Region 2 Edition

Reviewed by Simon Dadd

Directors:  Henry Hibbert, Brian Farnham

Featuring:  Julian Glover, Rosalie Crutchley, Timothy Bentinck


This almost-forgotten BBC English Civil War drama ran for two series between 1983 and 1985. This first series follows the fortunes of the Lacey family, supporters of the King, and the divisions caused by the marriage of the eldest daughter to a prominent Parliamentarian. This series starts in 1640 and finishes in 1647 covering the more turbulent parts of the era.

The series is a lavish costume drama, filmed mostly in and around Rockingham Castle, and offers an insight into the way the Civil War affected everyday life. It also has a number of re-enacted battle scenes.

Series 1 stars Julian Glover, looking very like a youthful Richard Branson, cast as the patriarch of the Lacey family. A notable performance is given by Rosalie Crutchley, who had a long career before her death in 1997 (notably playing Catherine Parr in both Elizabeth R, and The Six Wives of Henry VIII). 

The series was one of the last of its kind: a family historic costume drama that was supposed to be taken seriously. A number of commentators have suggested that the series was aimed at children; this was definitely not the case. 


The first series consists of the two separate parts in Amray cases, housed in a cardboard sleeve. An attempt has been made to split a single picture across the spines of the two cases à la The Professionals, but they’ve used a poor quality image and it doesn’t really work. The picture on the box and sleeves has been lifted from a publicity shoot that was used on the front cover of Radio Times when the series first started. The set looks and feels like a budget release.

Navigation is via a simple static menu with options to Play All, or to access the individual episodes. Each fifty-five minute episode is split in four chapters, one of which is for the closing titles. There are ten episodes in total split over the four discs. Each pack contains one dual and one single layer disc (meaning the set could have been presented on three discs). The series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 4:3.

The dual layer discs both have an average bitrate of about 6.18Mb/s. This drops to 5.33Mb/s for the two single layer discs. Audio is Dolby 2.0 mono at 192kbps.

The cover art proudly boasts that the material has been ‘digitally restored’, but the quality of the image is uniformly poor, to the extent that it is difficult to see any signs of restoration. Many of the scenes are set inside buildings or at night-time. These scenes in particular exhibit a very indistinct picture (some of the screen-shots here have been brightened and sharpened). Most scenes are very coarse and grainy, and little better than would be expected from a video tape. When compared with other material of a similar age, the image is very sub standard.


The extras are limited to a list of Cast Filmographies and basic background information about the Civil War. The same extras appear on both parts of the set.


This is an extremely disappointing release. The series itself is well made and stands up well to the test of time, but the quality of the picture is dreadful, especially compared to some far older material that has been restored for release on DVD. There’s also the matter of extras. There is much material that could have been added to this (a documentary on the Civil War, or a commentary, for example). Those that have been included are very limited. All this might be understandable if this was a budget release, but the RRP for this set is an eye-watering £50. For this money I would expect far more. The price from online retailers is more realistic, but further discounting would be necessary before it became good value for money.

I was looking forward to seeing this series again. It’s a shame that Acorn seem to have put so little effort into this release. I hope that if and when the second series is released, greater attention will be paid to the restoration of the picture.  Aficionados of the series will no doubt enjoy seeing this again, but only if it is available at a heavily discounted price.












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