I watched Downton Abbey instead of the Super Bowl
February 13, 2012 8:20 AM   Subscribe

(Asking for a friend) What is the wooden measuring stick called that is used to adjust the table settings during the opening credits of Downton Abbey?

Do you know what exactly is being done during the opening credits of Downton Abbey around the 16-18 second mark of
this clip?

It seems likely that the place settings must conform to some standard. Do you know how to (or who would) decide the manner in which this is done?

My friend swears that Carson the butler actually used the wooden stick-thingy in a different way during one episode (probably Episode 7 of Season 2). Is this possible?
posted by El_Marto to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
A ruler?
posted by afx237vi at 8:22 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Some relevant measurements in here. Yes, it's a ruler. If you're interested, watch Altman's great Gosford Park, which has many scenes of the servants setting tables for formal dinners, including measuring the placement of the service.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:33 AM on February 13, 2012

There is also a Butler Stick, but it's basically just a 2 foot ruler.
posted by Brockles at 8:40 AM on February 13, 2012

If you look closely, Brockles' butler stick is actually a folding yardstick, which measures 18 inches out in both directions from a central point. I imagine that arrangement is more useful when setting a table.
posted by steef at 9:06 AM on February 13, 2012

Downton Abbey and Gosford Park were written by the same man, Julian Fellowes. So my guess is that he wrote the "butler measuring the place settings with a folding rule" scenes for both the TV show and the movie.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:47 AM on February 13, 2012

I also saw a documentary about Windsor Castle where they were setting up a State dinner and used a stick to measure too. I don't remember the name of the documentary but it was fairly recent, the same show followed Prince Phillip while he did some of his duties around the grounds.
posted by TooFewShoes at 11:09 AM on February 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I remember the same doc as TooFewShoes. The butler is measuring the table setting for distance from the edge of the table, distance between flatware, etc. The head of household would determine what that standard would be, this set of rules for Buckingham Palace lays out the specifics of the table settings for the Queen.

Within certain high-ranking circles there seems to be a level of attention to detail that boggles the minds of most regular folks. Working in protocol, you had to be aware of these kinds of details and act to ensure that they were taken care of before high-ranking-personage showed up. I never honestly understood why that level of detail was necessary, or whether high-ranking-personage would notice or care, but there you have it. Now you know why I no longer work in protocol.
posted by LN at 1:56 PM on February 13, 2012

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