Meet the characters and cast of Cranford
Click on any of the major characters in Cranford to learn more about how they fit in the story, and also about the careers of the actors who portray them.
Miss Deborah Jenkyns
Daughter of the deceased rector of Cranford, older sister of Matty and Peter, Deborah grew up in the early years of the Napoleonic Wars. Deborah upholds a rigidly narrow and exclusive code of conduct, dominating other women of Cranford.
Dame Eileen Atkins
Dame Eileen Atkins has been considered one of England's finest stage actors for more than fifty years. She began entertaining people at the age of seven when her parents sent her out to sing and tap dance in clubs. Atkins has performed on stage all over London, and in 1989, she toured all over the world in A Room of One's Own, an adaptation of Virginia Woolf's collected lectures. Atkins has been in many Masterpiece productions through the years, including Sons and Lovers, Madame Bovary and Bertie and Elizabeth, although she is best known as the co-creator with Jean Marsh of Upstairs, Downstairs. Her film credits include Gosford Park, Cold Mountain and The Hours to name a few, and she wrote the screenplay for the 1997 film Mrs. Dalloway. Named a Commander of the British Empire (CBE) in 1990, Atkins was named a Dame of the British Empire in 2001. In Cranford, Atkins reunites with Dame Judi Dench, who she first worked with in the 1950s. Atkins notes that she is often cast in authoritative roles, including in Cranford. "I always think I don't have any more authority than anybody else, but a weird thing happens to me (in character), and I am, like Miss Deborah, quite frightening, although I hate the fact that people think I'm like that," Atkins said.
Miss Matilda (Matty) Jenkyns
The younger sister of Deborah, Elizabeth Gaskell wrote of Matty Jenkyns, "Her own rebellious spirit was crushed long ago and she remained loyal to her sister as the true arbiter of taste."
Dame Judi Dench
With a prolific resume of stage, film and television credits, and acting experience reaching back to the late 1950s, Dame Judi Dench is recognized as one of the leading actresses of her time. An Oscar winner, Judi Dench has garnered many awards, including ten BAFTA film and television awards, and seven Laurence Olivier Awards, including the Society's Special Award. Casino Royale, Notes on a Scandal, Chocolat, Pride and Prejudice (2005), Iris, Shakespeare in Love and Mrs. Henderson Presents are just some of the productions she has appeared in. She has starred in Masterpiece titles such as Love in a Cold Climate, Henry V and Her Majesty, Mrs. Brown. In 1970, Dench was awarded an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire). In 1988 she was made Dame of the British Empire, and in 2005 received a Companion Of Honor.
Being cast in Cranford meant "looking forward to a summer of fun," Dench said. "There were nearly 50 people in Cranford and a great number of them are friends. Eileen Atkins and I actually played sisters on the radio in the late 1950s, and I've worked with Julia McKenzie and Michael Gambon, so it was lovely to all be on location, even when it was pouring with rain."
Aged 22 and an orphan, Martha is a servant to the Jenkyns sisters. A "rough, honest-looking country girl, "Martha is courted by Jem Hearne.
Claudie Blakley won the Ian Charleson Award (given to outstanding classic stage actors under age thirty) for her role in Chekhov's The Seagull. Recognized for her work as a stage actress, Blakley has been with the Royal Shakespeare Company since 2003, but has had roles in such television and film productions as Gosford Park, Pride and Prejudice (2005), Severance and Lark Rise to Candleford. She has also leant her talents to Masterpiece's The Inspector Lynley Mysteries and He Knew He Was Right.
Miss Mary Smith
A visitor from Manchester in her very early 20s, Mary Smith is staying with the Jenkyns sisters. Her mother died when she was eight and her father remarried and has a second family. She describes herself as "indiscreet and incautious."
Trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA), Dillon is known for her appearances in Bright Young Things and Cambridge Spies. Stage credits include Ibsen's The Master Builder, Desdemona in Othello for the Royal Shakespeare Company, and Period of Adjustment by Tennessee Williams. In regards to her role in Cranford, Dillon believes Mary Smith is similar to author Elizabeth Gaskell. "I think Mary, and possibly, therefore, Gaskell, is very much pro-modernization, but at the same time has huge admiration for the women of Cranford."
A joiner and undertaker, Jem Hearne is a prodigious worker and popular figure in Cranford, as well as being Martha's boyfriend.
Andrew Buchan attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London before appearing in Masterpiece's Jane Eyre and other television shows such as Party Animals. Buchan is fluent in French, German and Spanish.
Mary Smith's stepmother, who is only 10 years older than Mary. With four young children at home, Clara is determined to find a suitable bachelor for the troublesomely independent Mary.
Finty Williams (real name Tara Cressida Frances Williams), is the only daughter of Dame Judi Dench and actor Michael Williams, who died in 2001. Despite early aspirations to be a dancer, Williams trained at London's Central School of Speech and Drama and began an acting career. She is known to Masterpiece viewers for her roles in Wives and Daughters and Her Majesty, Mrs. Brown. Her film credits include Gosford Park and The Importance of Being Earnest. Her picture appears in the opening credits of the popular British comedy, As Time Goes By.
The vicar of Cranford and successor to Mr. Jenkyns, Rev. Hutton,is a widower with four children (Sophie, Helen, Lizzie and Walter). He struggles to balance religious conviction with his instincts as a father.
Alex Jennings trained at the Bristol Old Vic Theater School, and is well known for a variety of theatrical roles including: Leontes in The Winter's Take, Higgins in My Fair Lady and the title roles in Peer Gynt and Hamlet. He has won three Laurence Olivier Awards for his work. Jennings has appeared in Masterpiece productions of Hard Times, Poirot, and Inspector Morse. On film, he has been seen in Babel and Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason among others, and played Prince Charles in The Queen.
Aged 20, Sophy is the vicar's eldest daughter and has been a surrogate mother to her three younger siblings since her mother died six years earlier. She has a gentle and loving manner with children and becomes a good friend of Mary Smith, as well as the love interest of Dr. Harrison.
Cranford is Kimberley Nixon's first television production. Nixon attended the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama and was a member of the National Youth Theater Of Wales. Nixon says she learned a lot from working with Dame Judi Dench on Cranford, including how to wile away the time when bad weather delayed filming. "We'd have to sit under a little tent waiting for it to stop raining, and Judi has so many games in her bag of tricks. She taught us one where you take a piece of newspaper and you're given a shape, such as a car, and rip away to make that shape. Eileen Atkins is really bad at it — if we said to make a car, she would make a boat!"
Aged 14, Helen is Sophy's middle sister.
Hester Odgers make her acting debut in the 2005 film Lassie, and later appeared in Masterpiece's Jane Eyre.
Aged 12, Lizzie is Sophy's youngest sister.
Rosy Byrne makes her television debut in Cranford.
Miss Augusta Tomkinson
Aged 55, Augusta Tomkinson is the older sister of Caroline, whom she has brought up since their parents died. Augusta has a surprising amount of money although she is very frugal.
Deborah Findlay is familiar to Masterpiece viewers for her roles in Wives and Daughters, Anna Karenina, Foyle's War, Heat of the Sun and Jane Eyre. Film credits include Truly, Madly, Deeply, Me Without You and The End of the Affair. Before becoming an actress, Findlay was a junior high school teacher and cabaret performer.
The indulged younger sister of Augusta, Caroline Tomkinson is determined not to stay a spinster like her sister, and sets her sights on Dr. Harrison.
Masterpiece helped launch Selina Griffiths's film career when she was cast in the 1995 production of Doctor Finlay. The daughter of Scottish character actress Annette Crosbie, Griffiths trained at the Central School of Music and Drama. On television, she has appeared in The Smoking Room, Marigold and Fallen Angel among others.
Dr. Frank Harrison
In his late 20s, Frank Harrison is a newly qualified doctor. He trained at Guy's in London and is the son of Dr. Morgan's cousin. Newly arrived in Cranford, he sets the ladies hearts a-flutter.
Oxford educated, Simon Woods portrayed Mr. Bingley in the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice, and has also appeared in Rome and Masterpiece's Foyle's War. Woods first read the script for Cranford on his way home from making a film in Thailand. "I'd only planned to read enough pages to be able to go into a meeting, but I ended up reading it from start to finish because it come off the page like a novel. I thought it was brilliant," Woods said.
Late 30s and newly widowed, Mrs. Rose is the housekeeper for Dr. Harrison. Her husband was a doctor and friend of Dr. Morgan.
It was clear from an early age that Lesley Manville was talented, showing promise as a classical singer. Improvisational acting caught her fancy, and Manville was already working professionally at age 16. Memorable stage roles include Mrs. Coulter in His Dark Materials, Lona Hessel in Ibsen's Pillars of the Community, Manuela in All About My Mother and Natasha in The Three Sisters. Her career reached a turning point in 1979 when she met filmmaker Mike Leigh, and went on to appear in his films such as Topsy Turvy, All or Nothing and Vera Drake. Manville is best known to Masterpiece viewers for her role as Viola Cazalet in The Cazalets.
Dr. Jack Marshland
In his late 20s, Dr. Jack Marshland one of Dr. Harrison's friends from London. Lively and fun, Marshland is a great prankster although he means well.
Joseph McFadden was born in Glasgow, Scotland, and was just 12 when he got his first TV role. McFadden became well known in the UK with his role in The Crow Road. He's also appeared in films such as Small Faces and Dad Savage. Demonstrating his versatility as an actor as well as a good tenor singing voice, he has appeared in stage productions ranging from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to Rent.
Father of Miss Brown (who is ill) and Jessie, Captain Brown is a plainspoken military man, whose common sense gained him a place of authority among the women of Cranford.
Jim Carter has extensive television and film credits extending back to the early 1980s. On Masterpiece, he has been seen in Precious Bane, Midsomer Murders, The Way We Live Now, The Wind in the Willows and The Secret Life of Mrs. Beeton among others. His best known roles include Fox in The Madness of King George, Harry in Brassed Off and Ralph Bashford in Shakespeare in Love. He was seen recently with Daniel Craig and Nicole Kidman in The Golden Compass. Carter is married to Imelda Staunton, who also appears in Cranford.
Aged 28 and prettier than her older sister, Jessie Brown is a self-sacrificing nursemaid to her mother and sister. Jessie is courted by Major Gordon.
Julia Sawalha is most recognized for her roles in Absolutely Fabulous and in Andrew Davies's adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Born to a Jordanian father and English mother, Sawalha went to the Italia Conti Academy of Theater Arts. She had early success in the children's television series Press Gang, and has appeared in other series such as Second Thoughts and Jonathan Creek. Sawalha voiced the role of Ginger in the 2000 film Chicken Run. She may be remembered to Masterpiece viewers for her role in Martin Chuzzlewit.
A tall, frank-looking man of 40, Major Gordon is a friend of Captain Brown and has been in love with Jessie Brown for years. An earlier proposal was turned down because Jessie had to look after her ailing mother and sister, but Gordon returns to Cranford in hopes of winning her the second time around.
Alistair Petrie has appeared on Masterpiece in productions such as The Forsyte Saga and Emma. His other film and television credits include Mrs. Dalloway, The Whistleblowers, The Mark of Cain and The Bank Job. He is married to Lucy Scott, who played Charlotte Lucas in Pride and Prejudice, which aired on Masterpiece as part of The Complete Jane Austen.
Harry's father, Job Gregson is a notorious local poacher who lives in poverty with his family at the edge of the Hanbury Estate.
Dean Lennox Kelly
Well known in the UK for his role in the comedy television series Shameless, Dean Lennox Kelly has also appeared in Sorted, The Worst Week of My Life, and Tipping the Velvet. In 2006, Kelly played in the Soccer Aid charity event for the England team.
Son of a notorious poacher, 10-year-old Harry Gregson is desperate for knowledge. Mr. Carter recognizes the boy's ability and secretly tutors him to read and write.
Born in 1994, Aex Etel was nominated for a British Independent Film Award (among others) for his role in Milions. His most recent film is The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep.
In her late 60s, Lady Ludlow is the reigning aristocrat of the area and lives at Hanbury Court. Driven by a rigid sense of duty, she can be compassionate but represents the status quo and sees change as a danger to the natural order of things. Ludlow longs in vain to see her only surviving son, who lives in Italy.
Francesa Annis is a veteran of Masterpiece, appearing in productions such as Wives and Daughters, Reckless, Lillie and Madame Bovary. Born in Brazil and educated in a convent, Annis considered becoming a nun before landing her first film role at age 14. Her big break came at age 16 when she was cast in Cleopatra with Elizabeth Taylor. Annis gained notoriety for her performance in the title role of Roman Polanski's Macbeth in 1971, and has since had extensive film and television roles to her credit. Of her role and dramatic costume in Cranford, Annis said, "It was quite fun putting myself together as Lady Ludlow because she is completely different visually to me. I had this big high wig, all grey, which I called 'Marge' as in Marge's hair in 'The Simpsons.' When I put Marge on, grey Marge, I started to feel like Lady Ludlow, and equally, when I took her off I'd have a shriek and become myself."
Mr. Edmund Carter
Lady Ludlow's land agent, Edmund Carter has made his way after managing to get an education. A reformer who nevertheless respects the old order, Carter is passionate about free education for the working classes. Sensing the potential of young Harry Gregson, Carter becomes determined to educate him.
Philip Glenister says that Cranford's stellar cast might have intimidated a young Glenister straight out of London's Central School of Speech and Drama. "It's such a huge cast, there's something like 25 principal actors, and most of them are so distinguished that it's fun to just come on set and see them all. I'm the only one that isn't titled actually," Glenister said. Glenister is most recently known for is role as Gene Hunt in the BBC drama Life on Mars, but is also known for his roles in contemporary dramas such as Clocking Off, State of Play, Vincent and Roger Roger. On film, Glenister has been seen in Calendar Girls.
A milliner and friend to Lady Ludlow, Miss Galindo is likely to speak more strongly than accurately. Though the daughter of a baronet, she has no money and is forced to work for a living.
Emma Fielding attended the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. Fielding was recognized for her stage work with the Dame Peggy Ashcroft Award for Best Actress and the Ian Charleson Award (given to classic British actors under age 30) for her performance in John Ford's The Broken Heart. Her Masterpiece credits include The Inspector Lynley Mysteries and The Mrs. Bradley Mysteries.
Cranford's newly elected major, Mr. Johnson is the ambitious owner of Johnson's Universal Stores, the main shop in Cranford, and the main gathering point for all the ladies of the town.
Adrian Scarborough can frequently be seen on the London stage in productions such as A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Wind in the Willows and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. His film credits include Notes on a Scandal, Vera Drake, The History Boys, Gosford Park, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Bright Young Things and The Madness of King George. On television he has been seen on The Bill, Heartbeat, Midsomer Murders, New Tricks, Let Them Eat Cake and Gavin & Stacey.
A ruthless saleswoman, Mrs. Johnson runs Johnson's Universal Stores with her husband.
Spooks, Notes on a Scandal and Breathtaking are a few of the film and television productions that Debra Gillett has appeared in since the early 1990s. Gillett is married to screenwriter Patrick Marber (Notes on a Scandal).
Cranford's dapper Dr. Morgan runs the major practice in the area. An old-fashioned man, he is gravely challenged by the modern ways brought to Cranford by his new partner, Dr. Harrison.
John Bowe is well known for his roles as serial killer George Marlow in Prime Suspect and Duggie Ferguson in Coronation Street. A graduate of the Bristol Old Vic Theater School, and an accomplished stage actor, Bowe has appeared in the Royal Shakespeare Company's The Taming of the Shrew, Lear, As You Like It, Richard III, Hamlet, The Merchant of Venice and Anthony & Cleopatra. He has been seen on Masterpiece in the Mrs. Bradley Mysteries. Bowe is a talented tenor singer and skilled scuba diver.
A renowned gossip, Miss Pole's peripatetic nature means she is never far from any unfolding incident in Cranford.
A recognized stage actress before starting her film career in her thirties, Imelda Staunton was born to Irish Catholic parents who sent her to a convent school. Her education continued at London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA). Choosing to concentrate on honing her theatrical craft, she spent six years working in England's repertory scene. Her considerable credits include such film and television projects as Up the Garden Paths, Sense and Sensibility, Twelfth Night, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Shakespeare in Love and Vera Drake. Masterpiece fans have seen her in productions such as David Copperfield, My Family and Other Animals and The Wind in the Willows among others. Staunton has numerous awards for acting to her name, including an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire), two Laurence Olivier Awards and a BAFTA Award along with an Oscar nomination for the title role in Vera Drake. Staunton is married to fellow actor and Cranford star Jim Carter (Captain Brown). On her Cranford character, Staunton says, "Miss Pole is this wonderful force that arrives with terrible news, good news and is just a marvelous creation to play. She's aggressive in her hunger for news and gossip and the importance of telling people things — so much so that she feels very responsible for all the news that she has to impart. I think you get women like her round every corner in any walk of life at any time."
Widow of a Major, Mrs. Forrester has very limited means. She owns one beloved cow, Bessie, which she loves as a daughter.
Julia McKenzie has had a successful career on stage, television and in film. She has won two Laurence Olivier Awards, including one for her portrayal of Mrs. Lovett in the National Theater production of Sweeney Todd. On television, she is known for her role in the British sitcom Fresh Fields, and on film, McKenzie has appeared in Shirley Valentine and Notes on a Scandal. McKenzie learned about Cranford while doing a play with Dame Judi Dench in London's West End, and was impressed by its authenticity. "The language is very precise, and the sequence of words is quite different to modern speech," McKenzie said. "A lot of period pieces don't have the courage to carry things through and alter language to bring it into the modern idiom, but I think Heidi Thomas's scripts are beautifully balanced and very charming."
Matty Jenkyn's suitor from youth, Thomas Holbrook was considered unsuitable by the Jenkyns family. Yoeman farmer with his own estate just outside of Cranford, Holbook is a cousin twice-removed from Miss Pole.
Michael Gambon has had a prolific career since the late 1960s. Born in Dublin, Gambon moved to London as a child and worked to become an apprentice toolmaker (he still holds a fascination with antique guns). His acting big break came in 1963 when he joined Laurence Olivier's fledgling National Theater. Well known for a host of performances on stage, including King Lear, Galileo, A View from the Bridge and The Caretaker, Gambon is most recognized currently for his role as Albus Dumbledore in several of the Harry Potter films. Other notable film credits include: The Good Shepherd, Amazing Grace, Being Julia, Gosford Park, The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, Dancing at Lughnasa and The Insider. Gambon was named a Commander of the British Empire in 1992 and was knighted in 1998.
Sir Charles Maulver
Local aristocrat, magistrate and director of the railway company. He hires Captain Brown, who served under him in the Army and saved his life, and moves him to Cranford.
Greg Wise has appeared in his share of period dramas, including Masterpiece productions such as Madame Bovary, The Moonstone and The Buccaneers. "There's something quite wonderful about wearing your big boots, britches, waist coasts and cravats that really sets you in the world that you're inhabiting very nicely," Wise said. "I've been lucky to be allowed to explore these wonderful novels as an actor...but at one point I realized I'd done too much 'britches work' and had to stop, so Cranford is my first time in big boots for quite a while," Wise added. Wise originally studied to be an architect and recently rebuilt the London house that he shares with his wife, actress Emma Thompson. They have one daughter together as well as an adopted son from Rwanda.
The Honorable Mrs. Jamieson
Sister-in-law to the late Earl of Glenmire, Mrs. Jamieson is a great snob. She is the owner of Carlo, her beloved dog.
Barbara Flynn trained at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, and is known for her work in the Beiderbecke Trilogy, A Very Peculiar Practice, and Cracker. She appeared in Masterpiece's productions of The Barchester Chronicles, Wives and Daughters, King Lear, The Forsyte Saga, He Knew He Was Right and Malice Aforethought.