Anyone who reads my soap previews of an afternoon will know I've spent much of the past week lamenting the sad state of affairs that is Sharon Watt's love life since Dennis Rickman aka Nigel Harman departed. So, as you can imagine, I was quite literally delighted to discover that he's only gone and signed on for Downton Abbey. Excuse me while I scream in to a cushion with fangirlish delight.

*Aherm* Nigel is just one of SIX, yes, count 'em, SIX new cast members who'll be joining Lady Mary and co for a season at the Abbey. He'll be playing a visiting valet by the name of Green. Meaning he'll be decked out in a penguin suit. Hallelujah. They've drafted in a rather handsome Welsh fella by the name of Tom Cullen to play Lord Gillingham, who we're going to guess is Lady Mary's latest suitor, while the astoundingly talented Dame Harriet Walters (She's Christopher Lee's niece y'know) will play Maggie Smith's friend, Lady Shackleton.

Kiwi songstress Dame Kiri Te Kanawa will make an appearance as a house guest while Joanna David and Julian Ovendon also make their Downton debut. Oh, and did we mention Shirley MacLaine is coming back for a Christmas Special? Joy.

So where does that leave us on the Downton front? Well, we're saying goodbye to Matthew Crawley, Sybil Branson and Ms O'Brien. Yep Siobhan Finneran, who plays the lady's maid we love to hate, has decided she's had enough, but the ITV execs say they aren't going to kill her off so as to leave room for her to return. And they couldn't have done that with Sybil or Matthew no?

The cast have already been spotted out filming, so we can probably expect to find ourselves back in the Abbey come autumn!