After the success of The Good Life, each of the principal actors were given their own sitcom, To The Manor Born was a vehicle for Penelope Keith, whose Audrey Fforbes-Hamilton character was everything we imagine her Margo character from The Good Life would strive to be.
Running for 22 episodes over three series To The Manor Born followed the story of Audrey Fforbes-Hamilton an upper-class woman who, upon the death of her husband, has to move out of her beloved manor house. The manor is then bought by Richard DeVere, a millionaire supermarket owner. DeVere and Fforbes-Hamilton have a love–hate relationship which is eventually resolved in the 1981 finale when they marry.
The series was generally well received with consistent high ratings figures. One episode became the most watched television programme (excluding live events) of the 1970’s. In that now well quoted 2004 poll to find Britain’s best sitcom To The Manor Born came in at number 21.
The series begins with the funeral of Marton Fforbes-Hamilton, the Lord of the Manor. Audrey, his widow and cousin, while not happy at her husband’s death is certainly less than distraught as she now has control of the Grantleigh estate, which her family the Fforbes-Hamiltons have controlled for 400 years.Her joy is short-lived though, as her solicitor Arnold Plunkett informs her that Marton was bankrupt and that the Manor will have to be sold to pay off the debts. After failing to buy back the manor herself it is bought by Richard De Vere a Supermarket owner who has no idea of country matters much to Audrey’s annoyance.
After leaving the Manor, Audrey moves into the “Old Lodge”, at the end of the drive, where she can see most of what goes on at the Manor, this creates much of the humour. Living with her is her elderly and loyal butler, Brabinger, who has worked for the fforbes-Hamiltons his whole life, and her dog Bertie.
During the course of the three series, Audrey and Richard grow closer. Hostile to each other at the start, they grew to understand and accept each other, as both try to adapt to each other’s way. At the end of the series in 1981 Richard decides to sell the manor to fund a business project, by a twist of fete Audrey inherits her rich Uncle’s estate enabling her to buy back Grantley Manor. She promptly asks Richard to marry her and he accepts. In the final episode they are wed and Audrey finally moves back to the manor.
Penelope Keith – Audrey FForbes-Hamilton
Peter Bowles – Richard De Vere
Angela Thorne – Marjory Frobisher
Daphne Heard – Mrs Poo
John Rudling – Brabinger
Michael Bilton – Old Ned
Daphne Oxenford – Mrs Patterson
Gerald Sim – The Rector
Written by: Peter Spence & Christopher Bond
Number of Episodes: 22 (3 Series inc. 2007 Christmas Special)
Original Run: 30th September 1979 – 29th November 1981 (Christmas Special in 2007 on Christmas Day)
A one off christmas special aired in 2007 as Richard and Audrey celebrate their twenty fifth wedding anniversary.
To The Manor Born is one of the classic comedies that enjoy regular showings on digital/sky channel GOLD. Check Schedules for details.