Belfast Telegraph

Bonneville backs Downton site bid

Downton Abbey star Hugh Bonneville has given his backing to a campaign to save a building used as a key location for the hit ITV drama.

Villagers in Bampton, Oxfordshire, are hoping to raise £250,000 to help preserve their village library and museum in the Old Grammar School which is used as the location for Downton Cottage Hospital but whose second floor has been left to rot.

The money is needed to replace a staircase which was removed in the 1960s as well as the renovation of the roof using original stone tiles and strengthening of the first floor to meet modern use requirements in the 400-year-old building.

The work will enable the use of a space fitted with 16th century fireplaces and Gothic stone windows to be used for the museum's local historical archive as well as to create an exhibition space dedicated to Downton Abbey.

Hugh, who plays the Earl of Grantham, said in a video supporting the campaign: "We are asking you, the viewers of Downton Abbey, to raise the money we need to bring this wonderful building back into full public use.

"It needs a new staircase, the floor needs strengthening and the roof is in urgent need of repair."

Campaign spokesman Robin Shuckburgh said: "Villagers have managed to keep the Old Grammar School going for over 400 years but it's now in desperate need of repair.

"By restoring the building to its former glory we can make the most of the interest in the village, and provide a wonderful archive for local people and those with ancestors here. The building was given to the village by a very kind and far-sighted man and it just cannot be allowed to crumble."

Since Downton Abbey first screened in 2010 Bampton has become a major tourist destination with coaches regularly bringing visitors to tour the filming locations.

Mr Shuckburgh said: "Bampton is incredibly popular with visitors because fans of Downton Abbey can recognise so many landmarks from the series. However, people want to visit the building and spend far more time here than we can accommodate which is a shame for them and a missed opportunity for the village."

To help raise the £250,000 a series of Downton-related prizes is going to be auctioned including a special edition Downton art work, luxury hampers and tours.

To see the appeal video visit http://bit.ly/174aBBK

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