Victorian Era 1837 – 1901

In the history of the United Kingdom, the Victorian era was the period of Queen Victoria’s reign, from 20 June 1837 until her death on 22 January 1901. The era followed the Georgian period and preceded the Edwardian  period, and its later half overlaps with the first part of the Belle Époque era of France and continental Europe. In terms of moral sensibilities and political reforms, period began with the passage of the Reform Act 1832. There was a strong religious drive for higher moral standards led by the nonconformist churches, such as the Methodist, and the Evangelical wing of the established Church of England. Moral standards improved very dramatically, especially for the middle class. The period was peaceful among the Great Powers, with only one mid-sized international war. Britain enjoyed strong naval superiority, leadership worldwide in manufacturing, finance, railways, shipping, and entrepreneurship. Britain embarked on global imperial expansion, particularly in Asia and Africa, which made the British Empire the largest empire in history. National self-confidence peaked.

Ideologically, the Victorian era witnessed resistance to the rationalism that defined the Georgian period and an increasing turn towards romanticism and even mysticism with regard to religion, social values, and arts.

North and South 2004

Set in the 1850s, Gaskell’s novel tells the story of Margaret Hale, a vicar’s daughter from the south of England, whose family moves to the northern industrial town of Milton. There she meets the owner of one of the largest local cotton mills, John Thornton. Used to the genteel society of the south, she struggles to adjust to the grime and poverty of the busy mill town at the heart of the Industrial Revolution. She clashes repeatedly with Thornton, critical of his manner of doing business and his treatment of his workers. But gradually they grow closer and come to understand each other. It’s a ‘social problem’ novel with a compelling love story at the heart of it.

An industrial novel by a lesser-known 19th century writer is an unlikely subject for a popular period drama and the BBC can be forgiven for having had modest ambitions for their adaptation.

But it was an unexpected success. Broadcast in four episodes on Sunday evenings in November and December 2004, it was watched by more than 6 million viewers – many of them women who fell in love with John Thornton, as portrayed by Richard Armitage.

Hundreds of them overwhelmed the BBC Drama message boards with messages about the drama and in particular, its hero. Soon the BBC had to set up a separate message board for North and South discussions. The phenomenon of so many women taking to an Internet message board for the first time because of their love for this programme became the subject of an article by Anne Ashworth in The Times. She wrote,

The BBC Drama website contains the outpourings of hundreds of thirty and fortysomething women for this year’s romantic hero. He is John Thornton, the northern millowner in Mrs Gaskell’s North & South, recently serialised on BBC One. Thornton was played smoulderingly by the previously little-known Richard Armitage as a blue-eyed, dark-haired stunner, the Darcy de nos jours. On the messageboard, character and actor merge into one object of desire: RA/JT. […]

Victorian : Richard Armitage and Daniela Denby-Ashe   |    Website:    |    fan fiction

The Elephant Man  2019   BBC

The 2×90 minute drama biopic, from The Missing and Requiem producer New Pictures, will chart Merrick’s extraordinary story from his working-class beginnings in Leicestershire, through the work-houses, music halls and freak shows that punctuated 19th Century culture to his time at the London Hospital and his friendship with Dr Frederick Treves.

Commissioned by Piers Wenger, Controller of BBC Drama, and Charlotte Moore, Director of BBC Content, and written by Neil McKay (Moorside), the series will be directed by Richard Laxton (Mum). Executive producers are Elaine Pyke and Charlie Pattinson for New Pictures and Tommy Bulfin for BBC. Producer is Tom Mullens (Poldark). all3media will handle international distribution and is associate producer.

The series will be filmed in Wales with transmission due next year with additional casting under way.

The iconic Merrick has been the subject of countless medical studies, screen and stage performances. Born in the UK city of Leicester in 1862, at the age of five he began to develop physical deformities to his skin, face, arms and feet. When he was 11, his mother died from bronchopneumonia, his father soon remarried and by 17 he was a resident of the workhouse after his relationship with his father deteriorated. Seeking to escape the workhouse several years later, Merrick found his way into a human oddities show in London where he was exhibited as ‘The Elephant Man’. He met Treves in 1884, after the doctor had witnessed Merrick being exhibited in a shop across the road from the London Hospital. Treves brought Merrick to the hospital where he lived until his death in 1890, aged 27.

Among the many performers to portray Merrick have been David Schofield, David Bowie, Mark Hamill, and most recently Bradley Cooper in his West End theatre debut. In 1980, David Lynch famously directed John Hurt in a haunting classic which won BAFTAs for Best Film and Best Actor and scored eight Oscar noms.

Heaton, who plays Jonathan Byers in Netflix smash Stranger Things and recently wrapped on 2019 Marvel pic The New Mutants, said, “I’m extremely excited and honoured to be given the opportunity to take on the portrayal of Joseph Merrick in the BBC’s adaption of The Elephant Man. This is such a special role and a challenge for any actor. Joseph has such an incredible story and I can’t wait to go on this journey and bring him to life.”

Pyke, executive producer for New Pictures, added, “Joseph’s determination to be his own man, to earn a living, to find a sense of freedom and to express himself is inspiring to all. Neil McKay’s beautiful script captures this extraordinary story and we are thrilled that Charlie Heaton is going to play Joseph.”

Victorian:  BBC

 Far From the Maddening Crowd     

THE STORY (no spoilers): Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan) arrives to live with her aunt Mrs. Hurst on a farm in Wessex (partially fictionalized region in south west England) and befriends a neighbor Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts) who is renting a sheep farm next to them. He has loans, but improving fortunes that will bring him prosperity and his own land someday. Bathsheba is intelligent and beautiful, but has little fortunes of her own. Though Gabriel declares his interest in marriage, Bathsheba is independent and doesn’t wish to be tied down. The tide of fortunes will swirl for each of them and Bathsheba inherits a lucrative property of her own. She quickly proves that she is an able and benevolent land holder. Circumstances will bring the two together again, but Bathsheba will attract three potential suitors. A neighboring squire Mr. William Boldwood (Michael Sheen) is the wealthy gentleman to Gabriel’s noble-hearted worker class. Both seem a little awkward around women. Contrast that with the third prospect, Sergeant Francis Troy (Tom Sturridge) portrayed as a gallant and ladies’ man. Each of them will try to solve the puzzle that is Bathsheba Eberdene.