The four CDs in Series Four cover the years of the First World War (1914-1918). Some regard this Series as the best of Upstairs, Downstairs. As the title implies, it deals with the upstairs and downstairs residents of 165 Eaton Place in the wealthy and fashionable Belgravia section of London behind Buckingham Palace (Downton Abbey’s Aunt Rosamund lived in this same neighborhood).
Upstairs are members of the Bellamy family: Richard (whose wife Lady Marjorie Bellamy died on the Titanic), James Bellamy and his wife Hazel, and Georgina Worsley (step daughter of Lady Marjorie’s brother). The downstairs staff includes Angus Hudson (butler), Rose Buck (lady’s maid), Daisy Peel (parlor maid), Edward Barnes (footman ), Kate Bridges (cook), and Ruby Finch (scullery maid). In such a small household, the butler is very actively involved in domestic affairs, and the downstairs staff often interact with the family upstairs and have to assume various duties.
Although it covers the same period as Downton Abbey, Upstairs, Downstairs is much more concerned with external events, including the war. The Bellamys take in a family of Belgian refugees, household members are involved in war work--Hudson as special constable, Rose as a bus conductress, Ruby as a munitions factory worker (in the Silvertown munitions factory, where she is nearly killed in the famous explosion). There are romantic relationships between Edward and Daisy, Rose and Gregory Wilmot (an Australian soldier), Hazel and pilot Jack Dyson, and Richard and navy widow Virginia Hamilton. The war affects the household in many ways. Edward and other apprehensive soldiers board a train for France, while scores of seriously wounded men return to London on a hospital train. Georgina works at an army field hospital in France where some wounded soldiers must lie on the ground outside because there is a shortage of beds. James and Edward have devastating experiences in the army. James turns up wounded after being missing in action; Edward is shell shocked. During the dress rehearsal for a fund-raising tableau, the Bellamy house is hit by a bomb. As a Member of Parliament and Civil Lord of the Admiralty, Richard is involved in political and naval affairs, and advises Virginia when her son Michael is court martialed for cowardice. The household is affected by anti-German hysteria, rationing, and ersatz food (one recipe calls for fatted bacon, stale bread, oatmeal, and leftover vegetables—ingredients which normally would have gone into the trash).
In addition to 13 individual episodes (with optional English subtitles), there are several extra features: (1) The Making of Upstairs Downstairs, Series Four (50 minutes); (2) Russell Harty interview of Jean Marsh (Rose) (11 minutes); (3) Russell Harty interview of Angela Baddeley (Kate Bridges) (11 minutes). But there is no list of individual episodes]]
It should perhaps be noted that, Downton Abbey, which is largely a soap opera in an aristocratic setting, definitely excels Upstairs, Downstairs in sets, costumes, music, and cinematography, whereas Upstairs, Downstairs excels Downton Abbey in its attention to social and historical context.
It is interesting to note that, when writing Downton Abbey, Julian Fellowes did not plagiarize from Upstairs, Downstairs, but he probably drew ideas from it. Consider the similarities: In both the wealth comes from the woman's side of the family. Both Richard (U/D) and Robert (DA) are in precarious financial situations: When Marjorie dies (U/D), the family fortune goes to Richard's children. Without a male heir, Downton Abbey will go to another branch of the family. In both programs: (1) family members die (or appear to die) on the Titanic, (2) the young men are involved in World War I (in each, the principal young male character, after being missing in action, returns home gravely wounded; in each household, one of the domestic servants suffers from shell shock); (3) a young female member of the family becomes a wartime nurse; (4) a young woman dies from influenza; (5) there is a downstairs romance; (6) there is a homosexual footman; (6) a male aristocrat refuses to take responsibility for a child he has fathered by a maid; (7) an adventurous young daughter gets into trouble from her involvement in the suffrage movement; (8) the cook is courted by an unworthy suitor; (9) the question arises as to who will fill in for the ailing butler; and (10) the family suffers from making bad investments; (11) an unsatisfactory nanny has to be dismissed; (12) the downstairs staff engages in séances; (13) a footman eventually becomes a butler; and (14) in both U/D and the new DA movie, the king visits the family.