THE naked truth about the changing world around Downton Abbey is revealed in tonight’s episode. (Sunday October 19)
There are racy headlines in the library as Lady Rose (Lily James) reads out a magazine article about the opening of a “nudist colony” in Essex.
With writer Julian Fellowes making reference to the real life Moonella Group in Wickford, which in 1924 became the first naturist club in Britain with an established home.
The benefits of exercise, fresh air and “nude life culture” were promoted by the English Gymnosophist Society, founded after the Great War.
Members of the Moonella Group were carefully selected and members known by special club names – Moonella being the club name of the owner of the site, called The Camp.
“Some of the group’s rules are familiar in later naturist clubs,” according to the official history of British Naturism.
“For example that the identity of members must not be revealed to others, that photographs and sketches must not be made without the approval of the committee and the subject. And that the location of the club site must not be revealed to others.”
Violet (Dame Maggie Smith) is not impressed with the idea of people taking all of their clothes off.
Neither is her son Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville), still recovering from his latest dining room argument with teacher Sarah Bunting, who would no doubt approve of events in Essex.
Actress Daisy Lewis, who plays the trouble-making school mistress, has revealed she was not as calm as her outspoken character during filming.
She told me: “I do suffer from nerves so I sing to myself. Nursery rhymes. I find it strangely calming. If I sing. ‘Mary has a little lamb,’ under my breath in the corner, then I tend to calm down a bit.
“Where do the nerves come from? It’s a big spotlight. I’m very much aware that I want to do the best job that I possibly can. So the pressure if generally from me, as opposed to anyone else.
“It is a once in a lifetime opportunity and has been an amazing, very brave, character to play. I often wish that I was slightly braver in my own life and she has definitely made me think about what I believe in.”
Miss Bunting has been busy both downstairs and upstairs at Downton, giving lessons to assistant cook Daisy Mason (Sophie McShera) while confronting Lord Grantham about his establishment beliefs.
“It’s a pretty terrifying prospect to come up against such a powerful, entrenched set of values. But I don’t think she is a trouble maker.
“She wants to see equality between the classes, equality for women and education for everyone despite their background. These are things that I think are good.”
Widower Tom Branson (Allen Leech) comes to a decision about his future with Sarah in tonight’s episode. But Daisy will not be among the millions tuning in.
“I can’t watch myself. I’m sure I could learn something from it. But I just find it excruciating. I have to retreat behind a cushion.”
In other Downton news tonight:
Robert is off out and away for the night.
All dressed up with somewhere to go.
Just as Simon Bricker (Richard E. Grant) makes a return visit.
Almost, but not quite, impressing Cora as a fetching silhouette upon arrival.
Lady Rose (Lily James) meets a rather dashing young man in the rain outside Bettys Tea Rooms.
On hand to ensure events Richard Harris sang about in MacArthur Park do not occur several decades ahead of their time.
There’s yet another delicious scene involving Spratt (Jeremy Swift) after his trip to Liverpool and subsequent return in 5.3.
I look forward to ITV’s eventual Men About The House spin-off, co-starring Mr Crabb (Ron Cook) from Mr Selfridge.
And Sgt Willis (Howard Ward) is back.
This time with a detective from London.
Sniffy critics may not agree.
But having now seen almost the entire series five of Downton Abbey, I still maintain Julian Fellowes is a genius.
*Downton Abbey is on ITV tonight at 9pm.