EXCLUSIVE: It’s going to be one wacky sendoff for Downton’s Matthew

Charles 11 Comments

The GFG can exclusively reveal that Downton star Matthew Crawley will be cremated in a way-out guerilla funeral on the ancestral estate in a ritual created by the grief-stricken family.

Devotees of toff-soap Downton Abbey were left dazed and heartbroken at the end of the 2012 Christmas special when heir Matthew Crawley was violently killed after his motor car flipped as it swerved to avoid an oncoming lorry.

According to plot notes for upcoming series 4, jotted by writer Julian Fellowes and seen exclusively by the GFG, a distraught Lady Mary will banish local undertaker Grassby’s men when they come to take Matthew’s body into their care.

In  heartrending scenes that follow, viewers will see Lady Mary supervise sobbing servants as they wash Matthew’s body, dress it in his favourite suit and lay it out in the state drawing room flanked by bowed footmen and surrounded by candles and essential oils. Here, it is reverently watched over by members of the family.

Meanwhile, it’s all hands to the pump downstairs as the servants are enlisted to build Matthew’s coffin and refurbish a derelict cremator (pictured) which was last used to cremate Lady Mary’s convention-busting great-grandfather Lord Bertram Crawley in 1882.

In a final agonising development, the funeral procession, led by butler Carson, is surrounded by police tipped off by villainous valet Thomas Barrow. After a tense standoff the proceedings are allowed to go ahead in a ceremony led by real-life funeral celebrant and GFG commenter Gloria Mundi.

The storyline is believed to be inspired by Fellowes’ near neighbour and cremation pioneer Captain Thomas Hanham, who lived just 20 miles away in Blandford Forum. Hanham illegally cremated his wife and his mother in the grounds of his estate. The authorities did not prosecute him and a few years later the first Cremation Act was passed.

The GFG believes that Fellowes intends to raise awareness of family-arranged or home funerals, sometimes termed DIY funerals. He was overheard at a funeral he recently attended to exclaim, “Why on earth do we hand over the whole bally shooting match to strangers? We really should jolly well do more of this ourselves.”

Fellowes’ plot notes reveal that he even considered cremating Matthew on an open-air pyre. A scribble in the margin betrays second thoughts: “No. A twist too far. Maybe for Maggie [Smith].” Dame Maggie Smith plays the part of the Dowager Countess of Grantham.

NOTE: Journalists and bloggers are asked as a matter of courtesy to acknowledge the GFG as their source when reporting this story.


  1. Charles

    Those old family cremators – there are more about in the shrubberies of country houses than is commonly thought. Like many old pieces of Victorian engineering they are virtually indestructible.

    What’s less well known is the contribution these burners made to the wakes and receptions held after the funeral. Wood fired, the residual heat turned them into great ovens for baking. As soon as the ashes were raked out, the tenantry would bring the funeral breads, cakes and joints for roasting and baking – ready to give the squire or lady a proper send off.

  2. Charles

    What a fascinating piece of social history, Vale. I expect they may have been used for family dogs, as well? As for the tenantry being permitted to cook their bakemeats on the residual heat, well, it serves to remind us of the symbiotic relationship between master and tenants on these great estates – the very essence of the feudal contract.

  3. Charles

    One of the very early examples of landed estate cremations was that of the MP, inveterate gambler and notable folly builder ‘Mad Jack’ Fuller, at his home at Brightling Park. Subsequent scattering of his ashes on the estate are thought to have given rise to the term Fuller’s Earth.

  4. Charles

    GM: my apologies – I’ve just re-read my earlier comment. I didn’t mean ‘if only’ as a response to your declaration that you were ‘a little humbled.’ Just thought I ought to clear that up.

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