South Riding (2011)

TV Mini-Series  |  Drama
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In 1930s Yorkshire, a spirited new headmistress brings inspiration and modern ideas to an all girls' school and shakes up the more conservative-minded residents of South Riding.

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Series cast summary:
 Sarah Burton (3 episodes, 2011)
 Robert Carne (3 episodes, 2011)
 Mrs. Beddows (3 episodes, 2011)
Katherine McGolpin ...
 Midge Carne (3 episodes, 2011)
Charlie May-Clark ...
 Lydia Holly (3 episodes, 2011)
 Joe Astell (3 episodes, 2011)
Ian Bartholomew ...
 Gaius Drew (3 episodes, 2011)
 Mr. Holly (3 episodes, 2011)
 Anthony Snaith / ... (3 episodes, 2011)
John Henshaw ...
 Alfred Huggins (3 episodes, 2011)
 Muriel Carne (3 episodes, 2011)
 Young Robert Carne (2 episodes, 2011)
Brid Brennan ...
 Miss Sigglesthwaite (2 episodes, 2011)
Jennifer Hennessy ...
 Mrs. Holly (2 episodes, 2011)
 Mrs. Brimsley (2 episodes, 2011)
Alexandra Pearson ...
 Gertie Holly (2 episodes, 2011)
Penny Layden ...
 Mrs. Huggins (2 episodes, 2011)
Janine Mellor ...
 Bessy Warbuckle (2 episodes, 2011)
Renny Krupinski ...
 Hicks (2 episodes, 2011)
John-Paul Hurley ...
 Reg Aythorne (2 episodes, 2011)


Set in the 1930s, Britain is in depression and still scarred by the effects of World War I. Young and passionate Sarah Burton returns to her conservative home-county, bursting with modern ideas. As the new headmistress in South Riding, she inspires her girls --including Lydia Holly, a scholarship student from the slums-- to think for themselves. But not everyone sees eye-to-eye with Miss Burton. She finds a few allies, Joe Astell being one; but the sparks really start to fly when she crosses paths with Robert Carne, a haughty landlord whom she despises... Written by L. Hamre

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

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A tale of conflicted love at the heart of a community in turmoil



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Release Date:

2011 (UK)  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
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Featured in Breakfast: Episode dated 17 February 2011 (2011) See more »

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User Reviews

Apart from a rather rushed final episode, South Riding is very, very good
8 April 2011 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

I saw South Riding as a fan of period dramas, and loved it. I received the book as a get well present while recovering in hospital from a major spinal operation, and I will say I have read few books apart from The Little White Horse and And Then There Were None, where I was engrossed right from its first word. Then I saw the series again, and was still very impressed by it, though I do think the book is better in many ways.

South Riding by Winifred Holtby has a very rich story that tells of a community's spirit tested to its limits, and of the hopes, fears and relationships of its inhabitants as they face a changing world. This story which is also very bold and ambitious is beautifully told, with wonderfully written and wholly credible characters, and maintains an emotional impact long after finishing. This adaptation of South Riding does do a respectable job adapting this magnificent book. It is rather condensed yes, but the characters while lacking the complexity of their book counterparts are still credible and don't fall into the trap of becoming caricatures, the story is swiftly told and emotionally resonant and most of the situations, language and relationships are intact and done well.

My complaint of South Riding though is that it felt rather rushed in the last episode. Not just in the pace, which I do think could have been slowed down much more than it was, but also in how some relationships and plot points were developed. I did feel at one point there was a little too much happening and some components were explained in a hurry in an attempt to explain everything before the running time was over. I also think South Riding was too short, it was only 3 episodes, in my opinion to explain so much and to give credibility to so many characters it should have been 5 or 6. And this is a shame, because while the final episode was far from unwatchable in fact it was decent enough on its own merits, the other two episodes made for compulsive viewing.

Complaints aside, South Riding is very, very good on its own terms and one of my favourites on television airing this year. The writing is strong being thoughtful, eloquent and poignant to say the least, and the direction is appropriately skilled. The pace is spot on in the first two episodes, not too rushed not too slow, but it is a disappointment really that it felt rushed by the end. The music is very beautiful and hypnotic sometimes, manages to enhance the drama and very rarely does it feel overbearing. What really impressed me about South Riding were the production values which were stunning, not just in the elegant camera work but also in the authentic costumes and beautiful scenery and location shooting.

The acting is very good. Anna Maxwell Martin has grown as an actress since I saw her in 2005's outstanding Bleak House, and she does a wonderful job portraying a forward-thinking, ambitious and a-woman-of-the-times sort of woman in the name of Sarah Burton. David Morrisey is every bit as good as Robert Carne, a man who represents everything Sarah detests in that he stands firmly against Sarah's ideals but also has a tormented past. There is a strong supporting cast, particularly of note is the wonderful Penelope Wilton as Mrs Beddows.

All in all, a solid adaptation and an overall excellent mini-series. After watching I was debating whether to give it an 8 or a 9, instead I settled with a solid 8.5/10. Bethany Cox

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