Downton Abbey could come to an end as early as next year, after its creator Julian Fellowes declared he only ever planned to write three series.
Speaking to the Radio Times, Fellowes said: "The original concept in my optimistic head was for the first series to start towards the end of the Edwardian era, the second to be set during World War I and the third in the 1920s.
"In the '20s there are big changes, new inventions, different expectations I can't wait to explore."
The hit ITV drama is currently part way through its second series, set in World War 1, and so far it’s proving just as popular as series one.
The series two opening episode beat BBC spy drama Spooks in the ratings battle, with twice as many people watching the upstairs-downstairs drama. And last week’s episode delighted a huge 8.73m people on ITV1.
Asked whether he felt a pressure to dumb down the programme in order to appeal to the post X Factor audience on Sunday night, Fellowes said: "We don't want to spoon feed our audience. There are still references that younger members of the audience may not understand, and I don't feel the need to explain them because I like the idea of inspiring people to go on the internet and look them up.
“I do not want to patronise our audience and I don't want to exclude anyone from enjoying Downton Abbey.”
It was recently reported that Downton Abbey will spearhead ITV's schedule on Christmas Day. An ITV spokesman told the Mirror: “We are delighted that Downton Abbey will be part of ITV’s Christmas line-up.”