The Downton Abbey effect:new TV drama Doctor Thorne is set to put Wiltshire's Castle Combe on the map

The Wiltshire village of Castle Combe is getting the Downton Abbey treatment as it hosts Julian Fellowes's latest Sunday night TV drama.

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He turned Highclere Castle into one of the most recognisable — not to mention bankable — houses in Britain. And now Julian Fellowes is giving Castle Combe, a small village in Wiltshire, the Downton Abbey treatment with his current Sunday night screen epic Doctor Thorne, starring Tom Hollander, Rebecca Front and Ian McShane.

And there will be more reasons to tune in than to check out whether Prince Harry’s ex Cressida Bonas, who also features, is not just a pretty face.

This is because the ongoing electrification of the Great Western Railway will bring Castle Combe and nearby villages like Lacock, which also features on Doctor Thorne, firmly into commutable distance of the capital. From next year services from Chippenham, Castle Combe’s nearest major town, to Paddington will be cut from an hour and a quarter to around an hour.

Castle Combe — with a total population of just under 400 souls — is the loveliest English village imaginable.

Set on the south side of the Cotswolds, it is a perfect jumble of ancient stone cottages draped in wisteria beside the River Bybrook; little wonder the producers of Doctor Thorne, based on a novel by Anthony Trollope, decided to make it a key location for Fellowes’s latest Sunday night drama.


And while travel costs are off-puttingly high — an annual season ticket costs £9,876 (yes, you read that right) — Luke Morgan, of Strutt & Parker’s country house department, says this needs to be balanced against outstanding schools and property which is a veritable steal compared with more fashionable parts of Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire.

“Savvy buyers should know that you can get some good-value houses here set in some incredibly pretty villages,” he says. “You have Chippenham train station taking you to London — perfect for the three-day-a-week commuters.

“Since RAF Lyneham relocated from the area, noise pollution is no longer a problem either. This is a neck of the woods that the market hasn’t cottoned on to — yet.”

Matthew Pegler, associate director, Savills, says Castle Combe is very much the trophy location of the area (Lacock, while lovely, is National Trust-owned and thus short on homes for sale).

“Castle Combe is just your quintessential Cotswolds village, with the river and the ducks, the pretty cottages, a couple of good pubs,” he says.

There are, in fact, two Castle Combes, upper and lower, and it is lower Castle Combe that has the looks and charm.

In lower Castle Combe a two-bedroom cottage would cost in the region of £400,000 while a four-bedroom house would cost between £800,000 and £1 million.

What the village lacks is a village shop or a school. Locals use the facilities in Yatton Keynell, two miles away, where By Brook Valley Academy Trust (primary) is rated “outstanding” by Ofsted.

Castle Combe also has a racing circuit, with regular car and motorcycle meetings, so this area is sheer nirvana for petrolheads.

Another village worth checking out is Biddestone, three and a half miles west of Chippenham. This is Pegler’s choice for those who want to be near a station but still live in a glorious country village. “It is a very proactive village with lots of groups and events,” he adds. “There are a couple of good pubs, a very active sports and social club. They have a good time there.”

From £325,000: this two-bedroom stone period cottage offers great views of the village.

Property choices are more diverse than in Castle Combe, and a little cheaper. You could buy a two-bedroom cottage for £350,000 to £400,000, a four-bedroom house for around £800,000, or go all out with a manor house and a couple of acres for £2.5 million to £3 million.

Biddestone also has the advantage of being a couple of miles from Corsham, a very decent small town with a good high street. Corsham Primary School is rated “outstanding” by Ofsted while The Corsham Regis Primary Academy and The Corsham School (seniors) are rated “good”.

Charlie Taylor, a partner at Knight Frank, adds Bowden Hill to the village shopping list. “It sits on an escarpment with great views across Salisbury Plain,” he says. “And Chippenham is so close that it is brilliant for commuting.”

Bowden Hill has a range of property, from modern houses to Georgian family homes to ancient cottages. Expect to pay £500,000 for a three- to four- bedroom house in the village, up to around £1 million for a five-bedroomed detached house with good gardens. Bowden Hill has a pub but lacks its own school.

The nearest primary, in Lacock, “requires improvement” according to Ofsted, which means children may need to be ferried to Melksham, five miles away, where there are several to choose from. Melksham Oak Community School (seniors) is rated “good” by the Government’s schools watchdog.

If you want a really busy village then Marshfield, just across the border into Gloucestershire, could fit the bill. “It has basically got everything you need — shops, a school, two pubs, a doctors’ surgery, plus it is just a lovely Cotswold stone village,” said Taylor. Add to this list a church, community centre, sports’ hall, tea room, a grocery store, newsagent, butcher and Post Office, plus a nine-mile drive to the glories of Bath.

Expect to pay around £300,000 for a two-bedroom cottage, or £700,000 to £800,000 for a four- to five-bedroom house on the very scenic high street.

And developer Princeton Homes has just launched Camden Gardens a boutique development of new homes priced from £445,000 for a three-bedroom house.

Over the past year Taylor has seen demand start to swell in this part of the Cotswolds, which he points out is already more commutable (and cheaper) than the more fashionable villages north of the M4.

Around a third of his buyers are Londoners. And while he agrees that train fares are “horrendous” he feels it is still a perfect choice for those who can work from home at least some of the day.

The reason, Taylor believes, that these villages in the south Cotswolds are less in vogue than the north can be blamed upon Chippenham itself. “It is just a little bit tarnished,” he said, generously, of the run-down market town. “But the villages themselves are just as good as anything you will find north of the motorway.”

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