Lark Rise to Candleford

The BBC adaptation of Lark Rise to Candleford has this year been filling our TV screens, but the story dates back much further. Written by Flora Thompson, it was originally published as three individual stories between 1939 and 1943 – Lark Rise, Over to Candleford, and Candleford Green. These were combined into the trilogy Lark Rise to Candleford in 1945. All were published by Oxford University Press; below you can see Flora's signature on the original contract signed with the Press. When the Publisher Humphrey Milford retired, Lark Rise to Candleford was considered one of the most important new books issued under his control.

Flora Thompson was approaching old age when she wrote the stories. They are a semi-autobiographical account of her childhood and upbringing in the countryside of Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire. The names of places and people have been changed, but the parallels with her own life are clear. Flora is obviously the central character of Laura, and the three communities at the heart of the books are places close to her own heart - Lark Rise is Juniper Hill where she was born, Candleford is the nearby town of Buckingham, and Candleford Green is Fringford where she got her first job in the Post Office.

The stories offer a wonderful insight into the rural England of a bygone age. Her detailed descriptions of everyday life in the three communities show what county life must have been like in the late 19th century. The theme of agricultural reform is subtly explored, looking at the impact of economic change on a rural community like Lark Rise. Issues of poverty and inequality are also highlighted.

The book is still published today and is often used by schools as a way of studying the social history of England. It has inspired two plays that ran in London, and is now gaining new followers through the BBC series. The cover image shown here is OUP's own copy of the first edition of Lark Rise, reprinted as a fourth impression in 1944.