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You Rang, M'Lord?
You Rang M Lord.jpg
Opening titles of the series in Art Deco-style font.
Format Situation Comedy
Created by Jimmy Perry & David Croft
Written by Jimmy Perry & David Croft
Directed by David Croft
Roy Gould
Starring Paul Shane
Jeffrey Holland
Su Pollard
Donald Hewlett
Michael Knowles
Brenda Cowling
Bill Pertwee
Country of origin Britain
No. of episodes 26
Producer(s) David Croft
Running time Approximately 50 minutes per normal episode.
Original channel BBC One
Original run 29 December 1988 – 24 April 1993

You Rang M'Lord? is a British television series written by Jimmy Perry and David Croft, the creators of Dad's Army, It Ain't Half Hot Mum and Hi-de-Hi! It was broadcast between 1990 and 1993 on the BBC (although there had earlier been a pilot episode in 1988). The show was a comedy set in the house of an aristocratic family in the 1920s, contrasting the upper-class family and their servants in a house in London, along the same lines as the popular drama Upstairs, Downstairs.



The series was written by Jimmy Perry and David Croft, and featured many actors who had also appeared in their earlier series, notably Paul Shane, Jeffrey Holland and Su Pollard, all of whom had previously been in Perry and Croft's holiday camp sitcom, Hi-de-Hi!. Also featured were Donald Hewlett and Michael Knowles from Perry and Croft's It Ain't Half Hot Mum, and Bill Pertwee and occasionally Frank Williams from Dad's Army. The memorable 1920s-style theme tune was sung by Bob Monkhouse.

Episodes of You Rang M'Lord? were fifty minutes long, rather than the usual thirty (for BBC sitcoms), and attempted to introduce a more reflective approach and more complex plotting than other Croft and Perry series. There was also less reliance on filmed location sequences.


In the pilot episode, two World War I soldiers stumble across the body of an officer while crossing no-man's land under heavy gunfire. Assuming him to be dead, one, Alf Stokes, attempts to rob the officer, much to the disgust of his comrade, James Twelvetrees. It becomes apparent that the unconscious officer is not dead, and the two men see their chance to escape the guns by carrying him to a field hospital. The two soldiers are later called to see the officer, The Honourable Teddy Meldrum, who says he is eternally grateful, and promises them both jobs after the war.

The action then cuts to London in 1927, where James Twelvetrees has become the footman in the house[1] of Lord Meldrum (brother of Teddy), and wants to further his position following the death of the butler. Meanwhile, Alf Stokes and his daughter, Ivy have just been sacked from their job[2] in a music hall (a job he took after being dismissed for dishonesty as a butler). Alf sees his chance to apply for a job at the Meldrum's house, and after blackmailing his previous employer for references, becomes the new butler, much to the annoyance of James. Following the dismissal of a maid, after a backstairs relationship with the Honourable Teddy, Ivy is brought in by her father as the new maid (to hide the fact that she is Alf's daughter, the two decide that Ivy should use her mother's maiden name, Teasdale).

Thus, the plot is set, as the programme follows the various relationships between the upper-class and their servants, as well as Alf's scheming and James' attempts to stop him. The events depicted in the 26 episodes are timelined though not directly following each other and are based mainly around the following threads:

  • moral combat between Alf, James and Ivy, as Alf keeps developing schemes in order to achieve some fortune (and usually fails) and James and Ivy tries to stop his actions,
  • adultery triangle between Lord Meldrum, Lady Agatha and Sir Ralph,
  • developing love affair between Alf and Mrs. Lipton, and between Mrs. Lipton and PC Wilson,
  • efforts of Teddy to dodge the marriage with Madge Cartwright,
  • business rise, fall and recovery of the House of Meldrum and its most important asset, the Union Jack Rubber Company,
  • unpredictable actions of Lady Lavender.


The Meldrum Family

The master of the house, Lord Meldrum is a respected member of the gentry, in charge of the Union Jack Rubber Company and various other interests. In the 1890s he had married the only daughter of Lord and Lady Southwick and they had raised two children prior to his wife's death in 1924. In 1915 he had been conscripted as a Colonel into the British Army and had served in the Infantry on the Western Front. He has old-fashioned Victorian values, with a respectable title and position in society. However, his reputation is threatened by his affair with the wife of Sir Ralph Shawcross, and it is usually left to Stokes to help him cover this up. Despite his considerable wealth, he pays his workers poorly, and it is often hinted that he once employed slave labour in Africa.

Lord Meldrum's younger brother, he had been conscripted as a Captain into the British Army in 1915 and had served in the Infantry on the Western Front, where he was badly injured by a shell and carried back to the field hospital by Stokes and Twelvetrees. By 1927 "The Honourable" Teddy is still unmarried and living in his brother's house. The stereotypical upper-class fool, he has had relationships with five previous housemaids and has fathered children to them all: he cannot resist their "shiny, scrubbed faces" and scent of carbolic soap. He is being forced by his brother to marry Madge Cartwright, the heiress to a soap dynasty, although is more interested in her maid, Rose. In the first series, he was also interested in Ivy, although this ceases after Series One when he turns his attention to Rose, whom he later marries and raises a family with. Following the loss of the family fortune Teddy becomes a successful car salesman.

Lady Lavender is Lord Meldrum’s mother-in-law and she resides with her parrot; Captain, in the second bedroom of the house. She is very wealthy and has interests in many businesses including a large number of shares in the Union Jack Rubber Company. Lavender was born into an aristocratic family in the early 1850’s, we are given to understand that she led a somewhat promiscuous youth, having many affairs, including with Boris the Crown Prince (later King) of Dalmatia (Davy Kaye). She then became involved with a young army officer called Captain Cedric Dolby (Maurice Denham), the two later became engaged, but separated shortly before he was sent off to fight in the Zulu war in 1879, Lavender then married Lord Southwick and they raised one daughter, who would later marry Lord George Meldrum. In the early 1900’s Lavender became active in the Suffragette Movement and one time while dining at The Savoy she threw a prawn soufflé at Andrew Bonar-Law, leading to her being banned from the hotel. Lavender also became a close friend of Noel Coward in the 1910’s and they regularly took tea together at Gunters. At the death of Lord Southwick, Lady Lavender moved in with her daughter and son-in-law, becoming increasingly reclusive and senile, but in the end it was she who saved the Union Jack Company from collapse by selling her family jewels to raise the money needed to replace the factory’s machinery.

Cissy is Lord Meldrum's elder daughter. Although attractive, she dresses in a masculine style, takes part in men's sports and activities such as flying, and her feminine "chum" Penelope is a frequent house guest. Thus, although never explicitly stated, there are many suggestions that Cissy is a lesbian, the many clues to which are not entirely obvious to her father.[3][4]. A pleasant character, who shows genuine concern for family and servants alike, often giving away feminine items such as dresses to Ivy (whom she shows an attraction to in early episodes, frequently winking at her). She often socialises with her younger sister Poppy, but the two regularly bicker due to their differing attitudes. She proclaims herself a socialist and stands as a candidate for the United Workers Party, winning a seat on the council through Stokes' machinations. Cissy eventually takes charge of the ailing Union Jack Rubber Company and forms a workers cooperative in an attempt to save the business.

  • Poppy Meldrum - Susie Brann

Poppy, Lord Meldrum's younger daughter (and by far the less grown-up of the two) is a "bright young thing", who attends 'wild' parties with her friend, Jerry (John D. Collins). She is quite a snob about her position in society, often ready to remind those lower of her position, although at other times she confesses to feeling trapped by her class. Throughout the series, she is attracted to the footman James Twelvetrees, whom she delights in leading on, despite being aware of the problems it could cause for him. She has an on-off relationship with Jerry and eventually marries him.


Alf Stokes was the scheming butler of the series. He is Ivy's father and is still married to Ivy's mother, despite their separation. Throughout the series, Alf devises a number of schemes to scam Lord Meldrum of his money and possessions, although these usually fail. This dishonest aspect of his character was often an asset to Lord Meldrum; on a number of occasions Alf was required to create diversions for Sir Ralph. Alf also has a relationship with Mrs. Lipton through the series. After the Meldrums' decline, he returned to the showbiz, together (though just temporarily) with his daughter, Ivy.

James Twelvetrees was the opposite of Alf - stern, upright and honest. However, he was not always a likeable character, usually siding with the gentry instead of his own class and often quite unpleasant to the other servants and those he considered lower than him. He was also shown to have his own foibles, such as his infatuation with Miss Poppy, a relationship which left him contemplating resignation at times. He was also desired downstairs by Ivy; this was not reciprocated, although he did show a platonic fondness for her. After being downsized along with Stokes and Ivy, James utilises his serious amount of savings to start a boarding house enterprise, (business) partnered with Ivy.

  • Mrs. Blanche Lipton, Cook - Brenda Cowling

Blanche Lipton had joined the Meldrum household as a young housemaid in her teens and had gradually risen through the ranks to become cook. Her culinary skills are legendary on the street; she is rarely seen out of the kitchen. While a usually kindly woman who shows sympathy for her "betters" and equals, at other times she is particularly scathing towards those she considers lower, such as Henry and Mabel. Throughout the series she has a relationship with Alf; at one point the two are engaged. She eventually marries PC Wilson and retires to his cottage.

Ivy is the well meaning, but rather naive maid, the daughter of Alf. Her familial relationship with Alf is largely a secret, but she is forced to tell Henry when he spots the two alone in her bedroom, and later tells James when she needs his help to get Alf out of trouble. Despite her honesty, she is often persuaded to take part in her father's schemes. In the series, she has to avoid the advances of the Honourable Teddy, whilst also trying to attract the attention of James, who does not reciprocate her affection. Getting sacked from the House of Meldrum due to their financial problems, she joins the show group of her father but a year later she decides to start a new life as James' partner in his boarding house.

Henry was abandoned as a child in a basket on the steps of the Livingston Road Orphanage, in which institution he remained until the age of 14, when he was taken into the Meldrum house as bootboy. Although the second lowest rank in the house, Henry is often the most insightful character, something which usually gets him into trouble - for not conforming to the expected etiquette and making inappropriate comments, he is usually soundly clipped about the ear. He is a good friend of Ivy, and it is often suggested that he would like a relationship with her. Following the Meldrum's financial troubles, he becomes Butler.

Mabel does not live in the Meldrum household but resides with her unemployed husband in a poor part of London, she is regarded by some of the others as an outsider. Because of her rank and social status, she is not allowed to have meals with the other servants, instead usually given some scraps to take home, which gave rise to her catchphrases "That'll be nice!" and "I can't remember the last time I had a..." Following the Meldrum's financial troubles Mabel becomes housekeeper and cook.

Family Friends

  • Madge Cartwright - Yvonne Marsh

The sole heir to the Cartwright business empire, she resides in a luxury flat in Mayfair and is a regular visitor to the house and a long term admirer of Teddy, the two become engaged but he later breaks off the engagement to marry her maid.

The long-term boyfriend and later husband of Poppy Meldrum, generally silly and given to heavy drinking. He is often bossed around by Poppy, and is unaware of her attraction to the footman, James.

Sir Ralph is another wealthy member of London society, he has two residences; a London house and a country residence, he is married to Lady Agatha and is initially suspicious of Lord Meldrum's relationship with his wife, but eventually comes to regard him as a friend after he is led to believe that Meldrum is impotent and therefore not a threat. When the truth is revealed, he turns to the black-arts to curse the House of Meldrum.

Lady Agatha is the wife of Sir Ralph and is also Lord Meldrum's mistress. She had previously been assistant matron at Eton but had been sacked following an incident with a number of the students. She later married Sir Ralph but had plenty of lovers, who she entertains at her mews apartment.

The local bishop who is a close friend of the family, he is a frequent visitor at the Meldrum house, often accompanied by his young chaplain, the Rev. Robin (Robbie Barnett).

  • Penelope Barrington-Blake - Sorel Johnson

A friend of Cissy Meldrum's - strongly implied to be her girlfriend, although unlike Cissy, she dresses in a very feminine style. She frequently goes out on the town with Cissy, Poppy and Jerry and subsequently stays the night. Like Cissy, Penelope is also a pilot.

  • Miss Hortence Anstruther - Angela Easterling

A friend of Cissy Meldrum’s and colleague from the United Workers Party, she runs the soup kitchen and is a strict vegetarian.

A confidence trickster and thief who had an affair with Lady Agatha and was subsequently blackmailing her. He then became involved with Poppy Meldrum and eloped with her to Gretna Green in a stolen car. The couple were being pursued by the Meldrum family, their servants and friends who caught up with them at Watford Gap and prevented the marriage. Dickie was last seen flying off in Cissy's plane, which he had just stolen.

The Union Jack Rubber Company

  • Mr Foster - Michael Lees

The Factory Manager

The foreman

The Scottish shop-steward, often portrayed as a class warrior, or at least a left-wing agitator


P.C. Wilson is the local Bobby, although rarely appears to be doing his duty, instead dining nightly with the servants, as was apparently the custom because the police would then overlook any indiscretion made by the family. He is generally ineffective as a policeman, although has become something of a wine connesseur, due to his nightly selection from Lord Meldrum's cellar. He later marries Mrs Lipton and the couple retire on his police pension.

  • Rose - Amanda Bellamy

Madge Cartwright’s housemaid, who is pursued by and eventually marries Teddy

A delivery driver for Pearsons the Grocers, who brings the Meldrum household their weekly groceries and collects their payment.

  • Miss Potter - Judith Fellows

The owner of the Sunshine Pantry tearooms who buys Mrs Lipton's cakes from Mr Stokes.


The series is notable for its unconventional length and use of high production values, although it was not initially well received by the critics, and failed to achieve the popularity of other Croft sitcoms, such as Dad's Army, It Ain't Half Hot Mum, Hi-de-Hi!, 'Allo 'Allo! and Are You Being Served? (the latter two were co-written by Croft with Jeremy Lloyd). However, this could be because it has rarely been repeated, due to the length of the episodes not suiting current broadcast slots. It also came at a time when the BBC was somewhat shifting its focus from family comedies to more adult drama and soap operas.

The series is also notable as being one of the first sitcoms to feature a recurring lesbian character, in Cissy Meldrum.

All four series have been released on DVD, both individually and as a box set.

The location used for the Union Jack Rubber Company was a disused brush factory in Diss, Norfolk

The show has a large cult following in Hungary. Due to its Hungarian dubbing and the lack of other comedy shows on TV in the early '90s, the show became very popular, and has been repeated since on various channels. Several phrases of the show (in their Hungarian translations) are now part of the popular vernacular in Hungary.


  1. ^ The street name is mentioned once in Series 1, Episode 5: "Fair Shares". In order to establish a telephone connection, the switchboard operator asks the number of the Meldrum residence. Alf Stokes then mentions a telephone number in Grosvenor. The pilot featured exterior shots of an actual building, most probably #22 Holland Villas Road, W14 London but later shootings took place at a mockup location built in Diss, Norfolk.
  2. ^ In the 1988 Pilot Episode, Alf is erroneously handed a modern £10 bill as goodbye wages, a fortune in 1920. In later episodes, old fashioned bills & prices are used.
  3. ^ In the final episodes of both series one and two, Cissy and Penelope kiss on the lips. In series one, Cissy's father, Lord Meldrum, asks of his brother whether this is what girls do these days. In series two, his reaction is "I do wish they wouldn't keep doing that."
  4. ^ LORD MELDRUM (to Cissy): Why can't you be more feminine - like Poppy? CISSY: Oh, you've no idea how feminine she can be when Jerry brings her back from the club at two o'clock in the morning. POPPY: What about what you and Penelope get up to in the hangar where you keep your Tiger Moth? CISSY: Cat. POPPY: Cow! (Series 2, Episode 7: "Royal Flush")

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