Downton Abbey announces the end of an era as next season will be its last

Producers of ITV's popular period drama Downton Abbey have announced the show's next season will be its last, ending six years of intrigue with a suitably dramatic flourish on Christmas Day.

The global phenomenon, one of the UK's biggest TV drama exports, has won critical acclaim around the world, racking up a record-breaking 51 Emmy nominations - including 11 wins - as well as numerous Golden Globes, BAFTAs, and Screen Actors Guild Awards, plus many more.

The final episode will be shown on Christmas Day.

The show is produced by Carnival Films, which said it believed the drama had come to a 'natural end'.

Millions of people around the world have followed the journey of the Crawley family and those who serve them for the last five years. Inevitably there comes a time when all shows should end and Downton is no exception.

Gareth Neame, Downton Abbey executive producer

The Downton journey has been amazing for everyone aboard. People ask if we knew what was going to happen when we started to make the first series and the answer is that, of course we had no idea.

Julian Fellowes, Downton Abbey writer, creator and executive producer
The show has been running for six years Credit: ITV

The show, which reignited interest in the turn of the century era, is the highest-rated UK show across any channel, with an average of 11 million viewers over its five series to date, including Christmas specials.

It is shown in more than 250 territories worldwide.

ITV's director of television, Peter Fincham, said he had "no way of knowing" what a hit the show would turn out to be - and promised the final show would be "one to remember."

What a ride it's been - for everyone involved in the production, for the cast, and most of the all for the audience. We all thought very carefully about the right moment to bring something so special to a close that felt editorially right, and left viewers wanting more.

Peter Fincham, ITV's director of television