- Gwen: "Let’s face it. There will never be anyone less suited for the post or worse qualified than I am."
- Sybil: "That isn’t true. You’ll see. We’re not giving up. No one hits the bull’s eye with the first arrow."
- — Episode 1.04
Gwen Harding (née Dawson) was a former housemaid at Downton Abbey and a main character in the first series.
Gwen, who arrived at Downton in 1912 is a hard-working maid but nurtures a dream to become a secretary. To this end, she secretly buys a typewriter and takes a correspondence course in typing and shorthand. She is helped considerably by Lady Sybil Crawley, who believes in a woman making a life for herself. This friendship crosses the class boundaries, an act which at one time would have seemed impossible. Sybil frequently tells Gwen never to give up on her dream and tries relentlessly to get Gwen a job. She arranges for Gwen to go to town to answer an advertisement that appeared in the newspaper. She even writes her a reference. When nothing pans out, Gwen starts to get despondent, but Sybil tells her to persevere.
Her dream is finally realized when Mr Bromidge, a man whose business installs telephones, comes to Downton. He remarks in Sybil's hearing that he has been looking for a secretary and she tells him she knows an excellent candidate. When Mr. Brombridge returns to install the telephone, he tells Sybil that Gwen's résumé is lacking any work experience. Sybil admits that Gwen is a housemaid at Downton Abbey. He comments that being a housemaid is a mark in her favor, as his mother was a housemaid and he knows how hard they work. Sybil quickly arranges an interview for Gwen in the library.
When news of Gwen getting the job comes by telephone, Tom Branson must take the call as everyone is at the garden party outside. The message is relayed and Tom, Sybil, and Gwen all celebrate together. This occurs shortly before Lord Grantham announces that a telegram has informed him that England is at war with Germany.
In 1922, the servants at Downton Abbey received a letter from Gwen announcing she is married. Anna, who had also supported and defended Gwen in pursuing her dreams, organizes to send a card to Gwen, having all of the servants sign it in congratulations. Mrs. Hughes mentions little of the groom other than that his mother was ill, so the wedding had been kept simple.
Eleven years after she left Downton, Gwen shows up unexpectedly with her husband at Downton. She catches up with Anna, whom she had missed a lot. Thomas, who was now acting butler while the Carsons are on their honeymoon, feels snubbed, as Gwen walks past him without saying anything. When he complains to Anna, she questions whether he and Gwen were actually friends. At Downton, the Crawley family, aside from Tom, initially doesn't recognise Gwen, but Mary senses that she is sure they had met before. Tom takes her aside before lunch and says a kind hello to her and tells her he is happy to see her again. Thomas, jealous of Gwen's new status of sitting in the upstairs dining room, tells the family that Gwen used to work for them. Gwen 'thanks' Barrow for that. She tells everyone about how her life changed when she met Lady Sybil, which leaves the Crawley family all shocked and proud of her rise in class from being a servant to a secretary and marrying a prominent gentleman. Gwen's husband, who is aware that she used to be a housemaid, is amazed when he heard that Gwen used to work at Downton. She also speaks fondly of Lady Sybil and tells everyone about their time together in which Sybil helped Gwen get a secretarial job. Gwen also states that she and Lady Sybil kept in contact with Christmas cards until Gwen heard the news about Lady Sybil's death. Gwen says that she will never forget Lady Sybil's kindness, of which visibly affects Cora and Mary but especially Tom. She later has a little catch up reunion with her former coworkers.
Gwen seems to get on reasonably well with all the other servants and describes her roommate Anna as being 'like a sister'. She is the daughter of a farm hand. She is a kind and understanding woman. She is slightly sensitive, and occasionally breaks out into tears. She is rather reserved and calm, and tries not to be a part in disputes and arguments.
|Appearances and Mentions|
|Series 1||Episode 1|
|Series 4||Episode 1||Episode 2|
|Episode 3||Episode 4||Episode 5||Episode 6||Episode 7||Episode 8||Christmas Special|
|Series 6||Episode 1||Episode 2||Episode 3||Episode 4|
|Episode 5||Episode 6||Episode 7|
|Episode 8||Christmas Special|
|The film||The film|
- Her name may be "Gwendolyn" or "Guinevere", both of which can be shortened to "Gwen".