Cranford (TV series)

Cranford is a British television series directed by Simon Curtis and Steve Hudson. The teleplay by Heidi Thomas was adapted from three novellas by Elizabeth Gaskell published between 1849 and 1858: Cranford, My Lady Ludlow, and Mr Harrison's Confessions. "The Last Generation in England" was also used as a source.
The series was transmitted in five parts in the UK by BBC One in November and December 2007. In the United States, it was broadcast in three episodes by PBS as part of its Masterpiece Theatre series in May 2008.
Cranford returned with a two-part Christmas special Return to Cranford in 2009.


Set in the early 1840s in the fictional village of Cranford in the county of Cheshire in North West England, the story focuses primarily on the town's single and widowed middle class female inhabitants who are comfortable with their traditional way of life and place great store in propriety and maintaining an appearance of gentility. Among them are the spinster Jenkyns sisters, Matty and Deborah; their houseguest from Manchester, Mary Smith; Octavia Pole, the town's leading gossip; the Tomkinson sisters, Augusta and Caroline; Mrs Forrester, who treats her beloved cow Bessie as she would a daughter; Mrs Rose, the housekeeper for Dr Harrison; Jessie Brown, who rejects Major Gordon's marriage proposal twice despite her feelings for him; Laurentia Galindo, a milliner who strongly believes men and women are on equal footing; the Honourable Mrs Jamieson, a snob who dresses her dog in ensembles to match her own; Sophy Hutton, the vicar's eldest daughter and surrogate mother to her three younger siblings, who is courted by Dr Harrison; and the aristocratic Lady Ludlow, who lives in splendour at Hanbury Court and perceives change as a peril to the natural order of things.
The principal male characters are new arrival Dr Frank Harrison, who is smitten with Sophy but unwittingly becomes the romantic target of both Mrs Rose and Caroline Tomkinson, who frequently feigns illness to hold his attention; Dr Morgan, an old-fashioned practitioner who finds himself challenged by the modern ideas of his young partner; Captain Brown, a military man whose common sense earns him a place of authority among the women; Edmund Carter,
Lady Ludlow's land agent, a reformer who strongly advocates free education for the working class; Harry Gregson, the ambitious ten-year-old son of an impoverished poacher, who as Mr. Carter's protégé learns to read and write; farmer Thomas Holbrook, Matty Jenkyns' one-time suitor, who was considered unsuitable by her family but is anxious to renew his relationship with her; Reverend Hutton, a widower with four children whose religious conviction is sometimes at odds with his instincts as a father; and Sir Charles Maulver, the local magistrate and director of the railway company.


Listed in alphabetical order:
Francesca AnnisLady Ludlow, the mistress of Hanbury Court
Eileen AtkinsDeborah Jenkyns, the moral guardian of the town
Claudie BlakleyMartha, a maid to the Jenkyns sisters
John BoweDr Morgan, the appreciated surgeon of the town
Andrew BuchanJem Hearne, a carpenter and Martha's fiancé
Jim CarterCaptain Brown, retired officer on half-pay
Judi DenchMatilda "Matty" Jenkyns, Deborah's sister
Lisa DillonMary Smith, a guest of the Jenkyns sisters
Alex EtelHarry Gregson, a boy of poor parentage
Emma FieldingLaurentia Galindo, a milliner
Deborah FindlayAugusta Tomkinson, a spinster
Barbara FlynnThe Honourable Mrs Jamieson, a widow with aristocratic pretensions
Michael GambonThomas Holbrook, a farmer and Miss Matty's admirer
Philip GlenisterEdmund Carter, Lady Ludlow's land agent
Selina GriffithsCaroline Tomkinson, Augusta's sister
Hannah HobleyBertha, the maid of Miss Pole
Alex JenningsReverend Hutton, the vicar of the town
Dean Lennox KellyJob Gregson, Harry's father
Lesley ManvilleMrs Rose, Dr Harrison's housekeeper
Joe McFaddenDr Jack Marshland, Dr Harrison's friend
Julia McKenzieMrs Forrester, a widow
Kimberley NixonSophy Hutton, Rector Hutton's daughter
Alistair PetrieMajor Gordon, Captain Brown's friend
Julia SawalhaJessie Brown, Captain Brown's daughter
Martin ShawPeter Jenkyns, The Jenkyns sisters' long-lost brother
Imelda StauntonOctavia Pole, a town gossip
Finty WilliamsClara Smith, Mary's stepmother
Greg WiseSir Charles Maulver, a magistrate
Simon WoodsDr Frank Harrison, a new doctor

Episode guide

Series One
Episode One: June 1842
New to Cranford are Captain Brown and his two daughters, who move in across from the Jenkyns sisters, Deborah and Matty. The sisters have recently welcomed Mary Smith, the daughter of a friend, to live with them. The elder Brown daughter is ill and dies shortly after their arrival. With her father away, the surviving sibling Jessie Brown, breaks with tradition and walks behind the coffin accompanied by her neighbour, Deborah Jenkyns.
The handsome and eligible young doctor Frank Harrison arrives to assist Dr Morgan with his practice. His first patient is carpenter Jem Hearne, who has fallen from a tree and suffered a compound fracture. Instead of following the usual custom of amputating the injured limb, Dr Harrison delays immediate action in order to perform a relatively new and risky surgery to save the arm. His successful effort wins the admiration of the townspeople.
Edmund Carter, estate manager for Lady Ludlow, takes an interest in young Harry Gregson, the bright son of a poor local family, and offers him both work and an education.
When a valuable piece of historic lace belonging to Mrs. Forrester is swallowed by a cat, she and Octavia Pole discover a novel new use for a Wellington boot.
Episode Two: August 1842
Major Gordon proposes to Jessie Brown, for the second time, before his regiment is to be sent to India, but she refuses him because she believes she cannot leave her father alone. However, when it is revealed at Lady Ludlow's annual garden party that the railway will be passing close to Cranford, and that Captain Brown will be away on railway business for long periods of time, his daughter, Jessie, regrets her decision.
Greatly dismayed at the news of the railway's arrival is Deborah Jenkyns, who accuses Captain Brown of deceiving them. Upon returning from Lady Ludlow's annual garden party, she complains of a terrible headache and, moments later, collapses in her bedroom and dies later that night.
Dr. Harrison's romance with Sophy Hutton blossoms, only to be hindered when he cannot save her brother from the croup. The vicar's daughter suffers a crisis of faith.
Episode Three: November 1842
Dr Harrison's friend Dr Marshland comes to visit for Christmas and returns just prior to Valentine's Day, when he causes mischief by sending a card suggesting marriage to Caroline Tomkinson, who believes it came from Dr Harrison, whose romance with Sophy Hutton reignites. Dr Marshland also seems to take a liking to Mary Smith.
Guilty of poaching on Lady Ludlow's estate but mistakenly accused of assault and robbery instead, Harry Gregson's father Job finds himself in gaol until Lady Ludlow is persuaded by both Mr. Carter's pleas and seeing for herself the abject poverty in which the Gregson family lives, uses her influence to have the charges dropped.
Thomas Holbrook is reunited with Matty Jenkyns. In their younger years, their marriage plans were disrupted by her family's disapproval and a scandal involving her brother Peter. When Mr. Holbrook contracts pneumonia on a journey back from Paris and dies, Miss Matty indicates she now considers herself a widow.
Episode Four: April 1843
Miss Matty learns the bank in which she has invested has failed, but she is determined to keep the news about her financial distress from her friends.
The railway construction approaches nearer to Lady Ludlow's land but, instead of selling acreage to the railway, she mortgages her property to support her ne'er-do-well son Septimus, who is living in Italy.
Dr Harrison asks Reverend Hutton for permission to court Sophy. However, both Caroline Tomkinson and Mrs Rose mistakenly believe the doctor is interested in them. During the May Day celebration, Caroline's sister reveals to Reverend Hutton that Caroline is marrying the young man, an announcement that shocks Mrs Rose, who thought she was his intended bride. Confronting Dr Harrison, the vicar brings Dr Harrison's courtship of his daughter to an abrupt halt.
Episode Five: May 1843
The ladies of Cranford learn about Miss Matty's financial distress and secretly contribute to her welfare, with the sudden influx of cash explained as being due to the discovery of an error in the bank's bookkeeping. Miss Matty opens a shop selling tea in her parlour. Her maid, Martha, marries Jem Hearne, and the newlyweds lodge with Miss Matty.
Mr. Carter discovers that Lady Ludlow mortgaged the Hanbury estate to meet her son's financial demands, even though she may not have the resources to keep up the repayments.
Despite Dr Harrison's protestations of innocence, Dr Morgan advises him to leave Cranford, since patients will no longer see him. Mary Smith helps by confronting Dr Marshland about his mischief with the valentines, and they begin to sort out the misunderstandings that have led to Dr Harrison's predicament. The doctor and Sophy are reconciled when he saves her from a potentially fatal attack of typhoid.
An accident at the site of the railway injures both Captain Brown and Mr. Carter, the latter fatally. In his will he leaves his estate of £20,000 to Harry Gregson, £1,000 is to be used for his formal education at Shrewsbury School, and the remainder to be used to redeem the mortgage on Lady Ludlow's estate, but eventually to revert to Harry with interest. Major Gordon returns from India to propose yet again to Jessie Brown, who accepts at last, and brings with him Matty's long-missing brother Peter. The series concludes with the wedding of Sophy and Dr Harrison.


The series, set to begin filming in 2005, originally was scheduled for six episodes, but budget cutbacks resulted in it being trimmed to five, with filming postponed until early 2007.
Although Cranford is supposedly in Cheshire, none of the exteriors was filmed there. Locations used included Surrey, Hambleden, Windsor, Radnage, Leighton Buzzard, Berkhamsted, Wycombe, Syon House in Brentford, London, and Isleworth in Middlesex, and Oxford. Interiors were filmed in Pinewood Studios. A large portion of filming was done at Lacock in Wiltshire.
Steve Hudson, the original director, was replaced after six weeks because, according to Eileen Atkins, "He didn't really understand why it was funny."

Broadcast and reception

Nancy Banks-Smith of The Guardian said the series "will see you through beautifully until Christmas. Elizabeth Gaskell's perfect little classic, beautifully and minutely observed, has been beefed up with two more stories... However, as the extra stories are also by Mrs Gaskell, they transplant pretty naturally... It has a simply stunning performance from Eileen Atkins... The power of her performance is all the more remarkable considering the company she keeps."
Andrew Billen of The Times stated, "The cast was so strong it was almost distracting. But, as in any great ensemble, when the individuals came together nothing jarred... This adaptation added up to even more than the sum of its considerable parts."
James Walton of The Daily Telegraph observed, "Heidi Thomas’s script subtly brought out a more hidden element of Cranford life: that these people are simultaneously proud and ashamed of their provincial status. She also manages the Mrs Gaskell trick of making the town itself the main character... he result sharply recalls another TV portrait of life in a town near Manchester. Admittedly, Cranford features more Annie Walkers and fewer Elsie Tanners than early Coronation Street. Otherwise, the power of the matriarchs, the centrality of gossip and – when the chips are down – the touching sense of community, are all winningly similar. So too is the ability to subject the characters to clear-eyed scrutiny, while still retaining an obvious affection for them."
In the UK, the first episode was watched by 8.43 million viewers and ranked #6 for the week, outperforming ITV1's usually dominant I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here!. By the final episode viewership had dropped to 7.26 million, although the programme remained in the top ten.


The complete series was released in a two-disc set by BBC Video on 11 February 2008. It includes a bonus feature, The Making of Cranford, with interviews with members of both the cast and production team.


A two-part sequel, Return to Cranford was broadcast by the BBC as a Christmas special in December 2009. Judi Dench, Imelda Staunton, Julia McKenzie, Deborah Findlay, and Barbara Flynn reprised their roles, with Jonathan Pryce, Celia Imrie, Lesley Sharp, Nicholas Le Prevost, Jodie Whittaker, Tom Hiddleston, Michelle Dockery, Matthew McNulty and Rory Kinnear joining the cast. The programme aired on 10 and 17 January 2010 on PBS in the United States.
The new stories, which were written by Heidi Thomas and directed by Simon Curtis, took place in August 1844, a year after the wedding of Sophy Hutton and Dr Harrison. Filming of the railway sequences took place at the Foxfield Railway in Staffordshire.

Online texts