Keeping Up Appearances

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Keeping Up Appearances
Genre Sitcom
Created by Roy Clarke
Written by Roy Clarke
Directed by Harold Snoad
Starring Patricia Routledge
Clive Swift
Josephine Tewson
Geoffrey Hughes
Judy Cornwell
David Griffin (series 2-5)
Mary Millar (series 2-5)
Shirley Stelfox (series 1)
Country of origin United Kingdom
No. of series 5
No. of episodes 44 + 2 shorts (list of episodes)
Producer(s) Harold Snoad
Running time 30 minutes
50 minutes (1994 Christmas special)
60 minutes (1993 Christmas special)
Original network BBC1
Picture format 576i (4:3 SDTV)
Audio format Mono (series 1), Stereo (series 2-5)
Original release 29 October 1990 (1990-10-29) –
25 December 1995 (1995-12-25)
External links
[{{#property:P856}} Website]

Keeping Up Appearances is a British sitcom created and written by Roy Clarke for the BBC, centred on the life of eccentric and snobbish middle class social climber Hyacinth Bucket, who insists that her surname is pronounced "Bouquet". The sitcom follows Hyacinth in her attempts to prove her social superiority and to gain standing with those she considers upper class; attempts that are constantly hampered by her decidedly lower-class extended family whom she desperately seeks to hide. Much of the humour comes from the culture clash between Hyacinth's vision of herself and the reality of her working class background, plus the farcical situations she finds herself in as she battles to protect her social credibility. The show has many running jokes, and spawned five series and 44 episodes; four of which are Christmas specials. Keeping Up Appearances was a great success in the UK and also captured large audiences in the US, Canada, Australia, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium and the Netherlands, but ceased production in 1995 when Routledge wanted to move on to other projects. Since its original release, all five series—including Christmas specials—have been available on DVD. It is regularly repeated worldwide (Public television stations including PBS member stations in the US; BBC One, Gold, and Drama in the UK and Ireland). It is also available for viewing on Netflix.


Hyacinth Bucket (Patricia Routledge)— who insists her surname is pronounced Bouquet (although in reality, her husband Richard has said, "It was always 'Bucket' until I met you!")[1] — is an over-bearing, social-climbing snob, originally from a poor working-class background, whose main mission in life is to impress others with her lifestyle and perceived affluence and refinement. She's terrified that her background will be found out as in the English class system one can never really escape the class one was born into no matter how successful, even if made a Peer of the Realm! Hyacinth likes to spend her days visiting stately homes (convinced she will meet and strike up a friendship with the upper class owners, especially if they are aristocratic) and hosting "executive-style" candlelight suppers (with her Royal Worcester double-glazed Avignon china and Royal Doulton china with "the hand-painted periwinkles").[2] She ostentatiously brags about her possessions to others, including her "white slimline telephone with automatic redial," which she always answers with "The Bouquet residence, the lady of the house speaking."[3] (Frequently she receives calls asking for a Chinese take-away, making her very angry.) She speaks in an exaggerated RP-like accent while her relatives speak in Northern accents. Her neighbours speak in milder RP accents. When flustered, Hyacinth regresses to her native Northern accent for a while.

Hyacinth's endeavours to impress make the lives of those around her difficult through her continual efforts to appear of a 'certain type of people' i.e. higher class and exclusive leading to hilarious escapades, often, through her overbearing nature, forcing those she wishes to impress to come to her candlelight suppers, and having disastrous, yet humorous, consequences to all parties when she is executing her plans. Although Hyacinth is not deterred by the latter, everyone else is afraid of her to the point that some people, notably the postman, flee when she appears. The one who suffers the most, obviously, is her husband Richard (Clive Swift). He initially worked for the council but, at the beginning of series 3, reluctantly accepts early retirement. Although he loves her with a long-suffering endurance, he is notably exasperated by her plans and her habit of spending. Although she lives to impress others, Hyacinth regularly competes with the upper-middle-class people whom she considers snobbish show-offs, such as Sonia Barker-Finch, Delia Wheelwright and Lydia Hawksworth (although Lydia Hawksworth does appear to be snobbish, as she disdains kiwifruit as "lower middle class".) Hyacinth sometimes says things like "I haven't a snobbish bone in my body" or "I can't abide such snobbery like that" when talking about those she considers her competition.

Always hindering Hyacinth's best efforts to impress - and providing an unwelcome reminder of her less-than-refined roots - are her underclass sisters Daisy (Judy Cornwell) and Rose (Shirley Stelfox in series 1; Mary Millar thereafter), and Daisy's proudly "bone-idle" husband Onslow (Geoffrey Hughes). They, along with Hyacinth's senile father, frequently turn up inconveniently (usually in their clapped out Ford Cortina Mk IV - which always makes a characteristic backfire when it pulls up), with Hyacinth going to great lengths to avoid them (saying "Richard, you know I love my family, but that's no reason why I should have to acknowledge them in broad daylight!"). Hyacinth's senile father frequently has flashbacks to the Second World War, and often exhibits bizarre behaviour, sometimes involving embarrassing situations with women (Onslow describes him as "barmy"). Two relatives Hyacinth is not ashamed of are her wealthy sister Violet (Anna Dawson) and her unseen son Sheridan. Violet frequently telephones Hyacinth for advice, allowing her to loudly announce to anyone in earshot, "It's my sister Violet - the one with a Mercedes, swimming pool, sauna and room for a pony". However, Violet's social acceptability is damaged by the eccentric behaviour of her transvestite, equestrian-loving husband Bruce, whom she violently attacks because of his behaviour. Hyacinth also tries to impress people with the intellectual prowess of her beloved Sheridan (who actually only takes courses in needlework at a polytechnic). Hyacinth boasts about the "psychic" closeness of their relationship and how often he writes to her and phones her, although he never writes to her and usually phone calls her only to ask for money (much to the despair of Richard).[4] Hyacinth is blissfully oblivious of the seemingly obvious hints that Sheridan, who lives with a man named Tarquin (who makes his own curtains, wears silk pyjamas, and has won prizes for embroidery), is homosexual.[5] It is at one point implied that Sheridan has come out to his father.

Hyacinth's neighbour Elizabeth Warden (Josephine Tewson) is frequently invited round to the Buckets for coffee. Ordinarily calm, Liz's nerves go to pieces in Hyacinth's house, causing her to smash Hyacinth's china and spill coffee and biscuits on Hyacinth's Burmese rug.[6] She is married, but her husband works abroad and, like Sheridan, never appears. Liz's brother Emmet moves in with her at the beginning of series 2 after a messy divorce. Hyacinth, upon learning that Emmet is a musician, frequently and abruptly sings out-of-key at him in an attempt to get a part in one of his productions, making him terrified of leaving the house, lest she see him ("She'll sing at me!"). Emmet's problems are further complicated by Hyacinth's mistaken belief that his frightened reactions indicate that he is infatuated with her, which in fact could not be further from the truth.

Hyacinth frequently confronts the postman with complaints, such as having to receive mail bearing second class stamps, harassing him to the point that he will go to extreme lengths not to face her; and she often forces workmen and other visitors to her home to remove their shoes before entering. Michael, the vicar of the local church (Jeremy Gittins) is also loath to face the overbearing Hyacinth, whom he refers to (behind her back) as "the Bucket woman." The vicar and his wife sometimes exact comic revenge on Hyacinth for her snobbishness; on one occasion, when she was one of a group of volunteer helpers at the church, the vicar's wife saw to it that Hyacinth's hand went up prematurely and assigned her the job of cleaning the church toilets.


The cast in 1991. Standing from left to right, Jeremy Gittins, David Griffin, Judy Cornwell, Geoffrey Hughes, and Mary Millar.
Seated from left to right, Clive Swift, Patricia Routledge and Josephine Tewson.

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Keeping Up Appearances aired for five series, four Christmas specials, and one short Children in Need special, from 29 October 1990 to 25 December 1995. The series officially ended after the episode "The Pageant", because Patricia Routledge wanted to focus on other TV and theatre work, including Hetty Wainthropp Investigates which began airing in 1996. Clive Swift, who portrayed Richard, stated in a BBC interview that Routledge "didn't want to be remembered as simply 'Mrs Bucket'".[7]

Series summary

Series 1–5

Series Premiere Finale Episodes Specials Main cast
1 29 October 1990 3 December 1990 6 0 Patricia Routledge
Clive Swift
Josephine Tewson
Judy Cornwell
Geoffrey Hughes
Shirley Stelfox
2 1 September 1991 3 November 1991 10 1 Patricia Routledge
Clive Swift
Josephine Tewson
David Griffin
Judy Cornwell
Geoffrey Hughes
Mary Millar
3 6 September 1992 18 October 1992 7 0
4 5 September 1993 17 October 1993 7 2
5 3 September 1995 5 November 1995 10 1



Exterior shots around Hyacinth's house were taped in Binley Woods, Warwickshire, a village east of Coventry.[8]

Exterior shots around Daisy and Onslow's council terrace were taped in Stoke Aldermoor in Coventry.[9] Other exterior street and town shots were taped in Leamington Spa, and in various towns throughout Warwickshire, along with many scenes from the large town of Northampton, mainly the church hall. Some scenes were also shot in Swindon, Oxford, and Bristol. One scene was shot on location in Copenhagen, Denmark. One Episode was filmed in Great Yarmouth mainly in the Pleasure Beach Theme Park

The opening sequence shows Hyacinth writing an invitation to one of her trademark candlelight suppers; this invitation lists Hyacinth's address as "Waney Edge, Blossom Avenue, Fuddleton". In the same sequence, the invitation is eventually sent to an address in Eddleton. Neither town actually exists. However, there are several references to the characters being in the West Midlands throughout the series, as when Hyacinth said that she could become the "Barbara Cartland of the West Midlands Social Circuit Scene" in the episode The Hostess, also, in one episode, police officers wearing West Midlands Police jumpers escorted Richard home.


Richard and Hyacinth Bucket's car is a Rover 200-series (SD3) saloon. Early episodes show a light blue 1987 216S bearing the number plate D541 EXL, but later episodes feature a sky blue 1989 216SE EFi model (bearing same number plate bar one letter, now D541 EFL).[10]

Onslow drives a 1978 Ford Cortina (number plate VSD 389S) that is in poor condition and backfires loudly almost every time it starts or stops, embarrassing Hyacinth, and frequently crushing her hopes of creating a perfect impression with new people. Onslow is also the owner of the rusting carcass of a Hillman Avenger in his front garden, wherein lives Onslow's dog that always barks at Hyacinth as she approaches.[10]

Violet and Bruce own a Mercedes-Benz W126 S-class and later a Mercedes-Benz W202 C-class.

Neighbour Elizabeth drives a white 1989 Austin Metro City hatchback with number plate F434 RLA (which, despite being the subject of comments from Hyacinth about its age, is actually newer than Richard's car).[10]

After Keeping Up Appearances

Various shows related to the programs were released.

  • The Memoirs of Hyacinth Bucket

In March 1997, Geoffrey Hughes and Judy Cornwell reprised their roles as Onslow and Daisy for a special compilation episode recorded for broadcast in the United States on PBS. The show saw the pair introduce classic clips from the series.

In 2004, the documentary series featured an episode dedicated to Keeping Up Appearances. Stars Clive Swift, Josephine Tewson, Judy Cornwell and David Griffin, along with writer Roy Clarke and producer/director Harold Snoad, all discussed the series. Clips from an interview with Patricia Routledge from 2002 were also included. The episode revealed that there were serious artistic differences between Clarke and Snoad.[7]

  • Life Lessons from Onslow

In early 2008, Geoffrey Hughes reprised his role as Onslow once again for a clipshow of the series; this was to be broadcast on American television, and sees him teaching a credit course at the Open University, and has selected "successful relationships" as his subject matter. The special was also released on Region 1 DVD.

Mary Millar, who played Rose from series two to series five, died on 10 November 1998. George Webb, who played Daddy, died on 30 December 1998. Charmian May, who played Mrs. Councillor Nugent, died on 24 October 2002. Geoffrey Hughes, who played Onslow, died on 27 July 2012. Shirley Stelfox, who played Rose in series one, died on 7 December 2015.



In 1998, the BBC released three episodes of the show: "A Job for Richard", "Country Retreat" and "Sea Fever" on audio cassette. Clive Swift reprised his role as Richard recording a narrative to compensate for the lack of images.


BBC Video released three videos featuring episodes from the series.

  • How to Enhance Your Husband's Retirement

This was released in 1993 and featured the episodes: "Iron Age Remains", "What to Wear when Yachting" and "How to Go on Holiday Without Really Trying".

  • Sea Fever

This was released in 1994 and featured the episodes: "Sea Fever" and "A Job for Richard".

  • Rural Retreat

This was released in 1995 and featured the episodes: "Country Retreat", "Let There Be Light" and "Please Mind Your Head".


File:KUA DVD.jpg
DVD cover of the Region 2 Essential Collection release.
United States - Region 1
  • My Way or the Hyacinth Way (volume 1) - released 18 March 2003 (contains the complete series 1)
  • Hints from Hyacinth (volume 2) - released 18 March 2003 (contains episodes 1–5 from series 2)
  • Home is Where the Hyacinth Is (volume 3) - released 18 March 2003 (contains episodes 6–10 from series 2)
  • Deck the Halls with Hyacinth (volume 4) - released 18 March 2003 (contains all 4 Christmas Specials from 1991, 1993, 1994 & 1995)
  • Hyacinth in Full Bloom - released 18 March 2003 (contains volumes 1–4)
  • Everything's Coming Up Hyacinth (volume 5) - released 3 February 2004 (contains the complete series 3)
  • Some Like it Hyacinth (volume 6) - released 3 February 2004 (contains the complete series 4)
  • Living the Hyacinth Life (volume 7) - released 3 February 2004 (contains episodes 1–6 from series 5)
  • Hats Off to Hyacinth (volume 8) - released 3 February 2004 (contains episodes 7–10 from series 5 & the special "The Memoirs of Hyacinth Bucket")
  • Hyacinth Springs Eternal - released 3 February 2004 (contains volumes 5–8)
  • The Full Bouquet - released 7 September 2004 (complete series - contains volumes 1–8)
  • The Full Bouquet: Special Edition - released 9 September 2008 (complete series re-release, everything from volumes 1–8 & special "Life Lessons from Onslow")
  • Life Lessons from Onslow - released 9 September 2008
  • Collector's Edition - 5 November 2013 (contains all 5 series and every special)
United Kingdom - Region 2
  • Series 1 & 2 - released 7 March 2003
  • Series 3 & 4 - released 16 February 2004 (includes the 1991 Christmas special)
  • Series 5 - released 26 December 2006 (includes Christmas Specials from 1993, 1994 & 1995)
  • The Essential Collection - released 8 October 2007 (complete series)
  • The Complete Collection - released 23 September 2013 (complete series re-release, slimmer version)
  • Christmas Specials - released 3 November 2014 (contains all 4 Christmas specials)
Australia - Region 4
  • Series 1 & 2 - released 1 September 2003[11]
  • Series 3 & 4 - released 8 July 2004[12]
  • Series 5 - released 3 November 2005[13]
  • Christmas Specials - released 11 November 2005[14]
  • The Complete Series - released 2005
  • Life Lessons from Onslow - released 15 April 2010[15]


In 2015, it was announced that a prequel series called Young Hyacinth would be made, following a 19-year-old Hyacinth Bucket during the early postwar years and set some 40 years before Keeping Up Appearances.[16]


In the United States, the complete series is available via streaming through Netflix and Amazon Video.[17]


Three books related to the series have been released in the UK. Two were written by Jonathan Rice and published by BBC Books and the other one was written by Harold Snoad (the director of Keeping Up Appearances) and was published by Book Guild Publishing.

  • Hyacinth Bucket's book of etiquette for the socially less fortunate

This was first published in 1993, and is a light-hearted guide to manners, as seen through Hyacinth Bucket's eyes. It is based on the TV series' scripts and contains many black-and-white photos of scenes from the show.

  • Hyacinth Bucket's Hectic Social Calendar

This was published in 1995 and is presented in a diary format chronicling a year in Hyacinth Bucket's life, with typical comments about her relations and neighbours.

  • It's Bouquet - Not Bucket

This was published in late 2009, the book includes rare photos which were taken during the filming of Keeping Up Appearances. The book contains full plot synopses for all episodes, main cast details, filming locations for all episodes which used outside shots, and stories of some entertaining events which happened during filming.

Overseas books

Due to the popularity of Keeping Up Appearances in the United States, books about the series have also been published across the Atlantic.

  • Keeping Up Appearances: A Companion to the Series

This comical series guidebook was published in the late 1990s by WLIW21. It was co-authored by mother and daughter writers, Georgene and Mary Lee Costa. It features summary descriptions of each episode, cast and crew biographies, series photographs and an interview with Harold Snoad.

Since it was written during the filming of the final series of episodes, Snoad included the co-authors of the guide as extras in the episode, "The Fancy Dress Ball."

Theatre adaptation

In 2010, the television show was adapted into a play entitled Keeping Up Appearances that toured theatres in the UK.[18] The cast included Rachel Bell as Hyacinth, Kim Hartman as Elizabeth, Gareth Hale as Onslow, Steven Pinder as Emmet, Debbie Arnold as Rose, David Janson (who had previously appeared in the TV show as the postman) as Mr Edward Milton, a new character created for the stage show),[19] Christine Moore as Daisy and Sarah Whitlock as Mrs Debden.[20] Main character Richard Bucket, Hyacinth's husband, does not appear in the production, but is frequently referred to: Hyacinth addresses to him off-stage and talks to him on the phone. The main plot of the show revolves around Emmett directing a play at the local village hall, but when Hyacinth is cast in the play's leading role disaster is in the making.

This adaption, directed by playwright Johnny Culver, makes its American premiere in New York City in March 2015, at the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church Theater Fellowship/Jones Auditorium.


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External links