Cranford Chronicles

Francesca Annis, Eileen Atkins, Michael Gambon, Philip Glenister, Lesley Manville, Julia McKenzie, Imelda Staunton and Greg Wise are set to star alongside Judi Dench in Cranford Chronicles, a new five-part period drama created by Sue Birtwistle and Susie Conklin for BBC One and written by Heidi Thomas (I Capture The Castle, Madam Bovary, Lilies).

Based on three Elizabeth Gaskell novels: Cranford, My Lady Ludlow and Mr Harrison’s Confessions, this witty and poignant story follows the small absurdities and major tragedies in the lives of the people of Cranford during one extraordinary year.

Cranford in the 1840s is a small Cheshire market town on the cusp of change. The railway is pushing its way relentlessly towards the town from Manchester, bringing fears of migrant workers and the breakdown of law and order.

The arrival of handsome new doctor, Frank Harrison (Simon Woods) from London causes a stir; not only because of his revolutionary medical methods, but also because of the effect he has on many of the ladies’ hearts in the town.

Judi Dench plays Miss Matty Jenkyns, whose hopes and rebellious spirit are crushed when she was forced as a young woman to give up Mr Holbrook (Michael Gambon), the man she loved.

The cast include (in alphabetical order):

Francesca Annis as Lady Ludlow;

Eileen Atkins as Miss Deborah – Miss Matty’s elder sister, who is the arbiter of correctness in Cranford;

Claudie Blakley as Martha;

John Bowe as Dr Morgan;

Andrew Buchan as Jem Hearne;

Jim Carter as Captain Brown;

Lisa Dillon as Mary Smith;

Alex Etel as young Harry Gregson;

Emma Fielding as Miss Galindo;

Deborah Findlay plays Miss Tomkinson;

Barbara Flynn plays Mrs Jamieson;

Philip Glenister as Mr Carter;

Selina Griffiths plays Caroline Tomkinson;

Alex Jennings as Rev Hutton;

Dean Lennox Kelly as Job Gregson;

Lesley Manville as Mrs Rose;

Joe McFadden as Dr Jack Mashland;

Julia McKenzie as Mrs Forrester;

Newcomer, Kimberley Nixon as Sophy Hutton;

Alistair Petrie plays Major Gordon;

Julia Sawalha as Jessie Brown;

Imelda Staunton as Miss Pole;

Finty Williams as Clara Smith;

Greg Wise as Lord Charles Maulver.

Kate Harwood, BBC Head of Drama Series & Serials, says: “We are privileged to have assembled a great cast to give life to these wonderful characters, now we can look forward to seeing these richly moving stories unfold.”

Produced by BBC Drama Production and WGBH in association with Chestermead Ltd, Cranford Chronicles begins filming this month in Wiltshire and London.

The music is composed by Carl Davis; the director is Steve Hudson; producer is Sue Birtwistle; and executive producer is Kate Harwood for BBC Drama Production.

BBC Drama Productions are world leaders in classic, period adaptation. Cranford Chronicles will follow critically–acclaimed classics such as Bleak House, To The Ends Of The Earth, Jane Eyre, The Way We Live Now,Our Mutual Friend, and Andrew Davies’ adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell’s Wives And Daughters and the forthcoming BBC One drama serial Sense And Sensibility.

Multi award-winning actress Judi Dench is to star in Cranford Chronicles, a new five-part drama serial created by Sue Birtwistle and Susie Conklin from three novels by Elizabeth Gaskell for BBC One.

Scripted by Heidi Thomas (I Capture The Castle, Madam Bovary, Lilies), this witty and poignant landmark drama captures the small absurdities and major tragedies in the lives of the people of Cranford, as they are besieged by forces they cannot hope to withstand.

In 1842, Cranford is a small rural Cheshire town on the cusp of great changes. Some people find romance and opportunities, while others fear the breakdown of social order.

Who will embrace the changes on offer by becoming modern?

Three Elizabeth Gaskell novels have been woven together to create this uniquely rich and comic drama about ordinary human lives during the course of one extraordinary year in this small town.

Jane Tranter, Controller, BBC Fiction, says: “To have Judi Dench, Sue Birtwistle and Heidi Thomas on one drama serial is an honour for BBC Drama.

“Cranford Chronicles is a beautifully big and ambitious period drama – just the way we like them!

“The logistics of mounting such a production have inevitably taken a while to pull together, but the best things are well worth waiting for, and we are all very excited at the prospect of such a piece, and of welcoming Judi Dench back to the BBC.”

Dame Judi will play Miss Matty Jenkyns, whose hopes and lively spirit were crushed when she was forced as a young woman to give up the man she loved and to live afterwards in the shadow of her elder sister, Deborah, the arbiter of correctness in Cranford.

Judi Dench says: “I am so excited to be doing Cranford Chronicles. A summer of fun to look forward to!”

Producer Sue Birtwistle was the force behind the highly-acclaimed television productions of Pride And Prejudice and Wives And Daughters.

She says: “Five years ago, I made a wish: to be allowed to conjure an entirely new drama out of three Elizabeth Gaskell novels, and to persuade Judi Dench to play Miss Matty. Dream come true. Is one allowed to be this lucky?”

Further casting is to be announced.

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