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If You Like Downton Abbey: Non-Fiction . . .

Updated: December 10, 2020

The Los Angeles Public Library has numerous books and DVDs for Downton Abbey fans who want information about life above and below stairs.  Over forty years ago there was the current show's predecessors, the smash-hit Upstairs, Downstairs, plus the very popular The Duchess of Duke Street. Here is a selection of books and DVDs about some of England's imagined and real stately homes.  Included are books about gardens, flowers, and food.

All in one basket
Devonshire, Deborah Vivien Freeman-Mitford Cavendish, Duchess of, 1920-
Call Number: 942.51 D511-6

Deborah Vivien Freeman-Mitford, Dowager Duchess of Devonshire takes us into the world of running one of England's most well-known stately homes, Chatsworth.  Without any formal education but a keen business sense, she tranformed the house and grounds into a beautiful and profitable tourist sight.

This is a particularly charming and funny interview with the Duchess at the Frick Collection.

Behind the scenes at Downton Abbey : the official backstage pass to the set, the actors, and the drama
Rowley, Emma,
Call Number: 809.2954 D751Ro

Here's what goes on behind the camera to produce Downton Abbey:  sets, costumes, make-up, music, props, inspiration for the various settings, and exclusive interviews with the actors.


Below stairs : the classic kitchen maid's memoir that inspired "Upstairs, downstairs" and "Downton Abbey"
Powell, Margaret, 1907-1984.
Call Number: 641.092 P885 2012

Margaret Powell's life inspired Upstairs, Downstairs and Downton Abbey. In 1920 at the age of 15 she became a kitchen maid. This is what life below stairs was really like, with work starting at 5:30 a.m. and not ending until late in the evening, which included scrubbing floors, dishes, vegetables, and any other type of menial job, plus having to put up with advances by so-called gentlemen.

Chatsworth : the house
Devonshire, Deborah Vivien Freeman-Mitford Cavendish, Duchess of, 1920-
Call Number: 942.51 D511-5 folio

The Duchess of Devonshire takes you on a tour of one of England's grandest and most treasured houses, Chatsworth. She provides a personal, historical and insider's view of the house which is also her home:  including the private rooms where smack-dab in the middle of ancient furnishings is an Elvis telephone which blasts out "Jail House Rock" because the Duchess is a fan.  Lavishly illustrated with full-page color photographs and black and white historical ones.   Also displayed and discussed are the various artistic treasures and the on-sight workshops where restorative work is done.

Consuelo and Alva Vanderbilt : the story of a daughter and a mother in the Gilded Age
Stuart, Amanda Mackenzie.
Call Number: 92 B196St

Social climber Alva Vanderbilt was determined to be at the top of New York's high society during the Gilded Age. Part of her game plan included forcing her daughter, Consuelo, to marry the Duke of Marlborough, a man she did not love. Surprisingly, Alva who had coerced her daughter into a loveless marriage, became an advocate for women's rights.

Counting my chickens-- and other home thoughts
Devonshire, Deborah Vivien Freeman-Mitford Cavendish, Duchess of, 1920-
Call Number: 942.51 D511-1 2002

The Duchess of Devonshire, the youngest of the well-known Mitford sisters, has put together parts of her diary, to detail what it is like to be the chatelaine of a stately English house. Under her supervision it became one of the most frequented grand houses in England, and turned a profit.

Dinner at Buckingham Palace.
Call Number: 641.5942 D5855

A memoir and cookbook from an insider who worked his way up throught the ranks, and served through the reigns of Queen Victoria to Elizabeth II.  Charles Oliver draws upon menus, royal cookbooks, personal recollections and numerous photographs of the royals.  It is entirely possible that the Bellamys (Upstairs, Downstairs) who had King Edward VII to dine at Eaton Place, and the Crawleys (Downton Abbey) might have been invited to a royal dinner.

Downton Abbey : a celebration : the official companion to all six seasons
Fellowes, Jessica,
Call Number: 809.2954 D751Fe-3

The ultimate companion book to the six seasons of this popular program, and includes interviews with the cast members.

The Duchess of Jermyn Street; the life and good times of Rosa Lewis of the Cavendish Hotel.
Fielding, Daphne Vivian, 1904-
Call Number: 92 L675Fi

The biography of Rosa Lewis, the real-life Duchess of Duke Street, upon whom the PBS television program was based.

Edwardian cooking : 80 recipes inspired by Downton Abbey's elegant meals
Edwards, Larry, 1957-
Call Number: 641.5942 E26

Master chef Larry Edwards has put together 80 recipes inspired by the popular Dowton Abbey television series.  With a brief introduction and modifications for modern kitchen equipment, the recipes cover everything from simple tea sandwiches to rich desserts.  Each recipe has a brief historical introduction, and it is not neccesary to have an abbey cook, vegetable maid, stillroom maid, scullery maid to prepare the food,  or a footman ". . . to present in the dining room."

Flora domestica : a history of British flower arranging, 1500-1930
Blacker, Mary Rose.
Call Number: 716.9 B6275

The English love gardens, palatial or humble, and flowers. Through paintings, engravings, letters, diaries, Mary Rose Blacker, who worked for years with Britain's National Trust, examines over 400 years of British floral design.  There are visual and written instructions for floral arrangements (simple and complex), and two lists of plants: one arranged by century and the other an alphabetical list of common names.  Numerous color illustrations.

Gardening at Sissinghurst
Lord, Tony.
Call Number: 711.942 L867

Sissinghurst is one of England's stately homes and the garden, created by Vita Sackville-West and Sir Harold Nicolson, epitomizes grandeur. 

The gentlemen's clubs of London
Lejeune, Anthony.
Call Number: 942.1 L534 folio

The gentlemen's club is an English institution, a place where upper-class men of like mind sit quietly, converse, drink, gossip, gamble, or get away from their wives, families and stately country homes.  This book has many black and white, and color photographs displaying interiors, plus the histories of past glories for over twenty clubs.

The glitter and the gold : the American duchess, in her own words
Balsan, Consuelo Vanderbilt.
Call Number: 92 B196 2012

American heiress Consuelo Vanderbilt's memoir of her marriage to the Duke of Marlborough, which includes life at Blenheim Palace, and lots of inside views of life above stairs, lived on a very lush scale.

Great English homes : ancestral homes of England and Wales and the people who lived in them
Bence-Jones, Mark.
Call Number: 942 B457

Here are sixty of the most important English manors and castles. Historical and modern photographs, anecdotes, histories of the families which include some eccentric and humorous stories. Gosford Park is nothing compared with some of the shenanigans and eccentricities of the very upper class Brtiish families and their guests.

The house : living at Chatsworth
Devonshire, Deborah Vivien Freeman-Mitford Cavendish, Duchess of, 1920-
Call Number: 942.51 D511

What is it really like to live in one of England's stately homes?  Allow the Duchess of Devonshire to tell you what it's like.

How to live like a lord without really trying; a confidential manual prepared as part of a survival kit for Americans living in Britain... Illus. by Anton.
Mead, Shepherd.
Call Number: 817 M479-1

A satirical look at the differences between American and British culture as viewed by an American in 1958.  However some things never change, especially in a country with hundreds of years of tradition, so you too can try to live the modern life of a lord or lady of Downton Abbey.

Lady Almina and the real Downton Abbey : the lost legacy of Highclere Castle
Carnarvon, Fiona, Countess of.
Call Number: 942.08 C288

Lady Carnarvan, the current châtelaine and countess of Highclere Castle, has written a well researched biography of Lady Almina, the fifth Countess of Carnarvon.

Life below stairs : true lives of Edwardian servants
Maloney, Alison.
Call Number: 647.25 M257

The unvarnished lives of Edwardian servants is presented with detailed information about dinner parties, scandals, social customs, working and living conditions.

The long weekend : life in the English country house, 1918-1939
Tinniswood, Adrian,
Call Number: 942 T591-2

This is the perfect book for Downton Abbey fans, and others. It covers the period between the two World Wars, and describes in sumptuous detail the changing status of country houses, as well as matters ranging from the relative heights of footmen and butlers to the alleged machinations of pro-Nazi members of Parliament. The book will have you swooning before the last page is turned


The manners of Downton Abbey
Call Number: DVD 791.453 D751Ma

Lots of behind the scenes information about how the production team and researchers got everything just right: "the proper way to eat, marry, behave, dress, and make money."

Manor house a Wall to Wall Television Production for Channel Four in association with Thirteen/WNET, New York ; director and series producer, Caroline Ross Pirie ; director, Nick Murphy.
Call Number: DVD 942.082 M2855

Margaret Powell's cookery book : 500 "upstairs" recipes from everyone's favorite "downstairs" kitchen maid and cook.
Powell, Margaret, 1907-1984.
Call Number: 641.5942 P885 2012

"Her cookery book is a firsthand account of the way people cooked and dined in the early twentieth century when houses like those in "Upstairs, Downstairs" and "Downton Abbey" were fully staffed and running like clockwork. "

Minding the manor : the memoir of a 1930s English kitchen maid
Moran, Mollie, 1916-
Call Number: 640.92 M829 2014

Mollie Moran describes the human side of working “downstairs” in a 1930s mansion house in London’s Knightsbridge and a Tudor manor in Norfolk. Mollie became a scullery maid at age 14, scrubbing floors and steps and polishing doorknobs, promoting to kitchen maid; at age 20 cooking for the Earl of Leicester’s niece. Leading the life of an independent young woman in London, Moran describes running into Wallis Simpson and Edward VIII before his abdication in 1936, seeing the future Queen Elizabeth II at the age of ten playing outside with her sister, as well as the entertainments single women with little money could enjoy in London. Moran also describes how World War II changed the lives of those living “upstairs” even more than those living “downstairs."

Mrs. Bridges' upstairs downstairs cookery book
Bridges, Kate.
Call Number: 641.5942 B851

Upstairs, Downstairs generated its very own cookbook, written as if there had been a real Mrs. Bridges, the household cook. There is an editor's introduction with an outline of the cook's life.  The recipes are real and were adapted for modern cooks by Adrian Bailey, food editor for Queen and Harpers.  Included are photographs from the program, line drawings and ancecdotes about the Bellamy household.

Nancy Lancaster : English country house style
Wood, Martin A., 1959-
Call Number: 749.914 L245Wo

Nancy Lancaster created what became known as the English Country House Style. This work includes numerous illustrations of her interior and garden designs, many of them at stately homes. Through her family and marital relations she entertained and/or created interior designs for Nancy Astor, the Duchess of Devonshire, Anthony Eden, Winston Churchill, the Queen Mother, Princess Elizabeth and many others.

Nancy Lancaster : her life, her world, her art
Becker, Robert, 1958-
Call Number: 749.914 L245Be

Stately homes, mainly in England, with beautiful gardens, parklands and the people who lived and entertained in them were part of Nancy Lancaster's life and profession.  She was married to two aristocratic Englishman; niece to Nancy Astor and to the original Gibson Girl, Irene Gibson; she rescued the three-thousand estate, Ditchley Park; bought the decorating firm of Colefax and Fowler; and became one of the leading designers of the last century.

The official Downton Abbey cookbook
Gray, Annie (Food historian),
Call Number: 641.5942 G778

British food historian Annie Gray presents over 100 recipes that historically match the time period in which the television series is set. There are some recipes taken directly from the television program. Fans of the series will be enthralled with the full-page color photographs of food and of the upstairs/downstairs cast.

Round and about Chatsworth
Devonshire, Deborah Vivien Freeman-Mitford Cavendish, Duchess of, 1920-
Call Number: 942.51 D511-3

The Dowager Duchess of Devonshire takes you on four personal walking tours of the grounds at Chatsworth: east, west, north and south.  The narrative is in the form of a hypothetical tour, "If you fork right and take the footpath to Edensor . . ." and so on through various parts of the park.  In the introduction the business-minded Duchess even includes some pie charts to show changes in net income.  The book is full of beautiful color photographs.

Secrets of Highclere Castle PBS.
Call Number: DVD 942 S4465

Highclere Castle is the real setting for the fictitious Downton Abbey television series.  Allow the current Lord and Lady Carnarvan to take you on a tour of this real stately home.

Secrets of the manor house : inside British country homes in the early 1900's Pioneer Film and Television Productions Limited ; produced and directed by Susannah Ward.
Call Number: DVD 941.082 S4465

Sissinghurst : Vita Sackville-West and the creation of a garden
Sackville-West, V. (Victoria), 1892-1962.
Call Number: 820.92 S121-4

Vita Sackville-West, writer and gardener, for almost ten years wrote a weekly column for The Observer, all about life at the famous Sissinghurst estate.  Sarah Raven, a well-known modern British gardener, who is married to Vita's grandson, Adam Nicholson, adds interesting, amusing and practical advice about the estate today.

To marry an English Lord
MacColl, Gail, 1954-
Call Number: 323.31 M129 2012

The real life stories of the American heiresses who became titled English ladies, which included all that their money could buy.

The unofficial Downton Abbey cookbook : from Lady Mary's crab canapes to Daisy's mousse au chocolat : more than 150 recipes from upstairs and downstairs
Baines, Emily Ansara.
Call Number: 641.5942 B162 2014

This cookbook has recipes that are inspired by the television program, however the writers, producers and others associated with the program did not authorize or approve the cookbook. It is very entertaining with recipes and information about how people of the time period ate, lived and entertained.

The world of Downton Abbey
Fellowes, Jessica.
Call Number: 809.2954 D751Fe

This book documents the research done by the the production team, plus behind the scenes information including sketches and beautiful color photographs.  All of this will delight any avid Downton Abbey fan.

A year in the life of Downton Abbey
Fellowes, Jessica,
Call Number: 809.2954 D751Fe-2

The perfect gift for Downtown Abbey fans with authentic recipes, behind-the-scenes information about the actors and many of the people who produce the program. There are color photographs on every page.