A MAJOR new ITV costume drama is being filmed in Oxfordshire’s bravest village.

Bampton, where 14 families out of a population of 2,000 have sons or daughters on active service in the forces, is the set for the show Downton Abbey – which stars Dame Maggie Smith and Hugh Bonneville, and is set in a country house in 1912.

The series will portray the lives of the Crawley family and the servants who work for them in Yorkshire.

Carnival Films chose the village, between Witney and Faringdon, as one of its key filming locations because the village provided an authentic backdrop close to London.

The rural spot was featured in the Oxford Mail earlier this month, when parish councillor Steve Radband, whose son David, 24, has just returned from a six-month tour of duty in Afghanistan, praised local people – calling them “the most loyal in Oxfordshire”.

About 100 members of cast and crew arrived in the village on Thursday and will leave today.

They will return at the end of May for more filming for the series, which is set to start in the autumn on ITV1.

The series has been written and created by Oscar-winning writer Julian Fellowes, who wrote the screenplay for the movie Gosford Park.

Producer Nigel Marchant said: “Downton Abbey is supposed to be set in Yorkshire, and we needed to be able to create a fictional village nearer London.

“Bampton is perfect because it is so well preserved, and you hardly need to do anything in terms of alterations.

“There are three big manor houses which make perfect locations and we will be using different parts of the village.

“As far as I am aware this is the first time there has been filming like this in Bampton so the villagers have been very welcoming and have shown a lot of interest in what is happening.”

Yesterday, villagers gathered outside St Mary’s Church to watch Penelope Wilton, who plays Mrs Reginald Crawley, and Dan Stevens, who plays her son Matthew Crawley, arriving at the family home.

Ms Wilton said: “This is one of the prettiest villages I have ever been to. It feels like living in a timewarp.”

John Winch, 49, from Abingdon, who plays a villager, added: “Bampton is the perfect location for a period drama, and I was lucky to get this role so close to home.”

Sheila Walker, 70, from Bampton, said: “I like to watch period dramas, so I was fascinated to see one filmed in my village.”

Adrienne Clark, 43, from Aston, said: “I’m looking forward to seeing it on TV.”