Upstairs Downstairs – it was 40 years ago today…almost


As the UK moves closer to the Boxing Day premiere of a 21st century remake of Upstairs Downstairs and with American audiences not far behind with an April 2011 premiere as part of PBS’ Masterpiece series, it’s time to look back to a day almost 40 years ago when the original London Weekend Television series premiered in 1971.

It dawned on me that there is an entire generation plus that have never been introduced to the residents of 165 Eaton Place, the five-story townhouse in Belgravia, London, which included the upper class Bellamy family and their ‘downstairs’ servants. Overall, the series centered around historical events of the early 20th century from 1903 Edwardian England, through World War I, the political upheavals of the twenties, and then ended soon after the stock market crash at the summer of 1930. Unheard of today was the fact that the series lasted an unprecedented 68 episodes. Upstairs Downstairs, with Alistair Cooke as Masterpiece Theatre series host, defined appointment television at a time when no one yet knew what that phrase meant.

In preparation for the upcoming 21st century Up/Down, Simon Williams, who played Sir Richard Bellamy’s son, James, in the original 1971 LWT series, shares his memories of the filming some 40 years ago this year. Enjoy.