Cranford was 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 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 on 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 played by Philip, 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 Jenkyn’s 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.
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 located 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 (a location used for many films, including Pride and Prejudice and Emma for the BBC in 1995 and 1996, respectively, and also for the Harry Potter films in 2000 and 2001 ). Steve Hudson, the original director, was replaced after six weeks because, according to Eileen Atkins, “He didn’t really understand why it was funny.”
The complete series was released in a two-disc set by BBC Video on February 11, 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 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 program aired on January 10 & 17, 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.
Series Produced by: Sue Birtwistle …. producer (7 episodes, 2007-2009) Rebecca Eaton …. executive producer: WGBH (7 episodes, 2007-2009) Kate Harwood …. executive producer (7 episodes, 2007-2009) Rupert Ryle-Hodges …. co-producer (7 episodes, 2007-2009) Series Directed by: Simon Curtis (7 episodes, 2007-2009) Steve Hudson (5 episodes, 2007) Series Writing credits: Elizabeth Gaskell (author) Sue Birtwistle (7 episodes, 2007-2009) Susie Conklin (7 episodes, 2007-2009) Heidi Thomas (7 episodes, 2007-2009) BBC Television/WGBH(Boston)