Hugh Bonneville has received death threats from Downton Abbey fans - because they're bats.

The 49-year-old actor plays man of the manor Lord Grantham in the period drama and he says fans of the show find it difficult to separate his character from reality and are furious at him for ignoring the doctor's advice which led to the death of his on-screen daughter Sybil (Jessica Brown Findlay).

He joked: "People on Twitter were devastated. I've had hate mail and bomb threats, because I'm obviously the most evil person on the planet for favouring one piece of medical advice other another. In some people's eyes, it's my fault, because obviously I do live in 'Downton Abbey'! I don't want you to take this the wrong way, but it's lovely that people are devastated about Sybil's death. It shows they've invested in the world, and it's a real compliment that they care so much."

The actor hopes to continue starring in the award-winning programme until writer Julian Fellowes decides the drama has had its day and the actors get too 'doddery' and old.

He added to The Independent: "It's got a finite life, which is as long as Julian wants to keep writing it. It's so much his voice. We've all agreed to keep doing it as long as his hand's on the tiller. But it has to finish some time, or else we'll end up doing doddery old person acting - which some people would say I do already!"