Dame Judi Dench reprises her role as Cranford’s much cherished Miss Matty Jenkyns on BBC One this Christmas, and heads a cast that boasts some of Britain’s top film, TV and stage talent including Cranford newcomers: Jonathan Pryce, Celia Imrie, Lesley Sharp, Nicholas Le Prevost, Jodie Whittaker, Tom Hiddleston, Michelle Dockery, Matthew McNulty and Rory Kinnear.

Made by BBC Drama Production and WGBH in association with Chestermead, Cranford is created by Sue Birtwistle and Susie Conklin, directed by Simon Curtis and written by Heidi Thomas, based on Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel Cranford woven together with two of her other works.

The Amazons of Cranford are reunited in this two-part special feature with Imelda Staunton back as Miss Pole, Julia McKenzie returning as Mrs Forrester, and Deborah Findlay reprising Miss Tomkinson. Barbara Flynn returns as Mrs Jamieson, whose aristocratic sister-in-law, Lady Glenmire (Celia Imrie), arrives and makes quite an impression on the friends.

It’s August 1844 and one year since the small Cheshire market town celebrated the marriage of Sophy Hutton to Dr Harrison and Miss Matty lost her beloved sister, Deborah (Eileen Atkins).

Miss Matty knows only too well that faces will always come and go in Cranford, but for now she is happy that her dear brother, Peter (Nicholas Le Prevost) is home from India and that Martha (Claudie Blakley), Jem and baby Tilly make for a lively household; Lady Ludlow (Francesca Annis) is eagerly awaiting the return of her long-absent son, Septimus (Rory Kinnear), and young Harry Gregson (Alex Etel) is about to start his education at Shrewsbury, benefiting from the late Mr Carter’s bequest and the loyal, moral support of Miss Galindo (Emma Fielding).

Then there’s news that wealthy widower, Mr Buxton (Jonathan Pryce), has returned to live quietly in Cranford bringing with him his charming ward, Erminia (Michelle Dockery) and his handsome Eton-educated son, William (Tom Hiddleston).

Whilst at nearby Thorn Cottage, Peggy Bell (Jodie Whittaker) tries to make the best of things caring for her demanding mother (Lesley Sharp) and opportunistic brother Edward (Matthew McNulty).

Elsewhere, the world continues to change, but for now the railway has stopped five miles outside Cranford in spite of the best efforts Captain Brown (Jim Carter) to bring the modern age right into the heart of King Street. But nothing can stay the same forever and all too soon life in Cranford will change in some very unexpected ways.

Cranford starts filming this June in and around Wiltshire and London.

Kate Harwood, BBC Controller of Series and Serials, and Cranford executive producer, says: “BBC One viewers are in for a treat with the return of Cranford this Christmas. Old favourites return as well as exciting new characters in a richly moving story that will once again delight, enthral and entertain our audience.”

  • BBC One
  • BBC Two
  • BBC Three
  • ITV1
  • ITV2
  • 4
  • E4
  • Film4
  • More4
  • Five
  • Fiver
  • Sky1