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Like the American television series based on the autobiographical novels of Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867 – 1957), Lark Rise to Candleford is a family-friendly period drama drawn from the autobiographical trilogy of Flora Thompson (1876 – 1947). Thompson’s books and the series capture the poverty of the countryside and a town’s rising middle class during the 1880s, and the changes of the Victorian era.
Members of THIRTEEN can stream all four seasons of Lark Rise to Candleford with the benefit THIRTEEN Passport, which supports all our station’s programming and outreach, from education to community screenings. Without giving away spoilers, here’s a brief introduction to the British drama, which affords both sun-swept fields and a quaint market town setting.
Lark Rise to Candleford opens with gentle voiceovers from the character Laura (Olivia Hallinan), a young heroine from an ordinary, hardscrabble background, making her way into adulthood. Laura Timmons’ world spans eight miles in Oxfordshire. She was raised in the humble farming village of Lark Rise, where for once on television, clothing is torn or visibly mended, and every cost means foregoing some other necessity. At the age of 16, her parents send her to work in the town of Candleford, where fine fabrics and hats are the norm on the dirt-packed streets. Laura’s mentor there is the well respected and capable Dorcas Lane, the postmistress and cousin to Laura’s mother, Emma (Claudie Blakley; Grantchester, Pride and Prejudice).
Dorcas (Julia Sawalha; Absolutely Fabulous), a middle-aged single woman, is perhaps the more pivotal character, as she knows most of the townspeople and their quirks, and considers herself a guardian of secrets. One she doesn’t hide well is her enduring affection – if not love – for her childhood friend-turned town squire, Sir Timothy Midwinter (Ben Miles; The Crown, The Hollow Crown). As a member of the merchant class, sensible Dorcas seems to have decided long ago that walking down the wedding aisle to join Timothy at the altar would not bridge the class divide.
Timothy’s young wife is Lady Adelaide (Olivia Grant, Indian Summers), who is more accustomed to London balls than small town folk dances. She envies the chummy relationship her husband has with Dorcas, who forms a bit of a duo with Timothy, from serving as power brokers in town to sharing horseback rides in the countryside.
Two actors among the ensemble cast will be easily recognized by fans of the PBS British dramas Downton Abbey and Call the Midwife. Brendan Coyle, who plays the valet Bates in Downton Abbey, plays Robert Timmins, Laura’s even-keeled and forward-thinking father, who is looked up to in the village. Linda Basset, also known for her role of Phyllis Crane in Call the Midwife, is the merry herb expert and beekeeper, Victoria May “Queenie” Warrener Turrill.
Lark Rise to Candleford aired from 2008 to 2011 in Great Britain, and though that is roughly a short decade ago, the series maintains a wholesome, earnest tone that seems to harken back to the Little House on the Prairie days of television, which ran from 1974 to 1983. The series has humor, but does dwell on issues that can make or break an ordinary person’s or family’s life, and imparts little history lessons, such as how telegrams were conveyed or distances between towns were measured. Though there are fewer jewel-toned mansion interiors in this series, the golden fields of grain, long disappeared customs and efforts to portray the simple life – in all its untidiness – make this a period treasure.