Written by: Sally Wainwright
Directed by: Robin Sheppard
Aired: September 2002
Distributor: BBC


  • Carol Bolton -

  • Andrew Lawton -
    Joe McFadden

  • John Standring - RICHARD ARMITAGE

  • Richard Bolton -

  • Kate Lawton -

  • Paul Lawton -


Sparkhouse is a modern remake of the Wuthering heights Story with Sarah Smart playing the central character of Carol Bolton Joe McFadden as her great love Andrew Lawton. They have been friends since childhood but Andrew's snobby parents disapprove of Carol and consider her a bad influence on their son. Richard Armitage plays farmhand John Standring.


From the BBC Press Release August 2002: (original link)

Richard Armitage plays John Standring

Loyal, patient and hardworking, John Standring has been in love with Carol - the daughter of his brutal and violent boss – for years. But can his feelings ever be requited?

“John always hopes that she will grow to love him as their relationship changes over the years,” explains Richard Armitage. “He has an affection for her which I feel was based on a need for nurturing rather than on a sexual need. He is very protective of her because of the lack of love she has from her mother and the way her father treats her. But there is a simplicity to John; he doesn't always understand all the nuances of what is going on around him. In some ways he is like an old man on the outside, but there is a real naivety about him - he’s a kind of ‘young fogie’,” laughs Richard. “He is completely inexperienced with women and incredibly nervous about any kind of sexual contact. Inside, he is just an inexperienced boy who can’t express himself very well. So it was really interesting to play when this big burly bloke finally opens up to show this vulnerable child inside.”

Richard was impressed with Sally Wainwright’s script and, although he was aware of the inspiration from Wuthering Heights, he believes Sparkhouse is totally unique. “The script is a fantastic read. I think it is just the essence of the characters of Cathy and Heathcliff that were taken from the story. Their journeys are very similar, but this is really nothing like the book.”

Episode One

Carol’s boyfriend, Andrew, is leaving for university in Manchester. Despite parental opposition from both families, they have been seeing each other for several years. Carol’s mother abandons her family, leaving Carol to be beaten by her father and to care for her younger sister, Lisa.

Andrew suggests that they get married, secretly, before he leaves for university. When his parents discover the marriage license, his father reveals Carol’s secret.


After a confrontation with Carol the night before the wedding, when she explains the truth of her situation, Andrew does not turn up at the Registry Office. Carol comes around to his house and attacks his father’s car with an axe.

A few months later, the Bolton’s farmhand, shy John Standring, asks Carol out on Christmas Eve. They encounter Andrew and some of his friends at the local pub. Andrew attempts to make Carol jealous, so Carol takes John off in the Land Rover, after he’s made a purchase in the gents.


Episode Two

Andrew injures himself in a jealous rage, while Carol and John are in the back of the Land Rover up on the moors. Carol flaunts John in front of Andrew when they return to the pub, so Andrew takes off with another girl. That night, Carol hangs the Lawtons’ dog.

John takes Christmas presents to the Boltons’ the next day. He gives Carol a pendant, which had belonged to his mother. Carol says she’s unworthy of him and rejects his present and him.

Her home life deteriorates, to the point that she takes Lisa and leaves. Five years on, Andrew has completed university and married Becky, a fellow student. Richard Bolton suffers a heart attack, and it is left to John to track down Carol. Carol has been in prison but has regained custody of Lisa. Carol returns, and John says he’ll help out on the farm. She goes to see the Lawtons, to find out about her father’s health from Dr. Lawton. Andrew begins to seek Carol out, even though his wife has just given birth to their son. 

Richard Bolton suffers another massive heart attack, which kills him. Carol learns that the farm is virtually bankrupt and goes around to John’s to ask him to marry her and help save the farm.

Episode Three

John and Carol agree upon the terms of their marriage, and they go to purchase a new suit for John and get him a haircut.

Andrew attempts to drive a wedge between them, which causes John to call the wedding off. Carol informs Andrew that without John’s money, she and Lisa will be homeless. She then persuades John that they should go ahead with the wedding.


Becky accuses Andrew of still loving Carol and fathering Lisa; Andrew tells Becky the truth, which she doesn’t believe. Becky goes to confront Carol at the Registry Office, where John and Carol have just married. Andrew stops Becky from talking to Carol, but then tells Carol, in front of Lisa and John, that Lisa knows he is her father. Carol and John are both hurt by this revelation, for different reasons.

John and Carol have their wedding night, but Carol coincidentally meets Andrew out on the moors. Two days later, Andrew comes round to the farm to get Carol to leave with him. He attacks John, with the intent to do at least GBH, and John is forced to defend himself. Andrew leaves without Carol, who tends to her husband.

Andrew goes off to the ruin on the moors to commit suicide. The Lawtons have been looking for him, and Dr. Lawton finally calls Carol, who guesses where Andrew will be. She goes out without John, and takes Dr. Lawton to the ruin, where they find Andrew dead. Carol stays the night at theruin, and John and Lisa come and find her in the morning.


This guide by LeslieG




Sparkhouse on IMDB

Sparkhouse on the BBC Drama site

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last updated 4 September 2011