Scripted by Heidi Thomas (I Capture The Castle, Madam Bovary, Lilies), this witty and poignant landmark drama captures the small absurdities and major tragedies in the lives of the people of Cranford, as they are besie...展开ged by forces they cannot hope to withstand.
In 1842, Cranford is a small rural Cheshire town on the cusp of great changes. Some people find romance and opportunities, while others fear the breakdown of social order.
Who will embrace the changes on offer by becoming modern?
Three Elizabeth Gaskell novels have been woven together to create this uniquely rich and comic drama about ordinary human lives during the course of one extraordinary year in this small town.
Jane Tranter, Controller, BBC Fiction, says: "To have Judi Dench, Sue Birtwistle and Heidi Thomas on one drama serial is an honour for BBC Drama.
"Cranford is a beautifully big and ambitious period drama - just the way we like them!
"The logistics of mounting such a production have inevitably taken a while to pull together, but the best things are well worth waiting for, and we are all very excited at the prospect of such a piece, and of welcoming Judi Dench back to the BBC."
Dame Judi will play Miss Matty Jenkyns, whose hopes and lively spirit were crushed when she was forced as a young woman to give up the man she loved and to live afterwards in the shadow of her elder sister, Deborah, the arbiter of correctness in Cranford.
Judi Dench says: "I am so excited to be doing Cranford. A summer of fun to look forward to!"
Producer Sue Birtwistle was the force behind the highly-acclaimed television productions of Pride And Prejudice and Wives And Daughters.
She says: "Five years ago, I made a wish: to be allowed to conjure an entirely new drama out of three Elizabeth Gaskell novels, and to persuade Judi Dench to play Miss Matty. Dream come true. Is one allowed to be this lucky?"
Further casting is to be announced.
The drama serial is produced by BBC Drama Production and WGBH in association with Chestermead Ltd.
Cranford begins filming in April 2007 in the Cotswolds and London.
The producer is Sue Birtwistle; executive producer is Kate Harwood for BBC Drama Production.
Cranford will follow critically-acclaimed classics such as Bleak House, To The Ends Of The Earth, Jane Eyre, The Way We Live Now, Our Mutual Friend and Andrew Davies' adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell's Wives And Daughters.