Series 4 may have been the most controversial and criticised in the show’s back catalogue, but Downton Abbey’s strong viewing figures secured the period drama’s 5th season.

Julian FellowesJulian Fellowes will write another series of Downton.

The new series will air next year, with popular writer Julian Fellowes returning to once again pen his highly-watched drama. An average of 11.8 million tuned in to watch the current series, which reached its climax on Sunday (Nov 10).

"We promise all the usual highs and lows, romance, drama and comedy," said Gareth Neame, director of Downton Abbey creators Carnival Films. "All the actors and makers of the show continue to be humbled by the extraordinary audience response and want to take the show from strength to strength next year," he added.

Joanne Froggatt defends that rape scene.

Downton arrived on U.K screens in 2010, and has since become a TV behemoth. Such is its popularity, it has been sold on to 220 terratories, including the U.S, where it has repeated its domestic success. 12.3m tuned in to the finale of series three in America, making it the highest-rated show of the day, breaking the viewership record for PBS.

"With Julian writing and Gareth (Neame) and Liz (Trubridge) producing, we know it will be as warm, witty, romantic and dramatic as previous series and we can't wait to catch up with our favourite characters again," said ITV's director of drama commissioning, Steve November. (Guardian)

Joanne FroggattJoanne Froggatt was at the centre of the show's controversial rape scene.

The announcement of a fifth series comes after broadcasting watchdog Ofcom ruled that no action would be taken against the show over its rape storyline, which received 244 complaints. The regulator said it had decided not to pursue the complaints "after careful assessment... because they did not raise issues warranting investigation."

Fellowes has defended the storyline and its treatment: "Downton deals in subjecting a couple of characters per series to a very difficult situation and you get the emotions that come out of these traumas," he told the BBC.