Sunday, December 20 9.00-10.30pm
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?
Cranford – Part Two:
October To December 1844
Sunday, December 27 9.00-10.30pm
Miss Matty and the ladies of Cranford are excited about the imminent visit of Lady Glenmire, as the two-part Cranford special reaches a conclusion. That is until the Hon Mrs Jamieson announces that none of them is of high-enough social standing to meet her. Deeply hurt, Miss Matty leads the Amazons in snubbing both the newcomer and her hostess. But sociable Lady Glenmire is quick to offer an olive branch by hosting a memorable Halloween party, which results in the forging of new friendships.
Impressed by Edward Bell's ambitions and hurt by his own son's defiance, Mr Buxton takes on Edward to act as his land agent. But Edward makes a disastrous decision that has dire consequences not only for himself but also for Peggy, whose fortitude and courage will be tested to the limit.
Meanwhile, Matty is distressed when a surprising discovery about one of their close circle results in a serious falling out among the friends. Mrs Jamieson and Miss Pole split from the group and Matty is uncertain about how to bring them all back together again.
Matty is also deeply affected by Peggy's crisis. Knowing painfully well the cost of sacrificing one's personal happiness for the sake of family obligations, Matty decides to intervene in events to help Peggy. But when tragedy strikes the town, she comes to believe that, unwittingly, she has opened a Pandora's box and fears that Cranford will never recover.BBC's Cranford actresses say secret to success is no Botox