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Downton Abbey Meets the Regency

Wikimedia Commons
Here in the U.S. we are in the middle of the last season of Downton Abbey and I’m really enjoying it. I’ll be sad when the series is over – no more emotional family dinners, glorious costumes (for the Crawley ladies, at least), and luscious views of Highclere Castle (i.e. Downton). 

But last weekend I stumbled across something on Netflix that may ease the pain of separation. From Time to Time is a 2009 movie that was co-written and directed by Julian Fellowes, creator of Downton Abbey

This movie is a treat for fans of Fellowes and the Regency. If you don’t have access to Netflix, you may be able to find it in your local library.

Based on Lucy M. Boston’s 1958 children’s book, The Chimneys of Green Knowe, the film tells the story of a 13-year-old boy who returns to his ancestral home in 1944 to live with his grandmother while awaiting word on the fate of his father, a soldier officially listed as missing in action. 

The boy discovers that the past is still very much present at the old house, as he slips in and out of events that happened there in 1810. The time travel element means we get to see Fellowes’ take on Regency England – the clothes, the manners, and even some of the culture.

Athelhampton House in Dorset, the 15th-century house where
 From Time to Time was filmed (Wikimedia Commons)
Similarities to Downton Abbey abound, including the way the cast members are lined up on the movie poster. 

As in Downton Abbey and Gosford Park (also written by Fellowes) the emphasis in the story is on the characters and their relationships.

The story is set in another beautiful old house, though not as grand as Highclere Castle. 

Even more fun is seeing a few familiar faces in the movie. Here are some cast members from Downton Abbey who’re also in From Time to Time:

  • Maggie Smith – She’s the Dowager Countess of Grantham in Downton Abbey, and she plays another strong matriarch in Time, trying to hold on to her family's estate at the end of World War II.

  • Hugh Bonneville – Downton’s Lord Grantham plays an early 19th century sea captain, and he looks fine in his uniform.

  • Allen Leech – He plays Tom Branson, the chauffeur who married an Earl’s daughter, in Downton Abbey. Here he’s downstairs again as a Regency servant.

  • Daisy Lewis — If you remember Sarah Bunting, Branson’s brief love interest in Season 5 of Downton Abbey, you’ll recognize Daisy as a maidservant, once again capturing the fancy of Allen Leech’s character.

  • Harriet Walter – She stars in the current season of Downton Abbey as Lady Shackleton, Henry Talbot’s aunt. Here, she portrays another kindly aristocrat.  

I liked From Time to Time. It has a supernatural element, but there’s a sweetness underlying the suspense. And it's rated PG, which makes it suitable for the whole family.

Because of the time travel, there’re a few inconsistencies, but they’re breezily dismissed by Maggie Smith’s character. However, as the late, great film critic Roger Ebert noted, time travel plots are almost impossible to pull off without getting tangled up in a paradox or two.  

Have you seen the movie? What did you think?


  1. Maureen,

    I will definitely have to check this movie out! Thank you!



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