1 9 7 9 (UK)
3 x 60 minute episodes
Set in a rural backwater, William Trevor’s trilogy Matilda’s England portrayed an England soon to be lost forever in the idyllic story of a child growing up in Somerset in the 1930s in a society in which everyone knew their place and was happy to remain in it.
Seen through the memories of 50-year-old Matilda Tyzack (Anna Calder-Marshall), the BBC series chronicled the effect of the Second World War on this tranquil scene.
The Tyzak family – Matilda (played as a child by June Hooper), her older sister Betty (Holly De Jong), her brother Dick (Nigel Pratt), her practical and comforting mother (Pat Keen) and her kindly but insensitive father (Geoffrey Greenhill) – live on a farm which was once part of the estate of a nearby manor house, but now the estate is overrun and the house is in disrepair.
Mrs Ashburton (Celia Johnson), an elderly eccentric, lives there entirely alone and the children’s shortcut from the village school to their farm passes through her grounds.
One day they meet the strange Mrs Ashburton, and a curious friendship develops between the old woman and 10-year-old Matilda.
Matilda and her siblings decide to restore the unkempt tennis court in the grounds of the house, and as work continues during the summer months of 1939, the old lady unravels her sorrowful past to young Matilda. She recalls the manor house in the great days before the Great War when there were children, parties and charades – and how things changed when her husband returned from the war, mad, and drank himself to death.
Very little happened and the high light of a languorous summer was a tennis party but the author’s skilfully woven fabric did not depend on events so much as the exploration of character and relationships, and a large supporting cast added depth and perspective to the story.
As the story progressed, the distant tremors that indicated the earthquake to come gained in significance.
Holly De Jong
Pam St. Clement
The Tennis Court | The Summer House | The Drawing Room