TBT: Cranford (2007-2010)


There’s only a few mentions of Christmas in the two series of Cranford (2007-2010), but something about the cozy biddiness of the whole thing makes me think of the winter holidays. The stories are utterly charming without being saccharine or stupid, and the acting is top notch thanks to Judi Dench, Imelda Staunton, Jim Carter, Francesca Annis, Julia Sawalha, Greg Wise, et. al. And, most of all, the ridiculous 1840s costumes are rendered perfectly by the expert stylings of Jenny Beavan.

Fire it up on DVD or your favorite streaming service, pour a cup of tea, and settle in for a couple hours of the finest the BBC can serve up!


Cranford (2007-2010)

Bonnets and caps and biddies, oh my!

Cranford (2007-2010)

But if we’re going to have bonnets, let’s go TO TOWN with the bonnets.

Cranford (2007-2010)

If you don’t love Judi Dench, we can’t be friends.

Cranford (2007-2010)

And plaid too. I give a side-eye at those who don’t like plaid.

Cranford (2007-2010)

1840s fashions are a weirdly wonderful transition between the excess of both the 1830s & the 1850s.

Cranford (2007-2010)

Look at this sublime red dress!

Cranford (2007-2010)

Much like Regency Bad Girls, snobby characters wear bold attire here.

Cranford (2007-2010)

Then there’s the trope of the old lady wearing outdated fashions.

Cranford (2007-2010)

Michelle Dockery & Tom Hiddleston show up in the second series.

Cranford (2007-2010)

Both seasons have quite a bit of humor, such as this cow that gets a sweater, plus a cat that destroys some valuable lace.

Cranford (2007-2010)

Then there’s a crinoline that becomes a birdcage — a clever reminder that hoops were a new technology in the mid-1840s & not familiar in small towns.

Cranford (2007-2010)

Just a hint of Christmas.

(L to R) Costumes worn by Actors: Celia Imrie as Lady Glenmire, Barbara Flynn as Mrs. Jamieson, Judi Dench as Miss Matty Jenkyns, Francesca Annis as Lady Ludlow and Imelda Staunton as Miss Octavia Pole.

Several of the Emmy Award-nominated costumes from the second season were displayed at the FIDM Museum & Galleries at FIDM/Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, Los Angeles in 2010. Photo by John Sciulli © Berliner Photography/BEImages. More at Flickr.


Will you return to Cranford this winter?


About the author

Trystan L. Bass

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A self-described ElderGoth, Trystan has been haunting the internet since the early 1990s. Always passionate about costume, from everyday office wear to outrageous twisted historical creations, she has maintained some of the earliest online costuming-focused resources on the web. Her costuming adventures are chronicled on her website, TrystanCraft. She also ran a popular fashion blog, This Is CorpGoth, dedicated to her “office drag.”

19 Responses

  1. Daniel Milford-Cottam

    Much as I love these adaptations, the one thing about “The Cage at Cranford” is that cage crinolines weren’t actually invented until the mid 1850s, so although it’s a marvellous story and very, very funny and well told, fashion historians do have to turn a blind eye to this inconsistency! The short story stands separately from the Cranford novels as a “revisitation” so they fudged it into the source material. It helps that it’s done with so much charm and conviction and overall quality, but yes, it’s a pretty stonking anachronism. Nicely done, though!

    • Gillian Stapleton

      My thoughts exactly. Especially when the dateline given for that particular episode was 1844! You’re right though, it was beautifully done.

  2. Bea

    I watched parts of this while recovering from surgery. I dozed off through parts of it, waking up when the music got louder or some shouting happened.
    It’s a delightful set of characters for older actresses–which are a sadly underused resource.

  3. Frannie Germeshausen

    Another one of those things to watch when you need to be made cheerful. Old women rock the world.

  4. EA Gorman

    I should try to catch this show when it airs on WETAUK again [my local PBS station dedicated to British shows] if only to answer the question of why that cow was in a custom made sweater. And for a young Tom Hiddleston.

    • Sharon in Scotland

      The cow had some skin infection, acquired I think, and was basically bare. Julia MacKenzie’s character owned the cow and was mortified that it would be naked until the skin recovered, so she made it a nice set of overalls!

      • EA Gorman

        Well that was very thoughtful. Probably helped the poor cow recover better too.

      • Saraquill

        The character’s poor arms. I’ve gotten repetitive strain injuries from knitting and crocheting. I faint to think of what pain making a sweater that size entails.

    • Rhonda Stannard

      The gate was left open and the cow escaped and got caught in a pool of lye, which burned off her fur so her skin was exposed

  5. Kate D

    I love Cranford! I haven’t seen the second series yet, sounds perfect to watch over Christmas!

  6. Megan

    Loved both series of Cranford; but the second series is my favorite: it has a delightfully mop-topped and earnest young Tom Hiddleston.

  7. Susan Pola Staples

    Loved both too. I am a HUGE Francesca Annis fan and thought she was perfect as the Marchioness with a son who might have been Gay (think Sheridan Bouquet) and his MMA was totally like clueless.
    But my favourite character was Dame Judi whom I wish to be when and if I grow up.
    Another nice touch was the lady getting a better education thanks to Greg Wise and the marchioness.
    The actress in the plaid (I’m part Scots and plaid is definitely in my wheelhouse) looked like Mary in Middlemarsh.

  8. Gail

    In the first series of “Cranford” Judi Dench and Michael Gambon are so very very touching … and give a virtual Master’s class in acting.

    Plus – if you are in Manchester, do go and visit the Gaskell House.

  9. Saraquill

    I’ve seen bits of Cranford and got a kick of who wore up to date things, outdated dress and expletive-that’s-Regency clothes. I also liked how old outfits were a minor plot point for at least one character.

  10. Tanya Stewart

    I rented the first series of Cranford from the local public library, when I first moved to the small central Kentucky town where I still live, and was struck by the similarity between Cranford’s characters, and people I had met here—the show really captured the quirky essence of rural life, no matter the time. I’ll need to rent not only the first series again as a refresher, but the subsequent ones as well—the cow in the sweater sounds hilarious!
    Being of Scottish descent, plaid is (almost) always high couture.
    Judy Dench is a Goddess!

  11. Kelly

    One of the loveliest costume details was Imelda Staunton’s sticky-up feather in her bonnet–everyone else had softly-curling plumes (or nothing, depending on their financial means), and her height-adding exclamation point of a feather said it all about her character.
    Beautifully toned costumes–the colors all harmonize without looking match-matchy. Can you find a photo of the absolutely wonderful Dame Judi in her turban?

  12. Dawn

    Give me the side-eye if you must. I wasn’t a huge fan of plaid before I attended Catholic school, but I loathed it by the time I was done. On others, of course, my opinion varies by contextual appropriateness,

    Sorry, I just don’t like that dress.