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28 October 2014

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To The Manor Born

Audrey (Penelope Keith) and Richard (Peter Bowles)

Penelope Keith and Peter Bowles returned to our screens as the aristocratic Audrey fforbes-Hamilton and the dashing, self-made businessman Richard DeVere, for a one-off special of the classic British comedy To The Manor Born.

It is now a quarter of a century since we last heard from Grantleigh Manor. That  was the day that the indomitable Audrey fforbes-Hamilton, the dispossessed Lady of the Manor, finally got round to marrying Richard Devere, her usurper and supermarket tycoon of Czechoslovakian stock.

Richard DeVere and Audrey fforbes-Hamilton

It was a perfect love match, yet  their romance  was never less than a tempestuous on-off affair due to their one-and-only source of disagreement - which was pretty well everything.

As you may or may not remember, at the time of their marriage their positions had suddenly reversed when a timely inheritance restored Audrey to the Manor at the very moment when Richard’s business fortunes had hit rock bottom.

Ever since they have been man and wife there has been a total news blackout on the goings–on at Grantleigh Manor, whereas before the intimate details of their stormy courtship had been played out with such discretion and secrecy that only 25 million television viewers knew the first thing about it.

Penelope Keith as Audrey fforbes-Hamilton

The question then was always 'Will they or won't they?' Well,  as we now know, eventually they did. And so far as anyone knows, 'they lived happily ever after'. The question now is 'Did they or didn't they?' Has their marriage been happy?

Did Richard manage to keep his bride in the manner to which she was born? Who wears the trousers? Did Richard ever recover his fortunes and continue his high-rolling lifestyle or has he settled for the  more humdrum existence of a gentleman farmer?

Have the Deveres prospered or merely survived? Does Audrey continue to dominate the neighbourhood as of old and hold out against all things modern?  Marjory, The Rector, where are they now? What happened to Brabinger and old Mrs Polouvicka?  And is there anyone new in their lives?

Audrey fforbes-Hamilton and Richard DeVere

The original series told the tale of lady of the manor Audrey fforbes-Hamilton, who's forced to sell her beloved Grantleigh Estate when her husband's death leaves her financially strapped. Decamping to the tiny Old Lodge cottage, she sets up home with butler Brabinger in tow.

From this vantage point, she keeps a close and disapproving eye on the estate's new owner, the nouveau-riche Richard DeVere, a wholesale foods magnate of Czech descendent. 

A vehicle for Keith following her success in The Good Life, there was certainly a hint of Margo Leadbetter about Audrey. However, she was an altogether more complicated character.

At times, she could appear a bully, keeping mousy friend Marjory on a tight rein. She was self-confident to the point of arrogance, and insistent her family's way of doing things was maintained.

"We don't spend our Sundays driving to the nearest lay-by for a barbecue," she rails at Richard. "There are 1001 jobs I've noticed that need doing, and someone's got to give the instructions!"

However, despite her bombastic nature, a lot of the show's jokes are at Audrey's expense. She's essentially a tragic character, constantly tormented by what's she's lost, and she's not without her warmer side - an aspect of her personality that grows over the show's three series, as she's ultimately won over by the interloper.

The last episode of the final series sees things satisfyingly resolved, with Audrey marrying Richard and being reinstated as the lady of the manor.


Penelope Keith
Audrey fforbes-Hamilton
Peter Bowles
Richard DeVere
Angela Thorne
Marjory Frobisher
Alexander Armstrong
Adam fforbes-Hamilton
Alan David
John Rudling
Daphne Heard
Mrs Polouvicka
Michael Bilton
Gerald Sim
Michael Cochrane
Archie Pennington-Booth
Georgie Glen
Panel Chairman


Peter Spence
Christopher Bond
Paul Mayhew-Archer
script editor
Christopher Bond
script associate
Gareth Gwenlan
Gareth Gwenlan
Justin Davies
Jon Plowman
executive producer
Peter Spence

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