Downton Abbey star’s help at school auction

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An auction to raise funds for performing arts equipment for young actors was boosted by the arrival of one who has made it and stars in Downton Abbey.

Rob James-Collier, who plays Thomas in the ITV period drama, took time out of filming the third series to visit Gretton Primary School’s auction of promises.

The event on Saturday at Gretton Village Hall, which was organised by the school’s Parent School Association (PSA), raised £4,900 after the star took to the stage to help with the auctioning.

Faye Brown, whose husband Daniel works supplying facilities to the television industry with Mr James-Collier and has a daughter Gabriella who attends the school, said: “My husband has been working with Rob on the third series and had worked with him on the first two and built up a bit of a friendship with Rob. Rob and Dan were talking about Dan trying to get some of the photographs to auction them and he said ‘I can come up and auction them for you’.

“We didn’t know until Wednesday he would be able to come because the filming schedules were changing so much because of the weather. He said to Dan afterwards he didn’t realise communities like this still existed.”

Mr James-Collier, who has also appeared in Coronation Street, took to the stage with auctioneer and opera singer Martin McEvoy to offer a lucky bidder a personal tour of Highclere Castle where some of the scenes are filmed.

Maria Thompson, mum to Jack, three, who also lives in the village attended the event. She said: “I was really bowled over by how much kindness he showed everybody. He posed for pictures with lots of giddy mums and was just fantastic.”

Headteacher Jane Dooley said the new equipment would be used by the children when they perform shows when the school has a new larger hall. Mrs Dooley said: “I think it was a fantastic effort by the whole of the PSA. Their dedication to the school is much appreciated by all of the children and staff.”