The BBC filmed the first two works of the Barsetshire series, The Warden and Barchester Towers as ‘The Barchester Chronicles’ in 1982.
Like the series of novels, the TV adaptation begins gently with The Warden, which is covered in the first two episodes. In it we are introduced to Mr Harding, and the Archdeacon’s family, whose progress Trollope follows in Barchester Towers and the remaining Barsetshire novels. It provides the background to the characters and the cathedral town of Barchester. In Episode Three the real fun begins, with the introduction of a batch of new characters including the new Bishop, his formidable wife Mrs Proudie, and the scheming chaplain Obadiah Slope. The scene is set for a battle royale, between the old established high-church dignitaries, and the new low church sabbatarians.
The fantastic cast is headed by Donald Pleasence, playing the ‘guiless’ Mr Harding; Nigel Hawthorne as the wordly and very excitable Archdeacon; Geraldine McEwan as the domineering virago Mrs Proudie. Alan Rickman plays the odius Mr Slope, and Susan Hampshire returns to Trollope, having played Lady Glencora in The Pallisers in 1974, as Madeline Stanhope.
The script is bright and witty, and Trollope’s sense of comedy is bought out wonderfully by the cast. Barchester Towers, Trollope’s most popular novel, is adapted beautifully and in a Radio Times readers’ poll came out as the most popular BBC classic serial.