It's NOT 'Downtown Abbey'! It's 'Downton'! But why?

NEW YORK -- After six seasons, people get it: The name of that series is "Downton Abbey." Not "Downtown Abbey.

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In early discussions, there was a bit of confusion among the public. And for TV critics, inadvertently typing that second "w" was a constant risk from which spell check offered no relief.

So why not a less risky title for the series -- and for the fictional British estate that lent the series its name?

As "Downtown," er, "Downton Abbey" concludes its magnificent run, we asked Julian Fellowes (who created the series, executive-produced it and wrote every word) to explain:

"I have always been rather an admirer of my great-grandfather, Professor John Wrightson, 1840-1916, who was an experimental agriculturalist," Fellowes set forth in an email.

"His eldest brother, Sir Thomas Wrightson, Bart., of Neasham Hall in Yorkshire, had done great things in the world of steel and their aunt was married to Lord Armstrong, the British Krupp of armaments, but John was more interested in farming. He had an estate in Wiltshire called Charford Manor and I thought of calling the series 'Charford Abbey,' but we decided it was too near Cranford, and so we settled on 'Downton' after Downton College of Agriculture which Wrightson founded in 1880 and which, for a quarter of a century, was at the forefront of agricultural innovation.

"He had several children and his daughter, Georgiana, married Henry Shirley Morant Fellowes. They were my grandparents.

"I also used Eryholme, an early seat of the Wrightson family, as the house the Crawleys nearly left Downton for, and there were other references to the family."

Got it. Then we posed one more question for Fellowes, who, before "Downton Abbey," won the 2002 Oscar for best original screenplay for the film "Gosford Park": Why "Abbey"?

"I called it 'Abbey' after Ramsey Abbey, a Fellowes house in Huntingdonshire (now Cambridgeshire)," he replied. "I didn't want to call it 'Downton Park' as, coupled with 'Gosford Park,' I think I would have been known as the Park Keeper."

The series finale of "Downton Abbey" airs on PBS' "Masterpiece" on Sunday at 9 p.m. EST.



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