downton Abbey filming location which is close to the Cotswolds.
Cogges Manor Farm near Witney is a 13th-century manor house turned heritage site. In Downton Abbey it was Yew Tree Farm, where the Drewe family brought up Lady Edith’s illegitimate daughter Marigold. And in the last series Mr Mason moved into the farm with the help of Daisy.
The Swan Inn in Swinbrook, two miles east of Burford, is where Branson and Lady Sybil stayed while they planned to elope to Gretna Green in series two. The pub also has a link with a real-life famous family as it was owned by the Duchess of Devonshire, youngest of the Mitford sisters.
The Old Forge in Shilton, six miles north of Bampton, became The Red Lion pub in Kirkbymoorside where Mr Bates briefly went to work in series two after leaving Downton.
And the National Trust village of Lacock in Wiltshire has featured in Downton Abbey twice. First as the location for a livestock show in series six. And also in the first film when the King and Queen came to visit Downton, with a royal parade complete with 350 extras and 80 soldiers on horseback.
How to get to Bampton
Bampton is eight miles south of Burford and 20 miles west of Oxford. The easiest way to get there is by car – if you’re coming from London it’s around two hours drive via the M40/A40.
Parking is free in the village, but it’s limited and can get busy. There are spaces in the Market Square (maximum stay of four hours) and on-street parking in the roads around the church.
You can also reach Bampton by public transport using the Pulhams 19 bus from Witney or Carterton. The nearest train station is in Oxford so you would need to take a Stagecoach S1, S2 or S7 bus to Witney (40–50 minutes), then the Pulhams bus from there to Bampton (30 minutes).
Bampton Downton Abbey location tours
If you don’t want to drive, you can also visit Bampton on a Downton Abbey guided minibus or coach tour. These often include a visit to Highclere Castle too so you can do both on the same day.
- From London:* Full day coach tour visiting Cogges Manor Farm, Bampton and Highclere.
- From London:* Full day minibus tour visiting Cogges Manor Farm, Bampton, Burford, Swinbrook and Blenheim Palace.
- From Oxford:* 9-hour minibus tour visiting Highclere, Bampton, Burford and Swinbrook.
More things to do in (and around) Bampton
Bampton is fairly small so you can explore the Downton Abbey locations in around an hour. You can also visit the West Ox Arts Gallery, which showcases work from local artists, selling pottery, jewellery, prints and cards. Or browse Arthur’s Attic for antiques and vintage collectables.
You can also take a tour of the Wood Brothers Distillery (3 miles away), who produce their own gins, vodkas and liqueurs. Or take a walk around Chimney Meadows National Nature Reserve (5 miles), a 300-hectare area of wildflower meadows and wetland that’s a habitat for wild birds.
A bit further away is Burford (8 miles), which is a good place to shop for antiques and homewares, as well as home to the Burford Garden Centre. And there’s also the Arts and Crafts Kelmscott Manor (5.5 miles), Cotswold Wildlife Park (9 miles) and Crocodiles of the World (5 miles).
Places to eat, drink and stay in Bampton
If you fancy stopping off for coffee and cake, Lynwood & Co is an Australian-inspired café that’s part of a small local chain. They do delicious sourdough bread, tarts and sandwiches alongside strong flat whites. Or Bampton Coffee House does a good pizza as well as snacks and lunch dishes.
There are a couple of pubs in Bampton – The Horse Shoe and The Morris Clown. You’re also within easy reach of some great countryside pubs, including The Double Red Duke at Clanfield (2 miles away), The Plough at Alvescot (3 miles) and The Bell Inn in Langford (5.5 miles).
Or for a taste of France, head to Fleur de Lys bistro on Bridge Street. The menu feature classic French dishes like beef Bourguignon and mussels, and they also do a good breakfast. If you want to make a Downton Abbey weekend of it, they have nine cosy, Gallic-themed bedrooms.
There are also a few holiday cottages to rent in Bampton. Sunnyside Cottage* is a two-bedroom cottage with characterful oak beams, a woodburner and garden. Or The Plough* is a former pub that’s been converted into a three-bedroom terraced cottage which sleeps five people.