The sixth season of Downton Abbey will be the show's last, its creators have announced. Created by Julian Fellowes, the ITV show followed the trials and tribulations of an aristocratic family from 1912 to the mid-1920s.

Downton AbbeyPaul Giamatti [center] guest-starred in an episode of Breaking Bad

Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern have played the Earl and Countess of Grantham since the show began in 2010 - making international stars of them both. 

"The Downton journey has been amazing for everyone aboard," said Lord Fellowes.

"People ask if we knew what was going to happen when we started to make the first series and the answer is that, of course we had no idea.

"Exactly why the series had such an impact and reached so many people around the world, all nationalities, all ages, all types, I cannot begin to explain."

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Fellowes' next project will be The Gilded Age, a period drama set in New York.

"Inevitably there comes a time when all shows should end and Downton is no exception," said the programme's executive producer Gareth Neame.

"We wanted to close the doors of Downton Abbey when it felt right and natural for the storylines to come together and when the show was still being enjoyed so much by its fans," said Neame.

Though no official date has been set for the show's season six finale, Peter Fincham, ITV's director of television, said it would come to an end later this year, followed by a "concluding special" on Christmas Day. 

Downton Abbey has pulled in an average audience of 11 million viewers for its five series so far and is shown in more than 250 territories worldwide. 

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