Downton Abbey took the world by stormed when it first aired in 2010. In addition to six seasons and several Christmas Special episodes, the franchise released two films: Downton Abbey in 2019 and Downton Abbey: A New Erawhich is slated for release later this year. The original tv series, written and created by Julian Fellowes, takes place at the beginning of the 20th Century and follows the lives of the aristocratic Crawley Family (owners of the eponymous estate) and their staff members during a time of political and social transition in a post-Edwardian era.
The Crawley Family and their esteemed guests are arguably one of the biggest draws of the show – with stars like Dame Maggie SmithMichelle Dockery, and Hugh Bonneville, it’s no wonder – but Downton Abbey would not be the same without its many staff members keeping it running from behind closed doors. In an entertainment sense, each of these characters offer their own unique personality to liven up the show, but in a more practical sense, were they that helpful really? And who was the most useful for the Crawley Family? We’ve put together a ranking of all the staff members in the classic show, Downton Abbeyto decide the most helpful staff member on the show once and for all.
10 Thomas Barrow
Thomas got his start at the Abbey as a footman / valet, but is deeply unsatisfied with his position. He spends most of his time on the job coming up with ways to upstage the other servants, forming a rivalry later on in the series with his fellow footman Alfred, as he sees himself as far above him. While Thomas does eventually rise to the position of Butler following Mr Carson’s retirement, with the amount of time he spent unhappy with his position, and negatively affecting everyone in the servant’s quarter, he belongs at the very bottom of this list.
9 Alfred Nugent
Alfred was introduced in season 3 as a nervous and bumbling second footman who had caught the attention of Daisy. As a tall footman, he is often the butt of many jokes in the servants’ quarters, and he lets it get to him, which causes a lot of fumbles and mistakes. He needed a lot of extra help to be able to do his job, as evidenced by the infamous spoon tutorial from Mr Carsonbut even when he was fairly used to the role, he spent most of his time trying to impress Ivy Stuart while taking advantage of Daisy’s kindness, which places him squarely at number 9 on this list.
8 Miss O’Brien
Miss O’Brien was the bitter lady’s maid to the Countess, and never passed on the opportunity to flatter the higher-ups to improve her own image. Originally in an alliance with Thomas Barrow, she helped her nephew Alfred get a good position at the Abbey, showcasing her loyalty to those she cares about. While she has caused harm to the family – for instance, the soap incident which resulted in Cora’s miscarriage – she learned from those experiences and went on to be an integral part of life at Downton, which earned her this spot on the list.
Daisy started as a scullery maid, and worked her way up to become the assistant cook. She was fantastic at her job, assisting Mrs Patmore and helping the other servants at every opportunity. Outside the standard work helpfulness, she often helped resolve disagreements between servants and even married William Mason, a former staff member who came back from the war with fatal injuries, as a ‘kindness’ – before she realized she truly did love him. Daisy also helps the family on many occasions; for instance, she was a crucial part in Sybil’s cooking lessons and is often used for more covert operations due to her status. Without Daisy, life at the Abbey would be very different, and most likely would have been a lot harder.
6 Anna Bates
Anna is perhaps the most traditionally good servant on Downton, as she is willing to work hard, she is loyal to the family above all else, and she remains kind-hearted no matter what her life looks like. Despite her troubles in the early series’, she stays positive and helps out the family whenever she can, and in return they help her out. In the servants quarters, she is also well liked and respected, and is often willing to lend an ear to anyone who needs it. As Mary’s lady’s maid, Anna helps her out of mourning following Matthew’s death, and tries to encourage her to bond with her son instead of remembering what was lost. Anna is an irreplaceable part of Downton Abbey.
5 John Bates
Mr Bates is shunned by nearly the entire staff at Downton when he arrives, despite having a close connection with the Earl of Grantham, due to his leg injury. He is grossly underestimated, as even Carson believes he will not be able to do his job properly – he is often the target of Thomas’ plots and has to fight to prove his place is deserved. But in the end, despite all of his troubles, he shows himself to be one of the most helpful servants of all, as he becomes a beacon of support for both the servants and the family. As one of the most beloved characters on the show, he is also one of the most useful both professionally and personally.
4 Mrs. Patmore
The beloved cook of the Abbey is one of the most helpful characters of all. She literally feeds the entire house, despite having troubles of her own: her eyesight is tragically damaged at one point, and she’s too proud to ask for help on her own due to fears that she will be sacked. But Mrs Patmore is in many ways the heart of the house, and her helpfulness lies in the connections she makes with the other servants. Almost a mother hen to the younger servants, she always makes sure everyone is doing okay – and this goes double for Daisy, whom she often tries to guide and teach despite Daisy sometimes not being interested. Nevertheless, Mrs Patmore is one of the most helpful servants in the Abbey and carries a lot on her shoulders every single day.
3 Tom Branson
While this may be the most unconventional man for this spot, it is fully deserved. Maybe professionally, Branson did the worst thing he could possibly do in his position, as he fell for one of his employer’s daughters. But personally, he may have been the most helpful think for the Abbey in its history. Without Branson, the Abbey would likely have never changed as it did after his child was born and brought in. The Earl would have been even more set in his ways, and this would have killed the way of life he was so fond of defending. Branson challenged his position with real authority and managed to make an abundance of positive changes, which means he thoroughly deserves this decorated spot on this list.
2 Mrs Hughes
Mrs Hughes is Mr Carson’s counterpart (and later, wife) and she constantly proves her worth throughout the course of the show. On multiple occasions, she helps the other servants with any problems they may have: from Anna’s relationship with Mr Bates to temporary staff members falling pregnant. Mrs Hughes has seen it all and takes it (mostly) in stride, all the while managing the gigantic Abbey. She also has a great relationship with the family, and when things are at their darkest she stays and supports them, despite her sometimes resenting the ‘upstairs’ for her position in life. All things considered, Mrs Hughes is an incredible servant and the Abbey would likely fall apart without her watchful eye.
1 Mr Carson
Carson is the foundation that supports the Abbey. Initially portrayed as a grumpy old man, we see he does have a soft spot, and he does care about the servants, almost as if they were family. He looks out for everyone and when he sees something that he does not think is right – such as Alfred using Daisy – he has a conversation about it. But with the family too, he is supportive and doting, especially to Mary whom he often describes as his favorite of the family. Carson manages the house flawlessly, although he does realize when he needs to step aside for someone else to take his place – even after his retirement he is still asking after Downton, and keeping an eye on things. This is what makes Carson such a staple of the show, and why he deserves top spot on this list.
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