Producers at Carnival Films announced there will be no seventh season for writer/creator Julian Fellowes' international hit, which features Dame Maggie Smith, Elizabeth McGovern and Michelle Dockery.

A statement to cast and crew, which has leaked to the media, reads: "Whilst we are all sad to see Julian Fellowes and Gareth Neame's unique drama approaching its natural conclusion, the difficult decision has been taken to wrap up production while the show is still at its peak - in popularity, as well as in the quality of the storylines and the series overall."

Producer Neames has since released an official statement, in which he writes, "Inevitably there comes a time when all shows should end and Downton is no exception. 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.

"We can promise a final season full of all the usual drama and intrigue, but with the added excitement of discovering how and where they all end up."

Filming for the sixth and final series has begun in Wiltshire, England.

This year's Christmas (15) episode is expected to be the show's finale.