Downton Abbey to end after six series

image copyrightITV
image captionDownton Abbey first opened its doors in 2010

The next season of ITV's period drama Downton Abbey will be its last, its makers have announced.

"Inevitably there comes a time when all shows should end and Downton is no exception," said the programme's executive producer Gareth Neame.

Created by Julian Fellowes, the show follows an aristocratic family's fortunes from 1912 to the mid-1920s.

Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern have played the Earl and Countess of Grantham since the show began in 2010.

The drama has won a string of awards since its inception, including two Baftas, three Golden Globes and 11 Primetime Emmys.

Its success both at home and abroad was recently demonstrated when the Duchess of Cambridge went to see it being filmed at Ealing Studios in west London

'Unique experience'

"The Downton journey has been amazing for everyone aboard," said Lord Fellowes, whose next project will be The Gilded Age, a period drama set in New York.

"People ask if we knew what was going to happen when we started to make the first series and the answer is that, of course we had no idea.

"Exactly why the series had such an impact and reached so many people around the world, all nationalities, all ages, all types, I cannot begin to explain."

"But I do know how grateful we are to have been allowed this unique experience."

image copyrightAFP
image captionThe Duchess of Cambridge (centre) recently paid a visit to the Downton Abbey set

Michelle Dockery, Jim Carter and Dame Maggie Smith are among other regulars on the show, which has seen both the masters and the servants at the titular stately home - actually Highclere Castle in Hampshire - deal with numerous tribulations.

One of its most controversial storylines involved the rape of Joanne Froggatt's character Anna, while the sudden demise of Matthew Crawley (Dan Stevens) was greeted with dismay by the show's many fans.

'All the usual intrigue'

More recently viewers have seen Bonneville's character bid farewell to his beloved dog Isis and both Anna and her husband (Brendan Coyle) face prison for the murder of her attacker.

The show has also had a glitzy array of guest stars, among them Shirley MacLaine, Paul Giamatti, Richard E Grant and Nigel Havers.

"We wanted to close the doors of Downton Abbey when it felt right and natural for the storylines to come together and when the show was still being enjoyed so much by its fans," said Neame.

"We can promise a final season full of all the usual drama and intrigue, but with the added excitement of discovering how and where they all end up."

Peter Fincham, ITV's director of television, said the nine-episode sixth series would come to an end with a "concluding special" on Christmas Day.

Speaking to journalists on Thursday, however, Neame did not dismiss talk of a potential film spin-off, saying it was "definitely something we're contemplating."

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