The death of popular Downton Abbey character Lady Sybil was kept a closely guarded secret until Sunday's dramatic episode.

However, despite viewers being previously unaware of what woes were to come in the episode, it proved a ratings winner, with 9.5million tuning in.

The period drama managed 100,000 more viewers than The X Factor results show, which screened just before on 1TV1.

Lady Sybil was seen dying of eclampsia soon after giving birth to a healthy baby girl, leaving her husband Tom Branson (Allen Leech) and family devastated.

Following the episode, fans took to Twitter in their droves to express their 'grief' over the departure of actress Jessica Brown Findlay from the series.

Celebrity fan of the show, former Blue Peter presenter Zoe Salmon tweeted: 'My head still hurts after crying over Lady Sybil's death. #downton.'

Another follower wrote: 'When Tom kept saying "Wake up, love" I just cried even more. #downton #sybil.'

Some fans were outraged at the tragic turn of events and one viewer posted: 'A moment of silence for the Downton Abbey fandom who have all died alongside Sybil tonight.'

Viewers who missed the show on Sunday night have been watching the show this week and even today fans had took to Twitter to express their anger at the controversial storyline.

One fan tweeted: 'Just caught up on Downton Abbey, absolutely heartbroken, Julian Fellows and Sir Phillip have just rocketed to the top of my hate list.'

In the episode before Sybil gives birth, the family were torn between conflicting advice from the family physician Doctor Clarkson and a specialist Sir Philip Tapsell (Tim Pigott-Smith).

Dr Clarkson noticed worrying symptoms when she was in labour and urged the family to bring Sybil to hospital, while Sir Philip disagreed.

However, by the time Sybil's husband Tom decides she should be brought to hospital, the baby is already coming and his wife gives birth to a baby girl safely.

But tragedy strikes when she goes to bed to recover from the labour.

Sybil wakes up experiencing the eclampsia fits predicted by Dr Clarkson and dies in front of her horrified family.

Sybil's father (Hugh Bonneville) is seen pleading with the physicians but Dr Clarkson explains that it is now too late. Despite desperate attempts to help her breathe by Tom and then by Mary she passes away.

Her grief-stricken mother Cora, Countess Of Grantham, and many other members of the family blame Robert, Earl of Grantham, for Sybil's death after he sided with Sir Philip's bad advice not to Sybil to hospital.

Downton's former chauffeur Tom, now part of the family, is left devastated and now a single father to their baby girl, who he names Sybil.