Fans of Downton Abbey will be able to get a glimpse inside the real world of the Edwardian homes and English society that inspired the acclaimed drama when the documentary Secrets of the Manor House airs Jan. 22 at 8pm ET on PBS (check local listings). Shot on location at some of Britain’s finest estates and country houses, and featuring interviews with contemporary masters and servants, the special reveals that life in the manor house was a world unchanged for nearly a thousand years, until the 20th century entered its second decade, when mounting financial, political and social pressures altered the world of Edwardian aristocrats forever.
Secrets of the Manor House goes inside two of Britain’s most legendary manor houses — Manderston in Berwickshire and Dunham Massey (pictured), former home of the Earl of Stamford. During the Edwardian era, behind the facades of these great houses, a hidden army of up to 300 servants tended to every need of an aristocratic family. In 1901, there were more than 1.5 million servants in Britain, and grand estates such as these homes occupied half the land. Like their masters, the serving classes in the great manor houses also adhered to a well-defined ranking system.
Photo courtesy of Susannah Ward