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To The Manor Born (BBC Sitcom, Penelope Keith, Peter Bowles)

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To The Manor Born BBC Sitcom, Penelope Keith

Having finally achieved stardom in The Good Life as The Goods snooty neighbour Margo Ledbetter Penelope Keith followed up with To The Manor Born where she played Audrey fforbes-Hamilton an upperclass lady of the manor forced to sell off her beloved stately home Grantleigh Manor after the death of her husband.

She sells the estate to Supermarket magnate Richard DeVere (played wonderfully by Peter Bowles) and moves into a tiny cottage on the edge of the manor (the manor’s former gatehouse infact).

The first season, originally broadcast to very high ratings by the BBC in 1979 (thanks in no small part to an ITV technicians strike that blacked out the network for weeks), sets up the love-hate relationship between Audrey and DeVere very nicely and also introduces all the shows characters like Audrey’s best friend Marjory, her ageing and forgetful retainer Brabenger and the scrounging rector.

Rather fittingly the series also finished on a high with Audrey and Richard getting married and Audrey getting her beloved manor back into the bargain.

Somewhat surprisingly there was a one off revival of the series broadcast on Christmas Day 25 December 2007. This saw Audrey and Richard about to celebrate their silver wedding anniversary only to split up when Audrey learns that one of Richard’s businesses has been putting lots of local companies out of business. Richard of course then sets out trying to win his wife back. It was probably hoped that the special would lead to a series but realistically it was the kind of cosy sitcom that had sadly gone out of fashion with TV makers.

The series was filmed at Cricket St Thomas in Somerset (where the Manor house featured was actually owned by Peter Spence’s father-in-law).

Cast: Penelope Keith as Audrey Fforbes-Hamilton; Peter Bowles as Richard DeVere; Angela Thorne as Margery Frobisher; Daphne Heard as Mrs Polouvicka; John Rudling as Brabinger; Gerald Sim as Rector; Michael Bilton as Ned

Creator: Peter Spence / Script Associate: Christopher Bond / Music: Ronnie Hazlehurst / Producer: Gareth Gwenlan

UK / BBC One / 21×30 minute episodes / Broadcast 30 September 1979 – 29 November 81 3 seasons + 1 special