Lark Rise to Candleford is a BBC television series based on a trilogy of semi-autobiographical novels by Flora Thompson: Lark Rise, Over to Candleford, and Candleford Green.
The series is set in the 1890s, with the action taking place in the rural village of Lark Rise, and the neighbouring town of Candleford (both fictional), both situated in Oxfordshire. The series is told from the perspective of Laura Timmins, a young Lark Rise girl sent to live and work in the Candleford post office with her mother Emma's cousin, the postmistress Dorcas Lane. Many of the show's storylines are driven by the contrast between the rural setting of Lark Rise and the more urbane Candleford, and the clashes that these differences produce between the residents of both. Lark Rise residents include Laura's family (her parents Robert and Emma and her four younger siblings), Twister and Queenie Turrill and the Arless family. Candleford residents include postman Thomas Brown, his wife Margaret and the Pratt sisters, who own and run Candleford's dress shop.
Producing over four seasons' worth of hour-long episodes, it strikes a balance between always making sure the Reset Button is pushed and creating a dynamic, Soap Opera-style storyline rather than sticking close to the text and only showing one serial, in the manner of other BBC period dramas. It was cancelled in 2011, and despite a fan outcry, resolutely remains that way.
The books are written along the lines of memoirs but provided little in the way of complete stories for a television writer to adapt successfully without making a lot up to keep a modern viewer entertained, so there is surprisingly little overlap with the book, at least in the way the stories are played out. Laura's family in Candleford is conveniently ignored (or pressed into service elsewhere, in the case of JD) and Candleford and Candleford Green are separate places, with Laura's family in Candleford and Dorcas Lane and the Pratts (who live with their father) in Candleford Green. Flora Thompson regularly mentions what happens to the characters later on, with obvious references to the Boer War, the Great War, the future of Mr. and Mrs. Timmins and the contrasts between the 1930s (the books were written during the first half of World War II) and the 1890s. She points out what was already fading from public consciousness and the book itself was a Nostalgia Filter of sorts, mentioning the delights of a bath in the 1890s as against the spartan nature of modern bathroom conveniences and that her mother, yearning for an income of 30 shillings a week, ended up getting that as a pension in the first half of the 20th century when it did not go nearly as far as it had in the late 19th century.
The book also has a lot of stories unsuitable perhaps for a modern audience: Laura's relatives have very antediluvian views about the Irish, Sir Timothy and his wife are not at loggerheads and do not wash their dirty linen in public, still less with Dorcas any way involved with the squire romantically, and there is a good bit of the books devoted to children's jobs (particularly the girls who go into service at the age of 12 on a trial year or "petty place"). Laura's age is increased from 14 to 16, probably to appeal to modern sentiments in this way and avoid questions about child labour (except in picturesque, viewer-friendly ways such as harvesting). Laura and Edmund are kept away from school originally because their parents always intend to move to "the market town" (not Candleford, and never named). The long walk to Candleford, smoothed over in the TV series to keep the flow of traffic from Candleford to Lark Rise moving, is detailed with painstaking accuracy as Laura and Edmund walk there in the summer to stay with their cousins - and take an entire day to do so.
Much of the romance has had to be concocted for modern tastes too; Philip White and Daniel Parrish (Godfrey Parrish in the book) are mentioned as romantically involved with Laura, but Fisher Bloom is a creation of the TV writers and Alf is not involved with Minnie, who is Miss Lane's telegraph runner and therefore a postgirl in her own right, rather than a clumsy maid. Interestingly enough, the bicycles, which play a prominent part in "Candleford Green", are mentioned as being the prompt for a lot of female emancipation, which is dealt with in the TV series with Hattie Morahan's character shocking Pearl Pratt by her "rational dress" and turning it into an explicitly political issue.
Dorcas is portrayed almost as the victim of Dawson Casting; her age is not an issue in the TV series, but in the book she is mentioned as being a "crusty old lady" of fifty. Similarly the actress playing Adelaide is a lot younger than she appears onscreen (and is implied to be in the book).
The music in the TV adaptation, however, is lifted directly from the book, with many of the songs people sing having been written down in the memoir, particularly Lotty Collins' "Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay" and its parodies, one of which is placed in Minnie's mouth in the TV series but was mostly bastardized by the men in a suggestive manner. "The Three Tinkers" which the Pratt sisters' father sings, is actually a children's game.
- Abusive Parents: Minnie's step-father.
- Adaptational Attractiveness: Dorcas, called "crusty" in the book, is played by the elegently beautiful Julia Sawalha.
- Anachronism Stew: Caroline Arless being sent to debtor's prison. It was abolished thirty years before the series is supposed to have taken place. Other period details are relatively correct for the 1890s - Robert Timmins carves 1895 onto Mr J.D.'s clock - but the Other Wiki lists some creative chronology.
- As the Good Book Says...: Thomas Brown, frequently.
- Bittersweet Ending: The Series 1 finale Dorcas is able to keep the post office in business due to Thomas not delivering the letter that would have had her sell the post office. But, Zillah ends up dying at the end of the episode.
- Call-Back: Queenie forgets the lyrics she was going to sing for the squire and his wife in the first episode. Seasons later, she mentions it when Lady Adelaide returns and they give a skit for her.
- When Gabriel first arrives, Queenie lets him drink from the well and has a discussion with him about whether or not he can taste the rain in it. The next time he drinks from the Lark Rise well, she repeats her question.
- Cannot Spit It Out: Candleford squire Sir Timothy Midwinter and his childhood Girl Next Door, Dorcas.
- Thomas Brown and Margaret Ellison- They Do in series two
- Alf Arless and Minnie
- Chekhov's Gun: The wages Edmund loses.
- Gabriel's bell.
- Chickification: Dorcas, occasionally, particularly when an older man arrives in Candleford - Sir Timothy, Mr Delafield, Mr J.D., Gabriel. Thankfully it usually keeps to UST rather than being fully explored, but despite her frosty and capable exterior, Dorcas has a heart as easily breakable as anyone else's. However, given the premise of the original book, it seems the TV writers needed to do this to make her a more sympathetic and interesting character for a modern audience.
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Twister Turrill.
- The Ditz: Minnie, but a combination of Hidden Depths and Character Development ensures that she might not always embody this trope.
- Do Not Call Me "Paul": Pearl and Ruby Pratt Their birth names are Prudence and Ruth.
- Fridge Horror: the book inserts a lot of asides about what happened to Laura's family. Thinking about it from the perspective of history, Laura and Edmund's generation was the one providing the soldiers for World War I and needless to say Edmund's name is added to the war memorial when constructed; Flora Thompson was writing in the context of World War II and lost her own brother to the Great War. Surprisingly for a British nostalgia trip set in this period, the war is never mentioned in the TV series, even in the "adult Laura" narration by Sarah Lancashire which is conceived as a way of conveying the style of the books, which are written as memoirs rather than fiction.
- The Gay '90s: The time-period the series is set in.
- Happily Adopted: Minnie, after a fashion. And Sidney Dowland.
- Hypocritical Humour: Dorcas Lane has a tendency to describe whatever food/object/activity she's about to indulge in as 'my one weakness'
- In Name Only: Many of the characters taken from Thompson's novels. The novels seem to have been the starting point for many of the stories, but the books read like a documentary or non-fiction memoir rather than a single novel or series of complete short stories, so a lot of the characters are composites of numerous people mentioned in the books.
- In the series James Dowland is a successful businessman and the love interest of Dorcas Lane. In the books, he's the brother-in-law of Laura's mother Emma and is mentioned when the family go to visit him, though Laura spends more time with a shoemaker uncle, Tom.
- Queenie and Twister stand in for the numerous elderly folk mentioned.
- Intrepid Reporter: Daniel Parrish, who first comes to Lark Rise with a potential big scoop involving Laura's parents.
- Loads and Loads of Characters
- Massive Numbered Siblings: The Timmins, Arless, and apparently Brown families, although the Arlesses get bumped back to three.
- Love Triangle: Laura has to make a choice between Fisher and Daniel at the end of series three. She chooses Daniel.
- Dorcas, Timothy, and Adelaide have one early on.
- Philip and Alf compete for Laura's affections in the first season.
- Laura is quite keen to split up Alf and Nan, when they get together.
- Parental Abandonment: The Arless kids
- Sidney Dowland-James leaves his son in Dorcas' care to go and rebuild his fortunes in London so that he can come back and raise Sidney properly.
- Pearl and Ruby. Their mother died and they couldn't count on their father, so Pearl more or less raised her younger sister.
- Thomas' parents were awful at child rearing, leaving him to raise his siblings, and so afraid of doing what his parents did he for a while tells Margaret he wants no children.
- Pragmatic Adaptation: the book and the TV series have little in common but a lot of the content of the book would not have made good television, largely due to the stories being unresolved (Caroline Arless' debts), ending in very anti-climactic ways (Mrs Macey's husband, who is ill in prison in the book, and ends up in London after release a year later with his wife and son, who leave Candleford without the fanfare or spiteful gossip of the television story) or dramatically not very exciting (the Squire's relationship with Dorcas Lane being merely a professional one and fairly unromantic is turned into a story of love across a social divide). It raises a lot of questions about what modern audiences expect from a period drama and what the actual situation was.
- The eight mile walk between Candleford and Lark Rise is trivial in the TV series, probably to keep the stories flowing nicely, but in the book, it is not stated that the hamlet folk ever go, and in fact it even takes the Timminses years to get round to going to see their relatives there. What makes it rather egregious is the fact that it is stated to be eight miles in the very first episode, but it never again provides the insuperable barrier it proves in the books, even with people much more accustomed to walking than in modern times.
- Promotion to Parent: Alf Arless is left to look after his younger siblings when his mother leaves Lark Rise to seek employment with his father.
- Pearl essentially raised Ruby after their mother's death.
- Thomas was more or less a parent to all of his siblings.
- Put on a Bus: After being rejected by Dorcas, Sir Timothy leaves Candleford for London with Lady Adelaide at the end of the first series; he has not returned since. Lady Adelaide returned briefly in series three.
- Caroline Arless and James Dowland in series two. Caroline returns in the final episode of series four.
- Nan Carter between series two and series three. Alf seems to dump her very quickly in favour of Minnie, for some unknown reason.
- Robert Timmins leaves to take a job in Oxford for the last two episodes of series three and is absent through series four (Brendan Coyle was filming Downton Abbey).
- Unrequited Love Switcheroo: For a long time, Alf pursues Laura. She shoots him down. Alf begins to date Nan. Cue Laura's jealousy and interference.
- Unwanted Spouse: Lady Adelaide Midwinter.
- Will They or Won't They?: Sir Timothy and Dorcas in series one; James Dowland and Dorcas in series two.
- Victorian Novel Disease: Inserted in the TV series. The post office inspector in the book isn't troubled by a lost love; we do see him remonstrating with Thomas Brown, yet in the modern adaptation they go the whole Victorian hog and have him won round by Dorcas' encouragement and nursing skills.