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For other uses, see Bramwell (disambiguation).
Genre Drama
Created by Lucy Gannon
Starring Ruth Sheen
Jemma Redgrave
David Calder
Kevin McMonagle
Keeley Gainey
Andrew Lincoln
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of series 4
No. of episodes 28
Producer(s) Harriet Davison
Tim Whitby
Location(s) Sarratt, Hertfordshire, England, United Kingdom
Running time 54 minutes
Production company(s) Whitby Davison Productions
Original network ITV
Picture format 4:3
Original release 1 May 1995 – 1 June 1998

Bramwell is a British television series starring Jemma Redgrave as Dr. Eleanor Bramwell, a woman challenging the domination of men in the medical establishment, who runs a free hospital for the poor in the East End of London, during the late Victorian era (1895).

The series by Carlton Television was shown in Britain on ITV in four series from 1995 to 1998. It was subsequently shown in other countries, such as in the United States on PBS from 1996 to 2001.


The series begins in 1895 with Dr. Eleanor Bramwell, working in a London hospital. She is treated as an inferior by the male doctors, and her opinions are often ignored. After a disagreement with a senior doctor, Eleanor is dismissed. Her father, Dr. Robert Bramwell, recommends she join him in his private practice of rich, elderly clients. Fortunately, Eleanor receives a better offer. Lady Peters, a friend of the family, offers to fund a small hospital in a London slum, where Eleanor will treat the impoverished locals. Together, Eleanor and Lady Peters establish The Thrift, a free hospital with six beds. The Thrift is named for its location on Thrift Street.

The staff of the hospital rapidly expands. Stiff, serious Nurse Carr is hired to assist Eleanor, and Mr. Bentley, a former patient with an amputated foot, is hired to act as a porter. Eleanor quickly finds the hospital desperately requires an anaesthetist but has little money to pay for one. She begs a former colleague, Dr. Joe Marsham to work at The Thrift part-time and he agrees on the condition that he will be able to perform surgery as well (which he does free in order to enhance his skills).

The first series focuses on the ups and downs of The Thrift. Each episode usually focuses on one patient or event occurring at The Thrift. Social issues of the time are often tackled such as racism, alcoholism or the conditions in the workhouse. Near the end of the season, it appears that Eleanor will be married to a family friend but breaks the engagement when she realises she will be forced to give up her work. As the season closes, Lady Peters becomes seriously ill. Her personal physician misdiagnoses her condition and by the time her true condition is realised, it is too late to save her. After her death, her fortune is left to The Thrift.

In the Second Series, The Thrift attempts to survive without Lady Peters' guidance, management and financial assistance. A new character, Dr. Finn O'Neill is introduced when a cholera epidemic occurs in the area and Finn assists in the hospital. Eleanor, Robert and Dr. Marsham intensely dislike Finn and blame him for the death of a patient. Mr. Bentley also falls ill and because of a miscalculation in medication dosages, dies of poisoning. To assist the impoverished Bentley family, Eleanor hires Mr. Bentley's teenage son, Sidney, to act as the porter. Eleanor, despite her original opinions of Dr. O'Neill, falls in love with him in the last episode of the season. They enjoy a brief romance but are soon separated. Finn is forced to take a two-year position in Chicago but promises to marry Eleanor on his return. Robert Bramwell disapproves of Eleanor's relationship with Finn and is shocked when Eleanor admits she consummated the relationship with Finn. The usually close and happy relationship between Eleanor and her father is severely strained.

Series Three begins a year after Finn's leaving. He has returned to England for a conference and takes this opportunity to visit Eleanor. Eleanor confirms that she still wishes to be married to Finn in a year when he permanently returns to England. Mr. Marsham considers taking a better position in Edinburgh, but remains at The Thrift when his wife is diagnosed with breast cancer. The cancer is too advanced to save her and she dies in Dr. Marsham's arms. Finn returns, but with shocking news. He has married a young daughter of an American colleague. Eleanor is crushed by the news and is forced to take a vacation from The Thrift. The Thrift struggles to manage without her for several months while she stays in the countryside with friends. It begins to appear that Eleanor, because of her fragile state, will never be able to work again, but she discovers a measles epidemic occurring in the village. The outbreak causes Eleanor to rediscover her passion for medicine and her strong personality. She returns to London. Eleanor is once more forced to see Finn when his new bride becomes sick. As Eleanor cares for her, Finn admits his marriage was purely for money and status. He suggests that Eleanor become his mistress so that he can enjoy the benefits of marriage while still having Eleanor. She refuses and insists she does not love him. In the meantime, Robert has become engaged to a wealthy widow, Alice Costigan. Robert attempts to insist that Eleanor stay with him and Alice once they move, but Eleanor refuses. Robert withdraws all financial support, leading Eleanor to propose to Dr. Marsham. He instead proposes to her, and she accepts.

The fourth series included only two episodes and was dramatically different from the previous three series. Robert Bramwell and Alice Costigan make no appearance in the series, and their whereabouts are not mentioned. Sidney Bentley no longer appears but is replaced by another teenage porter, Tom. Tom appears in only one episode, before enlisting in the army.

In the two episodes, Eleanor allows The Thrift to perform medical check-ups on soldiers, which leads to her meeting Major Quarrie. She and Marsham disagree about her decision and decide to end the engagement. Eleanor has an affair with Major Quarrie, despite their clearly different personalities and interests, resulting in a pregnancy. Eleanor makes plans to give the child up for adoption as Major Quarrie is not interested in marriage and will be going to fight in the Boer War in a fortnight. She becomes obsessed with locating the child of a patient at The Thrift and searches the slums. She ignores her responsibilities at The Thrift, alienates her friends and coworkers. Her behaviour forces the manager of The Thrift and Dr. Marsham to dismiss her. She is devastated. At the last minute, Major Quarrie leaves the military and proposes to Eleanor. She accepts his offer because she will be able to keep the child if she is married and because she loves him. Major Quarrie is also clearly besotted with Eleanor. The series ends at the church inside which the two will marry.


Character Actor
Dr. Eleanor Bramwell Jemma Redgrave
Dr. Robert Bramwell David Calder
Sir Herbert Hamilton Robert Hardy
Lady Cora Peters Michele Dotrice
Dr. Finn O'Neill Andrew Connolly
Nurse Ethel Carr Ruth Sheen
Dr. Joe Marsham Kevin McMonagle
Sidney Bentley Ben Brazier
Major Quarrie David Bark-Jones
Daniel Bentley Cliff Parisi
Kate Keeley Gainey
Alice Costigan Maureen Beattie


  • Evans, Jeff (2001). The Penguin TV Companion. Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-051467-8. 

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