Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
Barchester Chronicles, The (1982)


Warning: screenonline full synopses contain 'spoilers' which give away key plot points. Don't read on if you don't want to know the ending!

Episode 3, originally transmitted BBC2 on 24 November 1982

Dr Grantley, Bishop of Barchester, lingers on his deathbed. His son, the Archdeacon, hopes to succeed him, but the government is about to fall and the new prime minister will not favour him. His old friend, Mr Harding, former Warden of the Hospital (almshouse) attached to the Cathedral, and father-in-law to the Archdeacon, also grieves. When the government finally falls, the still living Bishop is succeeded by Dr Proudie.

Mrs Proudie immediately finds fault with everything about the Bishop's Palace, while her husband barely speaks. The arrogance and ambition of Proudie's chaplain, Obadiah Slope, infuriate the Grantleys and Mr Harding. They are appalled when he begins to court Eleanor, Mr Harding's second daughter, now a wealthy widow with a young son, who shares her house with her unmarried sister-in-law, Mary Bold. When the chaplain preaches the first sermon in the cathedral - against the use of music in church - they vow to avenge such an insult.

Mr Slope calls on Eleanor and Mary for afternoon tea; Mr Harding makes himself scarce. Slope hints that Mr Harding might be invited to return to his old position at the Hospital. Harding, however, knows the duties and remuneration have changed, making it less attractive, and refuses to discuss the matter with anyone but the Bishop.

When Mrs Proudie discovers that a local canon-in-residence, Dr Stanhope, has, on grounds of a persistent sore throat, been living on Lake Como in Italy for 12 years while still drawing his stipend, she is outraged, insisting that the Bishop orders his immediate return. Stanhope brings his wife and three grown-up children - Bertie, an artist, Charlotte, and Madeline, separated from her husband, an Italian nobleman called Neroni, who has beaten her so badly that she can no longer walk (although she publicly claims that she fell from a Roman monument). The Stanhopes are very bohemian in their lifestyle.

The Grantleys are invited to a supper reception at the Bishop's Palace. Signora Neroni, borne in on a litter, holds court from a chaise longue, attracting every man in the room and completely upstaging Mrs Proudie, who takes an instant dislike to her. When Bertie tears Mrs Proudie's dress while trying to manoeuvre the chaise into a better position, she is incandescent with rage. The Bishop mentions the Wardenship to Mr Harding, but asks him to talk to Slope about it. Harding sorely misses his old friend, Dr Grantly.