Skip to main content
BFI logo











Screenonline banner
To The Manor Born (1979-81)

Courtesy of BBC

Main image of To The Manor Born (1979-81)
BBC, tx. 30/9/1979 - 29/11/1981
3 series of 20 episodes total, plus 2 specials
Created byPeter Spence
Production CompanyBBC Television
ProducerGareth Gwenlan
Written byPeter Spence
 Christopher Bond
MusicRonnie Hazlehurst

Cast: Penelope Keith (Audrey fforbes-Hamilton); Peter Bowles (Richard DeVere); Angela Thorne (Marjory Frobisher); John Rudling (Brabinger); Daphne Heard (Mrs Polouvicka); Michael Bilton (Ned); Gerald Sim (Rector)

Show full cast and credits

When Audrey fforbes-Hamilton loses her stately home to dashing Richard DeVere, it's the beginning of a not always beautiful friendship.

Show full synopsis

Over its three-year run To the Manor Born garnered a huge following, with 24 million viewers tuning in to the final episode. Writer Peter Spence has attributed its popularity to the way that Penelope Keith's snobbish heroine gave voice to all the criticisms of declining standards in Britain that everyone else was too scared to mention, but although audiences were invited to sympathise with Audrey they were - just occasionally - laughing at her as much as with her.

Spence, a former radio gag writer, first had the idea for the programme when a cockney comedian, for whom he'd provided material, invited him to a party at his recently purchased stately home. Among the guests was the former owner, an upper-class lady who made clear her disdain for the newcomer - much to his amusement. When the BBC was looking for a starring vehicle for Penelope Keith, fresh from her success as Margo Leadbetter in The Good Life (BBC, 1975-78), Audrey fforbes-Hamilton was born. Forced by her late husband's debts to sell their ancestral home, Grantleigh Manor, Audrey is appalled when it is purchased by supermarket mogul Richard DeVere. This shock is compounded when it transpires that DeVere isn't even 'one of us', but was born Bedrich Polouvicka in Poland.

The class-based comedy might have soon palled, but Peter Bowles' debonair performance convinced viewers that DeVere was not only canny enough to occasionally gain the upper hand over Audrey, but that his charm might just win her over in the end. Their will they/won't they romance played out against a backdrop of quintessential Englishness - replete with rolling countryside, hunt balls and Sunday services - and an endearing raft of supporting characters. Angela Thorne was well cast as Audrey's jolly hockey-sticks friend, Marjory Frobisher, while classical actress Daphne Heard adopted an improbable Polish accent as Richard's nagging mother, 'Mrs Pooh'. On the domestic side there was Audrey's aged butler, Brabinger, and Old Ned the gardener, while the rector (one of a long line of clerics played by Gerald Sim) and Brigadier Lemington rounded out the regulars. All were present when Audrey and Richard finally tied the knot in the series' dénouement.

The fact that - for most of its viewers - To the Manor Born represented a fairytale version of England only added to its charm, and such was its popularity that in 2007 it was revived for a one-off Christmas special (tx. 25/12/2007).

Richard Hewett

Click titles to see or read more

Video Clips
1. The new vase (3:17)
2. Marjorie's farewell (2:45)
3. The thief exposed (3:21)
Complete episode (26:50)
Keith, Penelope (1940-)
Bowles, Peter (1936-)
Imrie, Celia (1952-)