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The Darling Buds of May (TV series)

The Darling Buds of May
Series titles
Starring Pam Ferris
Philip Franks
David Jason
Catherine Zeta-Jones
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of series 3
No. of episodes 20 (list of episodes)
Running time 50 minutes approx.
Production company(s) Excelsior Productions
Yorkshire Television
Distributor ITV Studios
Original channel ITV
Picture format 4:3
Original release 7 April 1991 (1991-04-07) – 4 April 1993 (1993-04-04)

The Darling Buds of May is a British comedy drama first broadcast between 7 April 1991 and 4 April 1993. It is an adaptation of H. E. Bates' novel The Darling Buds of May, published in 1958, and its sequels.

It was produced by Yorkshire Television for the ITV network. It is set in an idyllic rural 1950s Kent, among a large, boisterous family, the Larkins. Yorkshire TV called it a drama but audiences and critics have generally considered it a comedy/drama.


  • Plot introduction 1
  • Production 2
  • Reception 3
  • Characters 4
  • Timeline of TV series 5
  • Episodes 6
    • Series 1 6.1
    • Series 2 6.2
    • Series 3 6.3
  • Home media 7
    • UK 7.1
    • Australia 7.2
  • References 8
  • External links 9

Plot introduction

The key characters in the show, based on Bates' first novel, are Sidney Charles "Pop" Larkin (David Jason), Florence "Ma" Larkin (Pam Ferris), who are unmarried, their eldest daughter Mariette (Catherine Zeta-Jones), and tax collector Cedric Charlton (Philip Franks), who is renamed Charley by the Larkins. Charley arrives at the beginning of the first episode to get Pop Larkin to fill in his tax forms. He is distracted when he falls in love with Mariette Larkin at first sight, and the Larkins distract him further by attempting to teach him to play crib and getting him drunk. In spite of a hangover, the next day, he becomes captivated by the idyllic country life led by the Larkins, and ends up a member of the family.


H. E. Bates wrote five books involving the Larkin family, the titles of the first four of which were used as episode titles for the TV series:

  • The Darling Buds of May (1958)
  • A Breath of French Air (1959)
  • When the Green Woods Laugh (1960)
  • Oh! To be in England! (1963)
  • A Little of What You Fancy? (1970)

"The darling buds of May" is from Shakespeare's sonnet 18: Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May. | And summer's lease hath all too short a date.

The first novel in the series was originally adapted to the screen in 1959 as The Mating Game, starring Debbie Reynolds and Tony Randall as Mariette and Charley.

The TV series was filmed at Pluckley, Kent and nearby locations.[1] The farm used known as Buss Farm and more recently 'Darling Buds Farm'. Little filming was done inside the farmhouse, the interiors having been shot in a studio but visitors are able to see all the external locations used around the grounds during that day. Scenes shot in the former Wennington School in Yorkshire were included.[2]

In June 1991, one of the lifts of Leas Lift in Folkestone was seen in an episode. David Jason, Pam Ferris, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Philip Franks, Anna Massey and Moray Watson all appeared on the lift.[3]


The show was a success, its "feel-good" factor during economic recession often noted as the reason. It began the acting career of Zeta-Jones. The three series, plus special episodes, are available on DVD.


Sidney Charles "Pop" Larkin, the eccentric and loving father. He has no regular employment but several projects and a succession of jobs provide income for the family. His money-making schemes are often a side plot in the episodes. Despite Pop's irregular income, the family does not lack money - among other things, they are able to afford holidays abroad, a swimming pool and boarding school for the twins. He is proud of his large family and involved in his children's lives. While Pop adores Ma, he is also close to other women, and never holds back from flirting and kissing. Ma is aware of this and doesn't appear to mind.

Florence Daisy "Ma" (Parker) Larkin, the mother of the family. She occasionally becomes involved in Pop's schemes, or creates a scheme of her own. However, she is usually cooking food, tending the garden, or caring for the children.

Mariette Larkin, the eldest Larkin child. Her name was created by combining 'Marie' and 'Antoinette'. In the first episode, she is shown to be the family beauty and slightly wild. However, she quickly marries Charley and settles down with him for the rest of the series. She appears to have inherited Pop's business sense, and at the end of the series she and Charley buy and manage a local brewery. Her wedding ceremony reveals her middle name as Jane.

Montgomery Larkin, the eldest son. He appears in the first and second series, at the end of which he begins attending naval college, with the aim of joining the merchant navy. (played by Ian Tucker)

Primrose Larkin, the second daughter, and the most intellectual of the family. She reads romantic poetry and dreams of love. She tries to seduce both Charley and the village minister but fails. She has other romances, one of which leads to her staying in France after a family vacation to remain with her love. Her full name is Primrose Violet Anemone Iris Magnolia Narcissa Larkin.

Zinnia and Petunia Larkin, the identical twins. In early episodes, the twins are often seen playing with Victoria. As they age, they see Victoria as an annoyance and avoid her. In the third series, the twins' mischief leads to their being removed from the village school, and they begin attending a boarding school, which they enjoy. They share the middle names June Florence Nightingale.

Victoria Larkin, the youngest daughter. She was named for being born during plum time. She played a significant role in the Christmas special, as she was the first to discover Tommy Mason hiding on the farm after his escape from prison. In later episodes, she has developed a cheeky and mischievous nature and enjoys teasing and embarrassing her siblings, especially the lovesick Primrose. In one case, her teasing led (indirectly) to Pop uncovering a scam he had been the victim of.

Oscar Larkin, the youngest child. He grows from an infant to a toddler throughout the series. His full name is Oscar Columbus Septimus Dupont Larkin.

Cedric "Charley" Charlton is Mariette's husband. He was a tax collector, but gave up his job after falling in love with Mariette and the Larkins' way of life. He holds on to some city ideas, though, and while his confidence develops considerably, he never fully acquires the Larkin sense of business. He and Mariette eventually buy a brewery.

John Blenheim Charlton, Mariette and Charley's son. He was born approximately one year after Oscar and both often play together and are cared for together. His full name is John Marlborough Churchill Blenheim Charlton. Although male, he is played by Daisy-May Bates, granddaughter of the author of the books.

Timeline of TV series

The first episode is based on the first book, written and set in 1958. However, by the last episode of the 3rd series, when the children are older and the babies have been conceived, born, and grown to toddlerhood, a close-up of a calendar reveals that we are still in 1959. The end of the final episode takes place on 5 November 1959 (Guy Fawkes Night).


Series 1

"The Darling Buds of May" (7 and 14 April 1991): Cedric Charlton, the tax inspector, arrives on Home Farm to help the Larkins fill in their tax form. He is distracted by their beautiful daughter, Mariette. The Larkins distract him further by attempting to teach him crib and getting him drunk. He wakes with a hangover, and is unfit to return home. Eventually, he forgets life in the office. He accompanies the family on their annual strawberry-picking trip, where he attracts Pauline Jackson, the local flirt. Mariette and Pauline fight for him but Mariette wins and the episode ends with Mr Charlton (called Charley by the family), proposing to Mariette, and Pop Larkin giving them his blessing.

"When the green woods laugh" (21 and 28 April 1991): The day of Charley and Mariette's wedding is looming. Pop sells a country mansion to an aristocratic couple. When Pop rejects the advances of Corrine Perrigo (Celia Imrie), she gets her revenge by persuading the woman to charge him with assault, when all he attempted was stop her from falling. The Brigadier is best man for the wedding. Eventually, Pop is found innocent and the wedding goes ahead.

"A breath of French air" (5 and 12 May 1991): The Larkins go on holiday to Brittany. The weather is appalling, the food revolting, the receptionist unfriendly. The weather improves, and a mechanic sees the crest on the doors of Mr Larkin's car and thinks him a lord. As a result, he is treated better, even by the receptionist, Molet. The hotel patronne, Mademoiselle Dupont, gives Pa and Ma her room. Primrose, the second daughter, falls in love with a local boy named Marc Antoine and wants to stay in France. Tension springs up between Charley and Mariette when she attracts local young men and wants to spend time with them on the beach. She refuses to go on a miniature railway with Charlie. Incensed, Charlie says he will go on his own. The train is late and he wanders into a bar, where he meets a tomboy and her pals. They get him drunk; he misses his train and has to be escorted home by Pop. But he sobers up at the sight of Mariette playing in the sea with her new friends. Charley drags her away, and tells her she will come on the train with him next day whether she likes it or not. Mariette surrenders and enjoys it. The Larkins get together with the tomboy, Max (short for Maxime), and Angela Snow (who, by a coincidence, is also visiting Brittany) and her sister Iris, who with the hotel staff organise a wedding anniversary celebration for Charley and Mariette.

"Christmas is coming!" (22 December 1991): As Christmas approaches, Charley and Mariette go to view a house to rent, unaware that Tommy Mason, an escaped convict is hiding there. Pop later discovers him in the Larkins' hen-house where Victoria is taking food to him. He explains that, since his imprisonment, his wife has severed all ties with him but he is anxious to see his children. Pop usually dresses as Father Christmas to give local children toys but Charley suggests Tommy play the part so he can see his children, which he does, as well as making up with his wife and then returning to prison. Mrs Mason and her children join the throng already invited to spend Christmas Day with the Larkins.

Series 2

"Oh! to be in England!" (26 January and 2 February 1992): Mam'selle Dupont comes to stay with the Larkins, and discovers the truth – Mr. Larkin is not a lord. She is disappointed but comes to terms with it, and enjoys her stay. Pop saves an old woman from being cheated, and buys a fair from his friend, Fruity Pears, who is unable to run it after being attacked by thugs. Primrose's relationship with the French boy has fizzled out; back in the UK she falls for Mr Candy, the young vicar in charge of christening the young Larkins ... and a newly arrived Charlton.

"Stranger at the gates" (9 and 16 February 1992): A young man named Pieter who says he is Danish arrives on the farm, and starts doing odd jobs for the people in the village. Everyone, including Mariette, thinks he's the bee's knees, much to the resentment of Charley. Meanwhile, Montgomery is being bullied by local boys, and Primrose is attempting to win Mr. Candy's heart. She mistakes his sister for a girlfriend, and angrily leaves him. Charley discovers that Pieter is German and has been hiding his identity because of the anti-German sentiment in post-World War II Britain. The villagers turn against him on this discovery, but Pieter is restored to favour again after he rescues one of the village children from a quarry ledge. The Larkins arrange for Pieter to marry his sweetheart, an English girl named Eileen.

"A season of heavenly gifts" (23 February and 1 March 1992): Pop Larkin unwittingly becomes involved in smuggling when he receives gifts from a grateful pilot he helped after a crash-landing. Meanwhile, an evil Polish man named Mr. Cope attempts to prevent Charley and Mariette from buying Mrs Kinthley's hopgarden. The pilot invites the family to a party at his club, which they greatly enjoy. Montgomery Larkin is unhappy at Naval College, where he is training to be a sailor. The family go to his Open Day; the Brigadier goes along and helps them solve the problem by showing Pop how to humiliate the bullying instructor, Strickland.

"Le Grand Weekend" (26 December 1992): Pop and Ma's proposed week-end in Paris is disrupted by a storm, and they spend the time in a country house.

Series 3

"The happiest days of your life" (28 February and 7 March 1993): The twins go to boarding school, while Charley starts doing the books as a part-time job for the brewery to which he wishes to sell his hops. Charley and Mariette decide to buy the brewery. The whole family repairs the twins' boarding school, which was otherwise going to be forced to close by the bank for not keeping up with the repairs.

"Cast not your pearls before swine" (14 and 21 March 1993): Pop builds a swimming-pool, and buys two hundred pigs from a confidence trickster who is also cheating Edith, who has fallen in love with him. Meanwhile, Primrose has a new love interest – a member of the swimming pool building crew, from Liverpool. Pop prepares a trick against George Harran to put all to rights without hurting Edith. Primrose runs away to Liverpool in pursuit of her love, but returns home when she realises he is not the man for her.

"Climb the greasy pole" (28 March and 4 April 1993): Pop runs for rural councillor while Charley and Mariette struggle at the brewery and have problems in their relationship. Gypsies get involved in Pop's campaign for rural councillor. Charley and Mariette have to work on their marriage, after which they at last finalise the deal to buy Bristow's brewery.

Home media

The complete series of The Darling Buds of May is available in countries such as United Kingdom and Australia.


  • The Best of The Darling Buds of May (15 July 2002)
  • The Darling Buds of May: The Perfect Collection (10 November 2003)
    • From Cinema Club; contains all 20 episodes (rated PG)
  • The Darling Buds of May: The Complete Series - Special Edition (7 February 2005)
    • From ITV Studios; contains all 20 episodes & exclusive interviews (rated PG)
  • The Darling Buds of May: The Complete Series (1 September 2008)
    • From ITV Studios; contains all 20 episodes & exclusive commentary (rated PG)
  • The Darling Buds of May: The Complete 20th Anniversary Collection (8 August 2011)
    • From ITV Studios; contains all 20 episodes (rated PG)

Note: The 2008 and 2011 DVD sets from ITV Studios list that there are 11 episodes; this is due to the fact that all episodes in series 1-3 (not including the specials) contain two parts making them count as a whole.


  • The Darling Buds of May: Series One (3 March 2007)[4]
    • From Shock Records; Special 2-Disc Edition - contains all 6 episode & bonus episode "Christmas is Coming" (rated PG)
  • The Darling Buds of May: Series Two (5 May 2007)[5]
    • From Shock Records; Special 2-Disc Edition - contains all 6 episode & bonus episode "La Grande Weekend" (rated G)
  • The Darling Buds of May: The Complete Collection (29 March 2008)[6]
    • From Shock Records; contains all 20 episodes (rated PG)
  • The Darling Buds of May: The Complete Collection (6 February 2013)[7]
    • From Reel DVD; contains all 20 episodes (contains same packaging as UK 2011 release) (rated PG)


  1. ^ Kent Film Office. "Kent Film Office Darling Buds of May Film Focus". 
  2. ^ Darling buds classic car show, UK .
  3. ^ Taylor, Alan F. (2002). Folkestone Past and Present. Somerset: Breedon Books. pp. 22–24.  
  4. ^ "The Darling Buds Of May Series 1 on DVD". Retrieved January 15, 2015. 
  5. ^ "The Darling Buds Of May Series 2 on DVD". Retrieved January 15, 2011. 
  6. ^ "The Darling Buds Of May The Complete Collection Collectors Edition on DVD". Retrieved January 15, 2015. 
  7. ^ "The Darling Buds Of May Complete Collection on DVD". Retrieved January 15, 2015. 

External links

  • The Darling Buds of May at the Internet Movie Database
  • Darling Buds Farm – Kent farm location used for the TV series. 
  • Darling Buds Cookery Courses - cookery course at the Kent farm location used for the TV series. 
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