Penelope keith is audrey forbes hamilton in 19790's BBC classic sitcom to the manor born

To The Manor Born

To The Manor Born, 1979

To The Manor Born was a BBC TV sitcom that ran for 22 episodes over 3 series, originally broadcast on Sunday nights.  Despite being a vehicle for Penelope Keith writer; Peter Spence first had the idea in the early 1970’s whist he was working for BBC Radio as a gag writer.

One of the programmes that Spence wrote for featured a Cockney comedian, who had recently bought a manor house in an English country village. Whilst holding a housewarming party, the comedian had invited the previous occupant, a widow who could not afford to keep the house up and had moved to a smaller house in the village.

His account of the lady, and the conversation he had with her, Spence later described as a “perfect description” of Audrey, but we were not yet at the manor


Peter Spence himself had married into the Taylor family who owned and ran Cricket St Thomas Wildlife Park in Somerset.

This provided him with a fund of anecdotes which he compiled into a book entitled “some of our best friends are animals”.

In fact it also provided the outdoor filming locations for the series.  Audrey’s lodge which on screen was at the end of the manor’s drive, is in fact about one mile away and called West Lodge.  A false gatepost was installed to help the illusion that the two are close together.

Early Days

It was a few years later following on from the success of The Good Life that Spence was asked by BBC Radio to come up with an idea for a programme featuring Penelope Keith.  Early drafts of a script involved an American looking for his roots later discovering he is descended from the Fforbes-Hamiltons.  This draft made it to a Radio pilot episode in 1976 with Bernard Bradenas the American, but was never broadcast because of the interest to make it into a TV series.

For the TV series a script associate was brought in to help adapt the idea from radio to TV.  Changes were made including changing the American character and adding new characters and it was in September 1979 a year after The Good Life To The Manor Born made it’s TV debut.


The series was generally well received with consistent high ratings figures.  The final episode was watched by 23 million people, now that is ratings.


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


Channel: BBC1
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)

Spin Offs

Ten episodes from the TV series was adapted for BBC Radio in 1997.  Ten years later, in 2007, back on TV, a one off Christmas Special aired as Richard and Audrey celebrate their twenty fifth wedding anniversary.

Where To Watch

To The Manor Born is one of the classic comedies that enjoy regular showings on UKTV’s GOLD and Drama channels.  Check Schedules for details.  The series is also available on streaming service britbox.  It’s also currently available on You Tube.