End of an era: Fans celebrate last season of ‘Downton Abbey’

By: Kayla Dimick | Southfield Sun | Published January 13, 2016

SOUTHFIELD — Conversation swirled around Lady Mary, the Dowager and Mr. Carson Jan. 10 as super fans of the Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning PBS series “Downton Abbey” met at the Southfield Public Library for a “Downton Abbey”-themed tea party to give a proper farewell to the show.

Sponsored by the Friends of the Southfield Public Library, downies, or fans of the series, were invited to the community room for tea, petit fours, tea sandwiches, and a discussion on tea and all things Downton.

“Downton Abbey” recently debuted its final season in the U.S. The British drama created by Julian Fellowes follows the lives of the Crawley family and their servants at their classic Georgian country house beginning in 1912. The show is set at real-life Highclere Castle, home of the real-life Earl and Countess of Carnarvon.

Barb Gulley and her daughter, Rachel, put on the tea party and discussion. Barb Gulley is the owner of Barb’s Tea Service, which hosts seminars on tea history, ceremonies, brewing and etiquette, and also offers tastings and parties. Gulley provided “Downton Abbey”-themed tea by Republic of Tea for patrons to enjoy. 

City Librarian Dave Ewick, who acted as the butler at the tea, said the library decided to put on the event after noticing staff and patrons’ interest in the show.

“Of course, I always say, ‘If you can put it together, I’m happy to let it happen,’ so they did and they said, ‘By the way, we want you to be the butler,’” Ewick said. “We felt there was an interest in it and the series was ending, so it’s a great opportunity to tie the two in together.”
Barb Gulley discussed the fashion, set, customs, history and,  of course, the tea, of “Downton Abbey.”

“I think what really captivates us about ‘Downton Abbey’ is the really smart writing, the great costumes, the lavish scenes, and then also the time period where for hundreds of years, so literally centuries — the British aristocracy lived the same way with not a whole lot of challenges to their way of life. But now, what we see happening with ‘Downton Abbey’ and the Crawley family, they’re experiencing a lot of changes,” Barb Gulley said.

Rachel Gulley said she and her mom had the privilege of visiting Highclere Castle.

“The grounds are beautiful, and it’s their real house, so their real furniture is used in the show,” Rachel Gulley said. “It’s very cool to see and say, ‘Oh, Edith sat there.’”

Darla Van Hoey, of the Southfield Historical Society, said she came to the event because it combined two of her loves: tea and “Downton Abbey.” She said she finds the show to be extremely historically accurate.

“I think that’s one of the beauties of the program is that they hire historians. They’ve done period costuming, period sets, and they make a real effort, so I think that’s a part of its popularity,” Van Hoey said.

Barb Gulley said the last season will reportedly bring some resolution to fans.

“Season five was really the season of change for Julian Fellowes,  and season six he says is the season of resolution,” she said. “I’m really anxious to see if we can get those loose ends tied.” 

Adult Services intern Jim Krueger, who helped put on the event, said he was also hopeful that storylines will be resolved before the series wraps up.

“I want to get a little bit of resolution with where certain things are leaving off. I know certain characters are leaving altogether, so I’m kind of wondering about that, if they will go to America or move on with their life,” Krueger said.

“Downton Abbey” airs at 9 p.m. Sundays on PBS. It is slated to end March 6.