I spent the past few months watching all 4 series of ‘Lark Rise to Candleford’. As with so many British series I was late to the party on this one – it finished airing in early 2011 – which gave me the chance to watch all series straight through without having to wait for the next one. Not that there would have been massive cliffhangers, though. ‘Lark Rise…’ isn’t that kind of show, it doesn’t focus on big drama or action, it’s all about the little things, the random acts of kindness, the often petty quarrels and the friendships that keep a community, or rather two communities, going.
The two communities in this case are Lark Rise and Candleford, Lark Rise being a tiny hamlet about 8 miles from the neighbouring prosperous market town of Candleford in rural Oxfordshire at the end of the 19th century. Laura Timmins is a Lark Rise girl just on the brink of adulthood, who swaps her family’s cottage for the hustle and bustle of the Candleford post office, where she starts working alongside her mother’s cousin: formidable, headstrong and independent postmistress Dorcas Lane. Situated right at the centre of town, the Candleford post office – and Dorcas Lane in particular – provides the customers with advice on matters of both business and the heart. Through Laura’s eyes we get to experience what it means to be a woman in late 19th century England and Dorcas Lane teaches us that we can achieve anything if we only set our minds to it. The series shows the daily lives of the townsfolk as well as the villagers and the various grievances that come with it. Through all of those grievances, however, there is the post office and there is Miss Lane, who, though not short of problems of her own, is always there to give her opinion on the matter at hand – if sometimes not entirely welcomed by those around her.
Over the course of the 4 series we get to see Laura grow up from a teenager into a young woman, we get to follow postman Thomas Brown’s courtship of the timid but kind and funny daughter of the town’s vicar, we see hamlet families struggling through periods of extreme poverty without ever losing their appetite for life and we get to know a good deal about 19th century society and its ways.
While I like almost every one of the characters in the series, I particularly love Thomas Brown and Margaret, his wife. Whatever life throws at them, they take it in their stride and they must be one of the funniest TV couples I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. The following scene is one of my favourites:
Another favourite of mine is Pearl Pratt (solo and in combination with her sister Ruby), the proprietor of Candleford’s ’boutique’. Her character is probably changing the most over the course of the series, from an annoying, gossip-loving nag to a loving and kind person who is very protective of her and her sister’s livelihood. This scene is probably my favourite of the entire series and perfectly captures the essence of the plot and what makes it so special and lovely to watch:
So, have any of you ever watched this series? What did you think? If you haven’t, please do give it a try! I think almost all episodes can be found on YouTube and it’s out on DVD as well, of course. Since the series is based on a trilogy of semi-autobiographical novels by Flora Thompson, I’ll be reading those at some point as well (you can click on the image below to buy an all-in-one copy of the trilogy at The Book Depository):