Gosford Park writer Julian Fellowes is penning a major new period drama for ITV called Downton Abbey.
The seven-part series is set in an Edwardian country house, in the year 1912, and focuses on the lives of the Crawley family and the servants who work for them.
Fellowes, who won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for Gosford Park, said he was “fascinated by the extraordinary variety of people that occupied the great country houses”.
“Television drama often relies on a structure that will involve characters of different backgrounds, any hospital soap opera or detective series can give you that, but there is no narrative base that can provide members of every level of society, sleeping under a single roof, more believably than a great house before the First World War,” he said.
Downton Abbey will be produced for ITV by Carnival Films, which also made Whitechapel for the broadcaster, with pre-production beginning in autumn 2009.
The first episode will be 90 minutes long, while the remaining six episodes will run for 60 minutes each.
ITV director of drama Laura Mackie said: “We are delighted to be bringing the work of a high profile film writer like Julian Fellowes to ITV1. This is a quality series of real scale and ambition that explores the fascinating and complicated relationships, between masters and servants during a brilliantly vivid period of British history.”