50+ Delightful (Mostly) British Period Dramas on Acorn TV
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With so much attention given to modern British TV shows like Midsomer Murders, Agatha Raisin, Doc Martin, and Line of Duty, you'd be forgiven for thinking there aren't many good period dramas on Acorn TV – but you'd also be wrong.
British Period Dramas on Acorn TV: The Numbers
As of early April 2022, there were 331 titles on Acorn TV. Of those, 52 are period dramas (about 16% of their total programming in terms of titles – not hours). It's possible we might be missing one or two, since the “period drama” category on their website doesn't actually include all the period dramas on the service.
For those who are curious, the numbers at the last update of this post (early February 2021) were: 357 titles, 69 of which were period dramas (~19% of total programming).
The shows themselves range from extremely popular (like Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries or Foyle's War) to relatively obscure (like the early 80s series The Irish R.M.).
50+ Delightful (Mostly) British Period Dramas on Acorn TV
If you're looking for a period drama to tempt you, one of the 50+ below might be just the thing.
The Agatha Christie Hour – 1982 – This series is a collection of one-hour dramas based on Agatha Christie's short stories. Each of the adaptations feature talented casts with British actors like John Nettles (Midsomer Murders), Amanda Redman (The Good Karma Hospital), and Stephanie Cole (Doc Martin). Watch it HERE
Agatha Christie’s Marple – 2004 to 2013 – Julia McKenzie stars as the iconic sleuth of St. Mary Mead. At present, Acorn TV offers the three-episode Series 6. Watch it HERE
Agatha Christie’s Partners in Crime – 2015 – David Walliams (Little Britain) and Jessica Raine (Call the Midwife) star in this updated adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Tommy and Tuppence Beresford stories. Together, they solve mysteries and search for enemy spies in Cold War Britain. Watch it HERE
Agatha Christie’s The Witness for the Prosecution – 2016 – In 1920s London, a handsome townhouse is the setting for the brutal murder of Emily French, a glamorous young socialite. Toby Jones (Detectorists) and Kim Cattrall (Sex and the City) are among the members of this feature film’s all-star cast. Watch it HERE
And Then There Were None – 2015 – Based on the Agatha Christie novel of the same name (sometimes titled as Ten Little Indians or an even less polite name we won't include here), this miniseries adaptation follows a group of 10 strangers who've been invited to an island, only to be killed off one by one. Watch it HERE
A Place to Call Home – Australia – 2013 to 2018 – A mysterious woman begins a new life in Australia after World War II. Watch it HERE
A Suitable Boy – 2020 – This Andrew Davies (House of Cards) adaptation of Vikram Seth’s novel of the same name follows the story of a young woman coming of age in 1951 North India. The series filmed in India featuring Bollywood celebrities Ishaan Khatter and Tabu (Life of Pi) alongside rising star Tanya Maniktala in the central role of Lata. Watch it HERE
And Then There Were None – 2015 – Based on the Agatha Christie novel, this miniseries sees 10 strangers invited to an island, only to be killed off one by one. Watch it HERE
The Badness of King George IV – 2004 – Oliver Ford Davies (Star Wars: Episodes 1 and 2) plays the highly unpopular monarch in this film that explores his failings as a monarch. Watch it HERE
The Black Velvet Gown – 1991 – Set in 1830s Northumberland, this two-part film explores what happens when a mother and daughter are set apart by their shared ability to read and write. Watch it HERE
Bomb Girls – 2012 to 2013 – Set during World War II, BOMB GIRLS tells the remarkable stories of women who risked their lives in a munitions factory as they build bombs for the Allied Forces. The series stars Meg Tilly (The Big Chill), Jodi Balfour (Quarry), Charlotte Hegele (When Calls The Heart) and Ali Liebert (Ten Days in the Valley). Watch it HERE
Brief Encounters – 2016 – When a group of women start selling lingerie and other marital aids through at-home parties in the early 1980s, their lives are transformed. Watch it HERE
Close to the Enemy – 2016 – After WW2, a German engineer is taken to Britain in hopes of gaining his cooperation. Jim Sturgess (Across the Universe) and Charlotte Riley (Press) star. Watch it HERE
Conviction: The Case of Stephen Lawrence – 2021 – In 1993, Stephen Lawrence was killed during a racially-motivated attack in London. Steve Coogan stars as detective Clive Driscoll, the man who worked with the family to secure a conviction almost 20 years later. Watch it HERE.
The Crimson Petal & the White – 2011 – In late 1800s London, a prostitute finds her position greatly improved after becoming the mistress to a powerful man. Romola Garai (The Hour) stars as prostitute Sugar, with Chris O'Dowd (The IT Crowd) playing William Rackham, the perfume heir who becomes involved with her. Watch it HERE
Dalgliesh – 2021 – This Acorn TV Original period mystery is based on the Dalgliesh novels by P.D. James. The series follows a widowed, poetry-writing detective with a talent for solving homicides. Watch it HERE.
Dead Still – 2020 – Set in 1880s Ireland during the Victorian era of “postmortem photography,” this six-episode darkly comic murder mystery follows renowned memorial photographer Brock Blennerhasset (Michael Smiley, Luther, Kill List), who makes a living out of taking professional portraits of the recently deceased. Blennerhasset becomes targeted as a possible suspect in a series of murders when tenacious detective Frederick Regan (Aidan O’Hare, Jackie, Dublin Murders) drags him into an investigation of Dublin's criminal underbelly. Also starring Kerr Logan (Game of Thrones, Alias Grace) and Eileen O’Higgins (Mary Queen of Scots). Watch it HERE
Doctor Finlay – 1993 to 1996 – After WW2 and before the NHS is created, a doctor returns to his Scottish hometown. Watch it HERE
Dominion Creek – Ireland – 2015 to present – Three Irish brothers dream of striking it rich in the Klondike Gold Rush. Watch it HERE
The Field of Blood – 2011 to 2013 – Set in early 1980s Glasgow, a young woman skillfully solves murders on a police force full of men. Unfortunately, her dedication to the truth also puts her in danger with those who'd prefer to cover it up. The series stars BAFTA winner Jayd Johnson (River City) as Paddy Meehan, working alongside Peter Capaldi (Doctor Who) and David Morrissey (The Missing). Watch it HERE
Fingersmith – 2005 – In Victorian England, a young female thief hatches a plan to get close to an heiress and scam her. It doesn't go as planned. Watch it HERE
The Flame Trees of Thika – 1981 – Hayley Mills (Wild at Heart), David Robb (I, Claudius), and Holly Aird (Waking the Dead) star in this miniseries about a British family who relocate to British East Africa (now Kenya) to set up a coffee plantation. Watch it HERE
Foyle’s War – 2002 to 2015 – DCS Foyle fights a war against crime in southern England as WWII goes on around him. Michael Kitchen (The Life of Rock with Brian Pern) and Honeysuckle Weeks (The Five) star. Watch it HERE
George Gently – 2007 to 2017 – This series sees Martin Shaw playing DI George Gently, a 1960s investigator working in northern England. He's assisted by DS John Bacchus (played by Lee Ingleby). Watch it HERE
The Hour – 2011 – This period drama takes us behind the scenes during the launch of a new London news programme during the mid 1950s. Ben Whishaw (Spectre), Romola Garai (Emma), Dominic West (The Affair), and Peter Capaldi (Doctor Who) are among the cast members. Watch it HERE
I, Claudius – Sir Derek Jacobi (Last Tango in Halifax) and Sir Patrick Stewart (Star Trek) star in this BBC television adaptation of Robert Graves’ 1934 novel of the same name (along with its sequel, Claudius the God). The series covers the early history of the Roman Empire, with an elderly Emperor Claudius narrating. Watch it HERE
The Indian Doctor – 2010 to 2013 – An Indian doctor and his wife move to a small Welsh mining village during the 1960s. They have to adjust to culture shock, and Dr. Sharma must win the trust of the locals as their GP. Watch it HERE
The Irish R.M. – Ireland – 1983 to 1985 – When an Englishman leaves home to become an Irish Resident Magistrate, he quickly learns the normal rules don't apply with his eccentric new neighbours. Watch it HERE
Jericho – 2016 – This Yorkshire-based 1870s period drama tells the story of a community dominated by the construction of a new viaduct. Jessica Raine (Call the Midwife) stars. Watch it HERE
Jericho of Scotland Yard – 2005 – This period mystery gives us DI Michael Jericho, a WWII veteran who investigates murders while also seeking to figure out the circumstances surrounding his father’s death. Watch it HERE
Just William – 2010 – This BBC series follows the entertaining adventures of a mischievous 11-year-old boy, William Brown (Daniel Roche, Outnumbered), and his friends in 1950s England. The series takes us back to a fun, carefree time when kids could run off for the day and not return home until teatime. The series also includes appearances from Daniel Ryan (Home Fires), Caroline Quentin (Jonathan Creek), Lily James (Cinderella), and Warren Clark (Poldark). Watch it HERE
Lady Chatterley – 1993 – Sean Bean and Judy Richardson star in this adaptation of the scandalous DH Lawrence novel. Watch it HERE
Land Girls – 2009 to 2011 – Land Girls follows four women in the Women's Land Army during WW2. Watch it HERE.
The Life of Verdi – 1982 – This biographical miniseries tells the story of Giuseppe Verdi, composer of operas like Aida, Rigoletto, and La Traviata. Watch it HERE
Marvellous – 2014 – Toby Jones (Detectorists) stars in this drama about a man with learning disabilities who did better than anyone expected. Watch it HERE
The Mayor of Casterbridge – 2003 – Ciarán Hinds (Above Suspicion) and James Purefoy (Rome) star in this adaptation of Thomas Hardy's novel of the same name. It tells the story of a drunken farmer who auctions off his family, only to realise the horror of what he's done and change his life. Watch it HERE
Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries – Australian -2012 to 2015 – In 1920s Melbourne, Miss Phryne Fisher works as a skilled private detective. Essie Davis and Nathan Page star. Watch it HERE
Miss Fisher & The Crypt of Tears – Australian – 2020 – This movie is a continuation of the original Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries stories, and it premiered in early 2020. In this one, Essie Davis returns to the role of Phyrne in 1929 Jerusalem. There, she rescues a young Bedouin girl and finds herself on a globe-trotting adventure with her favourite handsome detective, Jack Robinson (Nathan Page). Watch it HERE
Ms. Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries – Australian – In this spin-off to the original Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries series, Phryne Fisher’s long-lost niece follows in her aunt’s footsteps as a 1960s lady detective with her own handsome officer. Geraldine Hakewill stars as Peregrine Fisher, and Joel Jackson plays Detective James Steed. Watch it HERE
Murdoch Mysteries – Canada – 2008 to present – Set in the 1890s, Murdoch uses early forensics to solve murders. Yannick Bisson stars as Detective William Murdoch, Helene Joy plays Dr. Julia Ogden, and Thomas Craig and Jonny Harris fill the roles of Inspector Thomas Brackenreid and Constable George Crabtree, respectively. Watch it HERE
The Mystery of a Hansom Cab – 2012 – Set in 1880s Melbourne, this period drama is based on the bestselling novel by Fergus Hume. It follows the murder of a man connected to a wealthy benefactor, along with an accused man unable to provide an alibi. Watch it HERE
Poldark – 1975 to 1977 – Based on the Poldark novels by Winston Graham, this series tells the story of a man who went off to fight a war and came back to find everything changed. Robin Ellis stars as Captain Ross Poldark in this older adaptation. Watch it HERE
Restless – 2012 – This two-part TV movie is based on a bestselling spy novel by William Boyd. It focuses on a young woman who finds out her mother was a spy for British intelligence during WWII, and that she's been on the run ever since. Watch it HERE
The Scapegoat – 2012 – Set in 1952, this period drama sees two men with similar faces switching places. The film is based on the novel by Daphne du Maurier, and Matthew Rhys (The Americans) stars. Watch it HERE
The Scarlet Pimpernel – 1982 – Jane Seymour, Anthony Andrews, and Sir Ian McKellen star in this period drama set during the French Revolution. While many aristocrats are facing the guillotine, quite a few have escaped thanks to the efforts of a young Englishman known as the “Scarlet Pimpernel”. The film is based on Baroness Orczy’s 1905 novel by the same name. Watch it HERE
The Secret Agent -2016 – Toby Jones (Detectorists) stars as Mr. Anton Verloc, a man who runs a sex shop in London's Soho neighbourhood while also spying on revolutionary groups for the Russian embassy. The series is based on Joseph Conrad's novel of the same name.
Therese Raquin – 1980 – Based on the novel by Emile Zola, this miniseries tells a tale of passion, obsession, and desperate acts. When first published, the novel was described as “putrid” by the newspaper Le Figaro, and it’s not recommended for young audiences. Watch it HERE
Turning Green – Ireland – 2005 – Set in the late 1970s, this period film follows a young Irish boy who's forced to live with his aunts after his mother dies. Desperate to make his way back to the US, he eventually finds himself selling dirty magazines to raise funds. Watch it HERE.
Vidago Palace – Portugal – 2017 – Set in 1936, this Portuguese romance is set at the Vidago Palace hotel where Europe’e elite flee from the Spanish Civil War. Watch it HERE
War & Peace – 2007 – Based on the Tolstoy novel, this series follows four aristocratic families during the Napoleonic era. Malcolm McDowell (A Clockwork Orange), Brenda Blethyn (Vera), Clemence Poesy (The Tunnel), and Ken Duken (Inglourious Basterds) are among the stars. Watch it HERE
The Way Back – 2010 – A group of prisoners escape from a Siberian gulag and trek across four thousand miles to reach freedom in India. Ed Harris, Colin Farrell, and Saoirse Ronan are among the stars. Watch it HERE
The Wipers Times – 2013 – Ben Chaplin, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Michael Palin, and Steve Oram star in this dramedy about the publication of a satirical newspaper during WWI. Based on a true story, the film celebrates the resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity. Watch it HERE
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