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Christmas for the real life residents of Highclere Castle

Christmas tree on the set of Downton Abbey Credit: ITV Meridian

Now Christmas Day wouldn't be the same without turkey, crackers and of course Downton Abbey. It's set to hit out screens for a special episode next Thursday. Last year fans of the series were shocked when Matthew Crawley, Lady Mary's husband died. So is Christmas at the real Downton - Highclere Castle in Hampshire - as dramatic? Mel Bloor has itsstory.

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We meet the cast of the new series of Downton Abbey

Back in time. It's 1924, there's a Labour Government in charge in Britain for the first time and the Charleston still reigns on the dance floor. The stage is set - Hampshire's Highclere Castle the location - and Earl and Countess of Grantham are ready to hold court. It's almost time for the new series of Downton Abbey. With Hampshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire providing the backdrops, we'll be reunited with those upstairs and downstairs preparing to face a new, more modern world. Amanda Piper has been to meet the cast.

Downton Abbey designer's auction

He's a leading interior designer and architect whose projects have featured in the ITV series Downton Abbey. But now Giles Newby Vincent is selling his own historic house and its contents.

Giles has worked for clients including Sir Elton John and Lord Heseltine. And his extraordinary eye for antiques has helped him build up a remarkable collection at his home in Kent. Malcolm Shaw reports.

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New cast members joining Downton Abbey

Carnival Films and ITV today announced a number of new cast members joining Series 5 of the Emmy and Golden Globe award-winning hit drama Downton Abbey_.

New cast members are joining series 5 of Downton Abbet=y Credit: ITV Meridian

Richard E. Grant is joining the show, which is filmed at Highclere Castle on the Hampshire/Berkshire border.

He's joining the cast as Simon Bricker who visits Downton Abbey as a guest of the Granthams.

Anna Chancellor joins as a guest role, playing Lady Anstruther. The BAFTA nominated actress comes from her recent success in the West End in Private Lives._

Internationally acclaimed actor Rade Sherbedgia will play a Russian refugee, who has fled the Russian revolution after the First World War.

Returning guest cast member Dame Harriet Walter will reprise her role as Lady Shackleton, along with Peter Egan, returning as Lord Flintshire.

Shirley MacLaine's new Downton identity

Shirley MacLaine Credit: ITV News

Hollywood star Shirley MacLaine says her appearance on ITV's Downton Abbey has had an extraordinary effect on how she's recognised on the street.

"My whole identity is now Downton Abbey" she says "All that I have done - How many films? All my books? I am no longer a New Age, giddy dingbat. I am now the one on Downton Abbey".

The series is filmed at Highclere Castle, on the Berkshire and Hampshire border, and is the home of the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon. Indeed, it's one of England's most beautiful Victorian castles.

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PM: 'We've got to do more' about flooding

The Prime Minister has visited Yalding in Kent which was affected by flooding.

During a visit to Yalding in Kent, which was affected by flooding, the Prime Minister said: "There are a lot of things that need to be fixed.

"We need the insurance companies to get round so the loss adjusters can help householders, we need the council to get round with skips so people can get their carpets, their furniture removed, we need to get the power back on and then we need to learn the lessons.

"We are seeing these events take place more often. The Government is spending more on flood defences over the next four years than over the last four years.

"There are a lot of flood defences being built. Something like 80,000 houses were protected this time but we've got to do more and so we need to work with the Environment Agency and see what more we can do to learn any lessons from this flood and other floods.

"But right now the priority is help people recover from the terrible shock of this happening to them on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day."

  1. National

Five released 'Arctic 30' Brits arrive in Paris

Greenpeace have told Political Correspondent Libby Wiener that the four British activists and one UK journalist allowed to leave Russia after being held over the protest in the Arctic have arrived in Paris.

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