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29 October 2014
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Lark Rise To Candleford 
Lark Rise To Candleford: Emma (Claudie Blakley) and Robert Timmins (Brendan Doyle)

Lark Rise To Candleford

Claudie Blakley plays Emma Timmins and Brendan Coyle plays Robert Timmins

Robert is Laura's father and a stonemason by trade. He is married to Emma. They live with their family in the End House on the edge of Lark Rise.


Robert grew up in Oxford where his parents kept an inn. But Robert chose to be apprenticed to a stonemason. He arrived in Lark Rise with a firm of builders who were restoring the local churches and, by the time the restoration was finished, he was married to Emma with a baby on the way. So he settled down to life as an ordinary workman.


He is still passionate about his craft. Even when he's not working he carves at home in a little workshop and some of his carvings stand about as ornaments in the End House.


Robert is intelligent and has pronounced views which he's not afraid to share. His "expounding" often brings him into conflict with the other men in the village. Robert is generous to a fault and has a habit of taking in waifs and strays which can drive Emma to distraction.


Their marriage, though tempestuous, is strong, they are still very much in love. But Emma can be frustrated by Robert's wilfulness and what she sees as his lack of practicality. He in turn sometimes feels hemmed in by his responsibilities as father and husband. He misses having Laura around to share his thoughts with.


Robert's cleverness and his strong opinions tend to isolate him from the other Lark Rise men. This might explain why he's always hankering to leave this "left behind place" for somewhere bigger, perhaps another place might be more receptive to his ideas and opinions.


Emma's family have lived in Lark Rise or the surrounding villages for generations. Emma was the youngest child of a large family and her father's favourite. She still misses him.


As a young woman Emma was a nursemaid, and this was a very happy period of her life. This experience gave her a taste for a different kind of existence which has stayed with her so, like Robert, she sometimes seems not quite to fit in with the other villagers.


But she's well liked and respected and, though sometimes appearing solemn and self-contained, she's generous and caring. She would never let anyone go in need if she had the power to help them.


Emma also has a vivid imagination and a shrewd sense of humour. The children love listening to her stories – fairy stories, animal stories, stories of good and bad children – which she tells at bedtime. And even when Emma's at her most stern, Robert can tease her out of it.


"The series opens with Laura leaving Lark Rise because there are too many children, I've just had another baby and there isn't enough room for the size of the house," says Claudie.


"Our village of Lark Rise is the rural, peasant, and working-class community, while Candleford is more affluent, middle-class, property-owning. There's a tension between the two communities and the story lines interweave, between the two communities.


"It's post-industrial revolution, when people were moving from rural communities into towns and cities became necessary for work and survival," says Brendan. "There was a blurring at the edges in terms of social mobility. The community of Lark Rise represent the last vestiges of rural England.


"It's refreshing for a drama to be like this," adds Claudie. "They tend to be solely about the middle classes and the upper classes and this is about the rural, working classes of that period. It's exciting to be involved with something so unique.


"Is it the forgotten part of Britain and very personal as well. It's not a literary venture. It's written from Flora Thomson's experience and from memory so it's a kind of love letter to that period," says Brendan.


In terms of living the life in the 19th Century, Claudie comments: "Oh my goodness it was tough! It makes you so grateful. You can't really get your head around how they managed to survive on so little. It was a hard life, literally hand to mouth."


Brendan adds: "The Timmins family would be regarded as lucky because my character is a stonemason, so he was paid slightly more than the farm labourers.


"They were doing alright for themselves compared to a lot of people but they were desperate times. There was real poverty and hardship."


Filming took place in and around Bristol and Gloucestershire over the summer for four months.


"It's been great, such a brilliant job," says Claudie. "Being able to play the same character for a few months has been lovely, getting to know the character and the scripts are so strong as well."



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