Members of the Downton Abbey production crew, who worked in Alnwick this summer, were one of the sponsors of the Alnwick Christmas lights, which were switched on tonight.
Parts of the final series of the popular ITV period drama were filmed the Northumberland town in July and the team repaid the hospitality with a donation to the festive display.
Heavy rain cleared away just in time for the switch-on, which was performed in Alnwick Market Place by Leo Logan, a pupil at the town’s St Michael’s First School, ably assisted by the Duchess of Northumberland, a long-time supporter of Alnwick’s lights.
The Duchess said: “I’d like to say a huge thank-you to Alnwick Lights Committee again for all their hard work and everything they’ve done to make us proud – although I haven’t seen it [the display], I know it is going to be as wonderful as ever.
“And thank you to the sponsors for making this possible.”
Carols were sung by the Bailiffgate Singers and onlookers, including the cast of the Northumberland Theatre Company’s production of the Ugly Duckling, accompanied by the Playhouse Concert Band.
Santa arrived on the scene with the help of Alnwick Lions and gave out treats to children.
Alnwick Magpies under 10s junior football also organised a Christmas Extravaganza fair in the Northumberland Hall.
Chairman of the Alnwick Christmas Lights Gordon Castle told the large, if cold, crowd: “The Duchess has worked hard to obtain sponsorship to maintain our financial viability and succeeded beyond our best hopes with generous sums from Hardy Fishing, NFU Mutual and the Downton Abbey production team, whom we thank most sincerely.
“This has enabled us to change some displays and replace many lights on trees. Other sponsors have included small charitable groups, businesses and local people through donations and tickets for our raffle, the draw for which is to be held at a coffee morning at the Northumberland Hall on Saturday, December 13.
“The team of 18 are all unpaid volunteers and have been working on our Christmas Lights since May.
“We wholeheartedly thank our financial supporters – Alnwick Town Council, Round Table, Lions, Rotary, Inner Wheel, Blackshaws Garage, the Plough Hotel, Tom McKie of Copperfields and Maureen of Melvyn’s Cafe – and we’ve had regular generous support from Warren Access, who for many years has supplied our hoists at minimal cost.
“Our annual cost budget exceeds £12,000, which has to be raised from scratch each year. All of our main displays are custom-made by the team. This shows Alnwick at its best and is magnificently supported by the public.”
Full round-up in Thursday’s Gazette. Video by Jane Coltman