Lark Rise To Candleford
Victoria Hamilton plays Ruby Pratt and Matilda Ziegler plays Pearl Pratt
The Pratt sisters run the women's clothing store in Candleford. Neither is married and they spend most of their time running a critical eye over other people's affairs.
Pearl is the elder sister and takes the lead in ensuring that the highest standards are maintained in their shop and in the town as a whole – while her younger sister Ruby is always quick to back her up.
The sisters immediately turn their noses up at Laura when she arrives from Lark Rise as she lacks refinement in their eyes – unlike the graceful Lady Adelaide, whose patronage they value above all others. Both Ruby and Pearl are frequent visitors to the post office where they smile politely while keeping their eyes and ears wide open for gossip.
"Our characters are spinster sisters," says Victoria. "Their mother died when they were very young and their father ran away so they were very much left to fend for themselves. They changed town because they were very worried about the scandal and the rumours about the fact that their father had deserted them and reinvented themselves.
"They run the high fashion shop in Candleford, which is constantly getting all the new French fashions in, and are regarded as terribly fashionable when actually they get it slightly wrong most of the time and end up looking on the freakish side of high fashion."
Matilda adds: "They are 'aspirational', their father ran a general store, selling more practical goods, whereas we have reinvented ourselves, changed our name, tried to bury the past and have a much more salubrious clientele."
Victoria: "We are pretending to be a higher class than we actually are but there's a storyline where our father comes back and causes a huge scandal which embarrasses us."
Matilda: "Because of our snobbish tendencies, we only mix with the highest kind in Candleford. We don't like it when smelly Lark Risers come in, it's just not good. They are very snobby. It's literally hankie under the nose when anyone from Lark Rise appears.
"Our characters are very concerned with what people think. They need the approval of Lady Adelaide and Sir Tim and are constantly trying to get Lady Adelaide to buy from their shop and look down their nose at everyone else but it's all based in fear."
Victoria again: "They're quite controversial and provocative characters in the piece. They're quite agitprop and keep moving things on by spilling the beans; there's always some kind of drama around them, they like to indulge in gossip."
Matilda: "And we're also quite comedic, and become increasingly so over the series. We're not sure when or where that happened! They are quite, verging on the panto dame."
Victoria: "Pearl is the survivor, she's the one who has a much harder core because she was the one who had to look after my character when we were deserted. Ruby is a step behind Pearl, mentally, most of the time."
Matilda, talking on behalf of each other's characters: "But Ruby is very perceptive, sensitive and aware of things that Pearl, in her frantic scheming, doesn't necessarily have."
And Victoria says: "One of the nice things about the writing is the characters aren't one dimensional and the storylines have been written so well by Bill Gallagher, particularly the story with our Dad coming back ... you suddenly realise why they are the way they are.
"They go from being the town gossips to people that you think have had an incredibly hard life and clawed to get to the place where they are. As the episodes unfold you begin to get each character's storyline and you learn an awful lot about their past and why they are the way they are."
And Matilda concludes: "They've done really well for themselves professionally and in a time where women were not at all emancipated. For them to have made such incredible progress shows that they are hard workers. There are a lot of strong women in the series and I think it's one of the strengths of the whole drama."