ITV has confirmed Downton Abbey will return for a sixth series in 2015, with filming slated to begin early next year.

The managing director of Downton’s production company Carnival Films, Gareth Neame, said: “We have had an amazing reaction to the storylines, acting and production values of Downton Abbey this year and the whole team is thrilled to be moving ahead with a new season of the show. This will provide audiences with a fresh opportunity to see what will befall our much loved characters.”

The fifth series, which comes to an end on Sunday, has been watched by an average of 10.4 million and will return in late December with a Christmas special.

ITV’s drama commissioning boss Steve November said: “We don’t know yet what Julian [Fellowes, creator] has planned, but we are looking forward to working with him, the fantastic cast and Carnival again and have no doubt series six will be unmissable.”