A historian has said that Downton Abbey's depiction of the relationships between masters and servants is "totally wrong" and "infuriating to watch".

The Press Association reports that Jennifer Newby, editor of Family History magazine and author of a new book called Women's Lives, said the staff at Downton Abbey were too friendly with their employers, and too clean.

She said: "I find it infuriating to watch, it sets my teeth on edge. The relationship they have with their employers is totally wrong."

As research for her book Women's Lives, Newby read hundreds of letters and diaries written by those who worked in service and their employers.

She said: "There was one butler who said that even if in a moment of weakness an employer could ask for advice they wouldn't give it because it could be held against them.

"The servants in the programme are far too clean. The reality would have been a lot more grubby - I don't think people realise that the servants stank.

"I read one story from a woman who worked in a vicarage and she was only allowed to wash when the vicar was out.

"They would have been seen rather like the way we look at our washing machine: just something to give us a clean shirt."

Newby said of the servants' lives: "They were offered not just a regular wage but a warm home as well but they often became institutionalised and could not cope without the routine."