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It is late summer in 1844 and two years since Miss Matty Jenkyns lost her beloved sister, Deborah, in the first of a two-part Cranford special for Christmas. Matty's home is once again full of life and bustle. Not only has her brother, Peter, stayed on in Cranford, but also her dream of having a child in the house has been realised in the birth of Tilly, daughter of her maid, Martha, and her carpenter husband, Jem Hearne. Matty relishes every moment being the centre of such a busy household.

The shadow of the railway still looms over the town but, much to the relief of Matty and the town ladies – Miss Pole, Mrs Forrester, Mrs Jamieson and Miss Tomkinson – Lady Ludlow has steadfastly refused to sell the land that would allow it to come into Cranford itself. For others, however, this spells disaster: Captain Brown believes that modernisation is inevitable if the town is to survive.

When Cranford native Mr Buxton returns to town with his son and niece, William and Erminia, Matty can see that father and son's grief over Mrs Buxton's recent death has left them at odds with each other, and that William and Erminia are in need of company. Matty is also concerned about another young person whom she sees only at church: Peggy Bell, who lives in an isolated cottage outside the town with her inattentive mother, Mrs Bell, and domineering brother, Edward. So Matty decides to intervene and engineers an invitation that will bring the four young people together.

The surprise arrival of Lady Ludlow's son, Lord Septimus, leads to a chain of unexpected events. Captain Brown believes he has secured rights to bring the railway line into Cranford, but is shocked when he discovers that Mr Buxton holds its fate in his hands. Meanwhile, tragedy strikes in Matty's own house and she finds she must re-evaluate her opinions of the railway and think for herself. Can she change the course of events and, if so, should she?

Miss Matty Jenkyns is played by Dame Judi Dench, Peter by Nicholas Le Prevost, Martha by Claudie Blakley, Jem Hearne by Andrew Buchan, Miss Pole by Imelda Staunton, Mrs Forrester by Julia McKenzie, Mrs Jamieson by Barbara Flynn, Miss Tomkinson by Deborah Findlay, Lady Ludlow by Francesca Annis, Captain Brown by Jim Carter, Mr Buxton by Jonathan Pryce, William by Tom Hiddleston, Erminia by Michelle Dockery, Peggy Bell by Jodie Whittaker, Mrs Bell by Lesley Sharp, Edward by Matthew McNulty and Lord Septimus by Rory Kinnear.

Cranford is simulcast on the BBC HD channel – the BBC's High Definition channel, available through Freesat, Sky and Virgin Media.


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