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Howards End: What you need to know

PUBLISHED: 12:54 12 November 2017 | UPDATED: 12:54 12 November 2017

Margaret Schlegel (Hayley Atwell) and Henry Wilcox (Matthew MacFadyen) float around in fields in Howards End - (C) BBC

Margaret Schlegel (Hayley Atwell) and Henry Wilcox (Matthew MacFadyen) float around in fields in Howards End - (C) BBC

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It’s been described as “Downton Abbey for grown-ups” - TV Editor Stacia Briggs looks at Howards End. Ooer.

Howards End begins tonight at 9pm on BBC1 – here’s what you need to know about the four-part series, and how to play Howards End Location Bingo

Feet up, fire on, servants dispatched: this is Sunday night sorted for the next month – Howards End begins tonight at 9pm on BBC1 and it’s quite lovely.

The story of three families from three entirely different backgrounds brought together by chance and then linked forever was written by EM Forster in 1910, but its themes of sexual inequality and class divides are as relevant as ever.

What you need to know:

What’s it all about? The story of three families, the working class Basts, the middle-class Schlegels and the wealthy Wilcoxes, Howards End is primarily about the Schlegel sisters Margaret and Helen who explore the class above and below them at a time of huge social change. If that makes it sound boring, it isn’t. There’s love, loss, scandal, heartbreak and a hypochondriac called Tibby (who is a man, not a cat).

Where was Howards End set?

The star of the show – Howards End – is actually privately-owned Vann House in Hambledon in Surrey which dates back to 1542. If it looks familiar, it’s because you may recognise its previous roles in Gardeners’ World, Dream Gardens and Agatha Christie’s Poirot. The garden was designed by Gertrude Jekyll and the name Venn actually means ‘Bog’. Not very EM Forster.

I want to play Howards End Edwardian Location Bingo - what other places should I look out for?

The British Museum, the restaurant Simpson’s in the Strand, the Albert Embankment opposite Westminster and Colebrooke Row in Islington. HOUSE!

How to appear clever after Howards End if you’ve actually been on Twitter throughout and only glanced up a few times and saw some bonnets:

Say: “The house is really a metaphor for what the characters are looking for, isn’t it - a safe and constant space? I suppose you could say that we are all of us looking for our own Howards End. Do you want a cup of tea?”

Is there a message to take away from Howards End?

Yes – fabulous Margaret Schlegel (brilliantly played by Hayley Atwell) suggests that all any of us should want is to “only connect” which, in a nutshell, means that she hopes for a world in which we all reach out and connect with each other regardless of class, religion, gender or situation. She does get a bit patronising and hypocritical as the plot thickens, but let’s gloss over that for now.

Is a drama written more than 100 years ago still relevant?

Equal Pay Day was last week. Universal Credit is predicted to send more desperate people to Foodbanks than ever before. We’re in the middle of a scandal which proves to many of us what we’ve known for years: that sexual harassment is rife. Howards End will only become irrelevant when the divides between rich and poor and men and women are eradicated. Never, then.

Is it worth watching? Yes. I watched it last night and was almost instantly moved. Mainly to Google where I could buy a gold silk housecoat, but it’s also really very good - look out for the textbook example of a whirlwind romance.

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