Was Rufford a real Downton Abbey?

RUFFORD Abbey has been dubbed a real-life Downton Abbey after the rediscovery of a book which draws striking comparisons with the fictional Edwardian estate.

Popular BBC drama Downton Abbey captured the nation’s imagination with its depiction of ‘upstairs downstairs’ life in early 20th Century England.

It was author Nina Slingsby Smith’s book of memoirs from her father’s time in gentlemen’s service at Rufford Abbey, written 25 years ago, which sparked the comparisons.

Linda Hardy, parks development officer at Rufford Abbey Country Park, said: “I love Nina’s book. As a modern day staff member at the Abbey it really brings to life for me what life was like above and below stairs in its Downton Abbey heyday. I have read out excerpts from the book to parties of visiting schoolchildren and they have been fascinated.”

Mrs Smith’s book, ‘George: Memoirs of a Gentleman’s Gentleman’ tells how her father George started his career at the abbey earning £8 per week as a gardener’s boy, and later rose in the ranks to the position of hall boy.

Later, after working in Buckinghamshire and Retford, George returned to the abbey as a footman - the job he had always wanted. He went on to become a valet - the top post in his profession, in Middlesex.

Mrs Smith said: “Downton Abbey is very entertaining and I watch it every week. It brings a bygone age into focus for the younger generation”.

The country park is open 10am-5pm, daily except Christmas Day. Admission is free, parking is £3.

‘George, Memoirs of a Gentleman’s Gentleman’ can be loaned at Nottinghamshire Count Council libraries.