more period pieces to watch if you love Downton Abbey


more television series, movies, and shows like downtown abbey

Ahhh! With season 4 of Downton Abbey wrapping up, it’s going to be a loooong time before all of us period drama watchers get another Downton fix. If you watch Downton you know how hard it is to wait a whole year for the next installment, and if you don’t watch Downton – have you been living under a rock the past four years? Head over to Netflix or Amazon Instant Video and get yourself going ‘cuz you’re in for a treat. Otherwise, keep reading for 6 more amazing period dramas (movies & television mini-series) you NEED to watch if you love Downton Abbey. (Then click over to this post for 6 more!)

NOTE: the links in this post are Amazon affiliate links if you’d to purchase the movies. However, check first to see if you can find them for free on Netflix or Amazon instant video (with Prime membership).

Call the Midwife

This gem from the geniuses at BBC chronicles the experiences of Jenny, a young nurse in London’s East End in the 1950’s. She goes to work (and live) at Nonnatus House, a convent where the nuns and nurses work together as midwives to deliver the babies born in the community. In a time when the lack of birth control meant large families for everyone and a place of wide-spread poverty, the midwives were busy day and night doing their best to support the community. Based on a true story, this series is an INCREDIBLE look at a time that feels much further away than just 60 years. It’s fascinating and touching, and you’re going to need your hanky. There are three seasons available so far, and at least some episodes are available on Netflix.

Lark Rise to Candleford

Set in the 1880’s, this television series introduces us to the inhabitants of the poor hamlet of Lark Rise and more prosperous town of Candleford. The main character is Laura, a Lark Rise girl who’s on her way up in the world as the newest employee in Candleford’s post office. (The series is actually based on memoirs written by Laura’s character.) The show is poetic and picturesque, heartfelt with hints of the grinding poverty so many of the people lived through. I especially appreciate the interactions between Laura’s mother and father, who are obviously very much in love but still struggle with the daily business of marriage and raising a family during hard times. Lark Rise to Candleford follows Laura through her “coming of age” years, including her first experiences with love and loss, and boasts a host of engaging supporting characters. The best part? There are FOUR full seasons – so plenty of hours of watch time here.

The Paradise

This is another recent offering from Masterpiece Theater (season 1 aired a few months ago, season 2 will be coming fall 2014). It’s based on a novel by Emile Zola about a country girl named Denise who comes to London and ends up landing a job in the Londond’s new department store – The Paradise. Denise is the kind of character we all want to love – kind and caring, down to earth, and smart as a whip. Then there are the other characters – her stuffy supervisor who doesn’t appreciate being upstaged, the handsome (and somewhat mysterious) owner of the Paradise, the high society heiress who’s trying to snare him, and even a sinister one-armed man. Great dialogue, some romance, and a fun peek into the history of the modern department store make this a miniseries not to be missed. (Storyline sounding familiar but you’re sure you haven’t seen this one yet? It’s surprisingly similar in a few plot lines to Mr. Selfridge, another recent Masterpiece Theater miniseries. I far prefer The Paradise, however.)

Little Dorrit

This Dickens adaptation introduces us to Amy Dorrit, a girl born in Marshelsea, a debtor’s prison where her father has lived for years due to unpaid debts. As a young woman she gets a chance to escape the prison during the day by working as a seamstress for a wealthy woman whose very eligible bachelor son has just returned from years at sea (anyone else see where this is going?). However, as with all Dickens’ stories there are plenty of twists and turns and up and downs before all is said and done. This is a simply fantastic adaptation with wonderful acting, gorgeous costumes, amazing scenery, etc.

Upstairs Downstairs

Not to be confused with the television show from the 70’s, this new spin on the classic story chronicles the two groups of people in one posh London house: both the life of the family upstairs and the life of the servants below stairs. This version opens in 1936, not long before England enters the World War II, and the tenuous political atmosphere combined with family secrets and a parade of difficult relatives keeps things interesting. Two seasons are currently available – season 1 has just 3 episodes, but season 2 has 6.

Berkeley Square

Set at the turn of the century in London, this lesser-known mini-series is a delight. It’s about three girls with different backgrounds, each of whom gets a job as a nanny for a different wealthy family living on Berkeley Square. Matty grew up in the tough East End and has worked her way up the domestic ladder, Lydia’s fresh off the farm, and Hannah has to leave her own child with another caretaker in order to earn money to survive. 10 one hour episodes chronicle their friendship, struggles, and romantic interests, and you’ll want to watch the entire thing in a weekend. The only problem is there’s not much resolution at the end of the series – it almost feels like the writers were planning on another season. But it’s well worth watching regardless.

Did I miss any of your favorites? Tell me in the comments so I can compile another list of great tv shows and movies for Downton Abbey lovers! Make sure to click over to this post for 6 more must-watch shows!

Comments

  1. 1

    Becca says

    I also enjoyed Mr. Selfridge a lot. It’s another Masterpiece Classic. Based on the real Harry Selfridge, an American who started the Selfridges department stores.

    • 3

      says

      I felt like Mr. Selfridge incorrectly represented the values of that time period. Everyone was sleeping with everyone! His poor wife! It really missed the mark on the modesty and virtue that was so valued in that day. The funniest line of the whole show was the last episode when he said that he was an ‘honorable’ man. Since when are men honorable who have multiple affairs on a good wife, gamble, drink, smoke, and value business above family? There was a lot of amazing things about the show like the costumes, and set. 20% of it was amazing 80% was immoral garbage that would rival any filthy soap opera on afternoon TV today.

        • 5

          says

          Quite correct. The Victorian period was when mortality was upheld (at least in theory). But it was also the time when at weekend house parties, an occupant’s name would be posted on their bedroom door so as to better faciliate hook ups! The myth of a genteel time of morality is greatly overestimated. It continued to get worse after Bertie ascended the throne. Now Queen Alexandra–what a long suffering woman!

      • 6

        Lynda says

        My goodness me, as a historian I can tell you it was entirely accurate. People slept around just as much in those days, in fact it was very fashionable for rich men to have mistresses even if happily married. It proved you were wealthy enough to support two (or more) women ! And don’t forget, the royal princes always had mistresses and they were role models for the fashionable businessmen of the day.

        As an addition to your list – don’t forget ‘Cranford” – not at all like Downton but a lovely series. There’s a new Upstairs Downstairs” as well I see. 🙂

  2. 8

    Delina says

    Just so you know-you can’t watch Downtown Abbey on Netflix anymore 🙁 heard so much about it, wanted to see what it was and found out its gone. You can only find it on Amazon.

  3. 13

    Sara says

    Great list!!!!

    If you don’t have Netflix or Amazon Prime? Check your local LIBRARY folks, a lot of them have these shows on DVD! Mine does!

    Also, “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries” is a fantasic aussie series bases on the Phryne Fisher books by Kerry Greenwood.

    http://www.amazon.com/Miss-Fishers-Murder-Mysteries-Season/dp/B008KCGQD0/ref=sr_1_4?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1393015126&sr=1-4&keywords=Nathan+Page%2C+Hugo+Johnstone-Burt%2C+Ashleigh+Cummings+Essie+Davis

    There is Birdsong & Cranford, which are Masterpiece Classics

    For 15th century English drama, try “The White Queen” based on Philippa Gregory’s series of best-selling novels, “The Cousins War.”

    http://www.amazon.com/The-White-Queen-Season-One/dp/B00E1LT41K/ref=pd_sim_mov_14?ie=UTF8&refRID=1W5NVPBXMM8GWN8VYH73

    Also some good Downton-y movies are:
    The Ladies in Lavendar
    Gosford Park
    The Book Thief
    Hemingway & Gelhorn
    WE
    Pride & Prejudice
    Lost in Austen

  4. 16

    Noni says

    I would also highly recommend House of Eliott- set post WW1 England – two sisters who set up a dressmaking business and eventually a fashion house, with all the associated drama.

  5. 19

    Emma says

    North & South is a great series as well about the industrial period in England. It’s a BBC production so has wonderful costumes and actors. The story follows Margaret Hale who moves from the bucolic south to a factory town in the north.

    • 20

      autumn says

      North and South is my absolute favorite! I think I like it even more than Downton or Pride and Prejudice 🙂 I listed in in my first post about period pieces. Thanks for mentioning it here!

  6. 21

    says

    There’s also Wives & Daughters (by Elizabeth Gaskill – same author on North & South and Cranford – fabulous stuff), Bleak House (Dickens) and Land Girls. BTW, couldn’t agree with you more on Lark Rise to Candleford – absolute FAV! And it doesn’t hurt that Downton’s Mr. Bates is one of the primary stars (Brendan Coyle)!

    • 22

      autumn says

      I love Wives & Daughters! I just started watching Land Girls, too. I like it, but not as much as Lark Rise. And I’m with you – I love Brendan Coyle in anything. He’s just an amazing actor. Thanks for visiting!

  7. 23

    Marissa says

    I also loved Bomb Girls, set during world war 2 when women are taking over factory jobs (including building bombs) because all the men are at war. I also love the movies Nanny Mcphee and Nanny Mcphee Returns (my favorite of the two). I think of them as period fairy tales, set in two different time periods but with enough fantasy to make them fun for the whole family.

    • 24

      autumn says

      I’ve just started watching Bomb Girls – sad and fun at the same time. What a different life it was! I, too, love Nanny McPhee!

    • 26

      autumn says

      Yep, LOVE Forsytes! Did you like the second installment as well? About the next generation? I thought it wasn’t as good as the first (but still fun to watch of course).

  8. 27

    says

    Absolutely BBC North & South!! AMAZING, LOVE IT, when my hubby works nights I just rewatch the train scene over and over!
    Call the Midwife: Usually I watch shows for the relationships, but the work these ladies did was so fascinating. I was so intrigued I went and got the books to see how much was memoir and what was created, totally accurate, the only differences I noticed were small, combining two similar stories, adjusting the number of children, etc. very minor.
    The tidbit I got from the book that I found most impressive is that the little boy that Chummy won over in the course of learning to ride a bike served as her ‘bodygaurd’ from the other bully children, and as an adult was on the security team for Princess Diana. So interesting.

    • 28

      autumn says

      My mother in law tells me I MUST read the book Call The Midwife was based on. I think this show is absolutely fascinating. And yes, North + South is my most favorite – the train scene! Here’s a funny story: when I first checked it out to watch I was laughing to my husband because the snippet on the back calls the male lead “smoldering” and I thought that was just kind of a ridiculous way to describe an actor. But I’ll admit it: I knew what they meant by the end of the film! 🙂

    • 29

      Laurie says

      I just recently discovered North and South and I am currently obsessed! I watch the train scene ALL THE TIME! His smile just melts my heart every single time.

      • 30

        autumn says

        Oh, the train scene! It’s it the best? He’s so intimidating-looking through most of the movie, and then when he smiles at her his whole look changes – it’s just about the best movie scene of all time 🙂

    • 32

      autumn says

      Good additions! I love quirky Doc Martin. I’ve never seen the Bletchley Circle, though – a new one for my list to watch!

  9. 33

    Laura says

    So many great suggestions here! I’ve seen most of them and for sure Call the Midwife is a recent favorite. Someone suggested Gosford Park already but I thought I’d just mention that it was actually written by Julian Fellowes (who is the writer and creator of Downton) so you’ll definitely see similarities there. Being a “murder mystery” the vibe is very different and it takes place it the 30s but it’s a good one if you like his style.

    • 34

      autumn says

      Cool – thanks for the info! I discovered last year Julian Fellowes has also written some novels and I read one. I liked it, but didn’t love it – but I want to read another one by him. Thanks!

  10. 35

    Kathleen says

    Love all the above listed shows. Also, The Grand, a BBC show about a hotel at the turn of the 20th century, London Hospital reminds me of House meets Downton, Great Expectations, Tess of the D’urburvilles and Wuthering Heights (all BBC) are fabulous. Lark Rise is one of my all time favorites!

  11. 36

    Sarah says

    A lot of good suggestions! Many I’ve seen and loved and some just added to my watchlist! 🙂

    I have a couple to add:

    Persusion (The 2007 version with Sally Hawkins – it is amazing)

    Also my all time fav is Jane Eyre (the 2006 mini series with Ruth Wilson).

  12. 37

    Lexy says

    I’m gonna suggest a period series of a completely different subject that I recently started watching and I simply LOVE! It’s The Murdoch Mysteries. As you can probably imagine it’s a police show but it’s set in Toronto in the 1890’s. I am completely in love with this show. For people who like any of those police/detective shows out there, this is gonna be super interesting. It’s a time when new forensic techniques have only recently been discovered or are being discovered, along with some other inventions like motorized vehicles and such. Aaaand of course there’s romance too =).
    I totally recommend this series!

  13. 40

    TKTanner says

    I might get shot down as my suggestion, as it’s not a period show, but it is still by BBC Scotland . . . it’s called “Monarch of the Glen” and it’s a wonderfully light, excellently casted, fun drama, set in early 2000. It’s not a comedy, but the characters are easily identifiable. that you grow to first like and then to love them, some more than others. My personal favorite is Hector, he makes the show! I found DVD’s at my local library, there are 7 “series” or seasons.
    They stopped making this series in 2005, so the website is still up, but not updated.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/scotland/tv/monarch/index.shtml

    • 42

      Bonnie says

      I loved Monarch of the Glen. I was so sad when I was done watching. But them I found Downton. I’m almost obsessed with BBC period dramas. Thanks for the extensive list, and comments with other suggestions.

  14. 44

    mk says

    “Bleak House” Starring Gillian Anderson, Charles Dance, Alun Armstrong, Ian Richardson, Nathaniel Parker, Richard Griffiths, Phil Davis, Joanna David and Carey Mulligan.

    This series will suck you in! Great mystery and superb production. Not sure if Netflix has it

  15. 46

    Kathy Nelson says

    I’ve seen the second season of The Paradise, and I’m sorry to say it really goes downhill. I finished it, but wish I hadn’t wasted my time. Mr. Selfridge is SO much better (although I fought watching it for a long time because I’m not a fan of Jeremy Piven). After the 5th episode I was completely hooked!

    Everyone has listed most of my favorites (I almost exclusively watch British shows because there aren’t many American shows that are up to par). I can add a couple though. The Secret Life of Mrs. Beeton (I just LOVE JJ Feild – be sure to check him out in Austenland if you haven’t seen it. It’s a fun romp), and Merlin (now one of my favorite shows of all time! It has a great bromance as well as romance – the second season really gets things going). And speaking of bromance, even though it’s not a period piece, Sherlock is amazing! So well written and the actors are fabulous!!!

    • 47

      autumn says

      Oh, I’m so anxious to see the second season of The Paradise! That’s too bad to hear you didn’t like it. I am excited that season 2 of Mr Selfridge starts soon. I’ll have to look for the Secret Life of Mrs. Beeton – I love the other shows you mentioned – my kids loved watching Merlin with me! And Sherlock is one of the only PBS/BBC shows I can get my husband to watch with me – he loves it!

    • 48

      Casey says

      I LOVE Merlin. Easily one of my favorite shows. I hated the.ending though…. I also enjoy reign and the Tudors (it gets raunchy) but I love period shows with kings and queens and stuff like that.

    • 49

      henrietta says

      I have enjoyed the Catherine Cookson novels (available, I believe on YT) such as A Dinner of Herbs, Tilly Trotter, A Dwelling Place, The Black Candle, Fifteen Streets, The Rag Nymph, The Girl (and more that you can find online). Cookson is a great author. Wilkie Collins, Woman in White, is also a good movie (on YT, two different versions). I have a library of good period dramas. I ALWAYS watch them before I purchase. Such a great selling point for YT, if they would allow us to watch them. I have every Jane Austen adaptation I could find. NORTH and SOUTH is my ALL TIME favorite period drama (BBC version).

      Enchanted April was delightful! I purchased the entire set of the first version of Upstairs/Downstairs. It is a HUGE set, and I love it. I could not even get through the newer version, which did a nose dive after a few episodes. Pure filth, calling itself a period drama. Couldn’t watch, let alone purchase it. Road to Avonlea was absolutely delightful! I purchased the entire series on DVD after watching. I could go on and on. My library is growing, but I refuse to buy trash! I want to hand down this library to my children/grandchildren, and no one wants to pass on trash.

      Then there’s Mill on the Floss, Dog of Flanders, Widow’s Peak, I mention “Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont” even tho it’s not a period drama, as such, it is a very enjoyable, decent and heart-warming story, starring Joan Plowright. I don’t believe I have seen anyone mention “Middlemarch.” I LOVED Middlemarch and had to purchase it for my library. I could go on an on. I have gotten some good ideas on here, and hope to check them out. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE period dramas.

  16. 50

    EMily says

    If you love these shows, you will also probably love “Land Girls”! It’s a wonderful show and I was so bummed when it was all over.

  17. 51

    Natalie Christensen says

    I don’t think anyone has added “Under the Greenwood Tree”, it’s a great movie and fits with all the others that you’ve talked about.

  18. 53

    Adeline says

    Great list, thanks ! I have just finished watching Downton Abbey Season 4 and I am glad to have found ideas for next shows to follow !

    Personnally I am also very fond of Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, taking place in Melbourne in the 1920s. Maybe not the best plots ever:) but the characters, the various locations and social/historical themes in each episode, the music and the costumes are delightful. And it is really nice to have a smart, glamorous and free-minded female leading character for once !

  19. 57

    Suzanne says

    Another one that is definitely ‘period’, but not at all Downton-ish, is the BBC version of Robin Hood from a few years ago. I add it because it happens to co-star the oh-so-delicious Richard Armitage from North & South. (Playing the leather-clad bad guy, no less!) I will warn you it’s a bit slow to start, but picks up after the first couple of episodes. And the last season is purely awful. It’s a fun show if you leave all sense of reality at the door. 😉

    • 58

      autumn says

      Yup, that about sums up exactly what I think of Robin Hood (including R.A. – although I did wish he’d wash his hair every so often 🙂 We actually watched this one with our kids and they loved it!

  20. 60

    Sheila says

    I recommend The Aristocrats about 4 sisters. I found it at my local library. It is based on a true story. Great period costumes.

  21. 61

    says

    My husband and I both love Call the Midwife, though we found Downton Abbey a bit risque. Can’t wait to check out the others! thank you1

    • 63

      Judy lockhaRt says

      I have been watching, and very much enjoying, “Last Tango in Halifax.” Bletchley Circle and Midwives are great too..

  22. 64

    Heather says

    I loved Bletchley Circle. Even my husband liked it. It is about the women who worked at Bletchly Circle during WWII, and their experiences post WWII solving crime using their incredible intellect.

    Also I was more impressed with the second season of Mr. Selfridge. (And if you have read/watched anything about the real mr selfride, BBC is doing a pretty good job accurately portraying him-and all his shortcomings.)

    Land Girls is another great one to watch.

    And two that I don’t thing qualify as period pieces, but are awesome, Merlin and Sherlock.

    • 65

      autumn says

      I liked the second season of Selfridge MUCH better, too! I loved seeing more from all the other characters, and it certainly was nice to see Selfridge and his wife be happy together.

      Love both Merlin and Sherlock!

  23. 66

    Jenny says

    I’m not entirely sure where I watched this, but I recently viewed “Death Comes to Pemberly.” At first, I was leary to watch it because of the title…but I was pleasantly surprised that it was a great little mini series/show. I might have seen it on one of those “streaming” websites or something. I know that I watched it on my laptop..just not too sure of what website. It’s worth trying to find, though!

  24. 67

    katB says

    Land girls is another great one set during war time about the women’s land army and how the women had to take over at home on the farms while men were at war. Great production.

  25. 68

    Cindy says

    I love “When Calls the Heart” on Hallmark channel. First season is on Amazon. Second season begins May 2015. Set in Western Canada in 1910.

    • 69

      Annette J says

      I loved the show, too, but can’t find a continuation after season 2, where she is proposed to by both men. A real cliffhanger. Do you know where I can get it?

  26. 70

    Sarah says

    Doc Martin, and Monarch of the Glen. Monarch is a modern day Downton. The efforts and problems a 21st century family faces to keep the estate alive. Doc is just a good show! =)

  27. 71

    says

    I have watched The Duchess of Duke Street many times and love it to this day. If you love a great series about Rome we own a copy of I. Claudus with Derek Jacoby. This is an old series but produced by the BBC and it is wonderful. We love The Grand, Doc Martin, Lark Rise to Candleford, and are looking so forward to the next season of Downton Abbey.

  28. 72

    Brie says

    These all look very interesting!! Thank you!
    Also, for those who want to watch Downton Abbey, go to the website couchtuner.com
    Click on any downton video and click the x in the corner (because its an add) and then click play. I watched up to the recent episode there!! ^^

  29. 73

    Tina McLane says

    I also loved Dutchess of Duke Street. Another great one is Cranford with Judi Dench- incredible acting and attention to detail.

  30. 74

    Michael John Lyons says

    Was pretty proud of myself for getting addicted to Downton…alas, it won out and I completely binged for three straight days…then got hooked on the new Upstairs Downstairs…love BBC.

  31. 75

    Crystal says

    I recently came across this amazing little show from Australia called Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. It is really quite enjoyable, based in the 1920’s, the title character returns to Brisbane and ends up helping to solve the mysteries that pop up. Its quite witty and I believe available on American Netflix. Canada also has a great show, Murdoch’s Mysteries, based in the early 1900’s of Toronto. Quite fun and the lead is quite handsome. I believe they are already in their 6th or 7th season.

  32. 76

    Kimberly Gramlich says

    So, I have watched most of these and they are ALL AMAZING! I have a suggestion that is both comparable and a little out of the box, it is called Grand Hotel or Gran Hotel…it is on Netflix and is in Spanish, but you read the subtitles, and it is sooooooo wonderful that I don’t even realize that I am reading it after a minute or two. Seriously, even my husband loves this show, and he is not much for period pieces. Also on Netflix are the following that I thoroughly enjoyed: Island at War, The Bletchley Circle, Bomb Girls, Bleak House & Land Girls. Hope you find time to watch them…it’s my “me time” when the kids are sleeping!

    • 77

      Jennifer says

      Holy mackerel, I do LOVE this show! It keeps you on your toes, watching AND reading, but it is completely engrossing. My kids say, “Oh, are you watching your Spanish show?” and leave me alone. It’s beautifully filmed and costumed, and the actors are great! Just a note for those who haven’t seen it: It’s from Spain, in Europe. I don’t think I had ever seen anything from there!

  33. 78

    says

    Lark Rise to Candleford also has the extra benefit of being an almost true story – it’s based on the early 20th century autobiographical novels of Flora Thompson.

  34. 82

    Judy says

    Sad that Downton has come to an end. Watching Doc Martin, but reading these comments has me excited to begin watching these others. Don’t know where to start.

  35. 83

    Erika says

    Hi!! I’m sure you will love The time in between (Spanish) it’s beautiful!!! I love it!! i also like Call the midwife, El Gran Hotel, Mr. Selfridge, Velvet, Downton Abbey

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