Filming begins on Downton Abbey 3 as cast and crew return to grade-1 listed Highclere Castle

Filming begins on Downton Abbey 3 as cast and crew return to grade-1 listed Highclere Castle

Shooting for the third Downton Abbey film has begun at Highclere Castle, with the Grade I listed house steadily being transformed into the series’ iconic country estate.

On Monday (13 May), it was announced that the historical drama franchise would receive the big screen treatment once again, with Paul Giamatti and Joely Richardson joining the cast of Downton Abbey 3.

As well as new faces, the film will also see the return of some central figures, including Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern, Michelle Dockery, Laura Carmichael, Jim Carter, Phyllis Logan, Robert James-Collier and Joanne Froggatt.

Downton Abbey, which originally came to audiences as a hit ITV series from 2010 to 2015, takes its title from the fictional Yorkshire country estate on which it is based.

However, fans will know that Downton Abbey’s real location is Highclere Castle, in Highclere, Hampshire.

Following news of the new film, the official Instagram account of Highclere Castle shared footage of props and furniture being rearranged and removed.

“Moving times… exciting times,” the caption for a video reads, showing staff changing paintings on the walls and lifting away more modern-looking lamps to fit Downton Abbey’s early 20th-century aesthetic.

The estate is owned by Lord and Lady Carnarvon and has been used as a top filming location for at least four decades.

Prior to Downton, Highclere Castle provided the settings for projects such as the 1987 movie adaptation of The Secret Garden, the comedy-drama series Jeeves and Wooster (1990-1993) and the Stanley Kubrick erotic psychodrama, Eyes Wide Shut (1999), starring Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise.

Yet, since Downton Abbey’s 2010 debut, fans from across the world have regularly trekked to Highclere to follow in the footsteps of some of their favourite characters.

Elsewhere, series star Hugh Bonneville also shared a touch of the on-set atmosphere with an Instagram post comparing the series’ beginnings to current day. Bonneville plays Robert Crawley, the Earl of Grantham and the patriarch of the central Crawley family.

On one side of the photo, taken in 2010, a label on the back of Bonneville’s blue, striped robe reads: “Downton Abbey, Bonneville, 1: Hugh’s the Daddy”.

However, the other side of the photo shows the same tag in 2024 – now on a different, brown robe, and drastically faded with time.

“Faded but hanging on in there,” Bonneville’s caption reads. “Delighted to have started work on the third #DowntonAbbey film.”

Hugh Bonneville in ‘Downton Abbey' (ITV)
Hugh Bonneville in ‘Downton Abbey' (ITV)

Michelle Dockery, who plays the Earl’s daughter, Lady Mary, also shared her excitement at being reunited with her castmates in a video released on Tuesday (14 May).

“It feels amazing and emotional,” Dockery said.

“It's wonderful all to be back together again. You come back together and you feel like no time has passed at all.”

After the show’s end, fans were treated to two films, continuing the story: 2019’s Downton Abbey and 2022’s Downton Abbey: A New Era.

Though the second film was met with lukewarm reviews from some critics, including The Independent’s Clarisse Loughrey, A New Era was a box office success and grossed $92.7m (£73m) worldwide.