An Actress’s Ancestral Odyssey: Lesley Manville Explores Her Family’s Past

An Actress’s Ancestral Odyssey: Lesley Manville Explores Her Family’s Past

…By Judah Olanisebee for TDPel Media.

Lesley Manville Discovers Her “Epic” Family History on BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are?


Lesley Manville, the renowned 67-year-old actress known for her roles in The Crown and Mrs Harris Goes To Paris, recently delved into her family history on the BBC programme Who Do You Think You Are?

She was in for a surprising revelation when she discovered her ancestors’ involvement in a significant chapter of Australian history.

Exploring Her Father’s Lineage: In the episode, Manville traces her family lineage back to her three-times great grandfather, Aaron Harding, an agricultural worker residing in rural Hampshire.


It was revealed that Mr. Harding, a widower responsible for a large family, participated in the Swing Riots of 1830, which were protests against low pay and unfavorable working conditions.

Transportation to Australia: To Manville’s astonishment, it was uncovered that her ancestor, Aaron Harding, was arrested for his role in the Swing Riots and subsequently transported to Australia.

The Swing Rioters, who fought for basic human rights, faced shocking treatment.

Manville’s heart went out to Aaron’s nine children, ranging from an eight-month-old baby to a 17-year-old, who were left to fend for themselves after their mother’s recent passing.

Reflections on the Discovery: Lesley Manville, reflecting on the revelations, expressed her astonishment, remarking, “It was epic! They were a huge part of history that I’d only learnt about in school.”


She had fantasized about her family being talented actors or singers but was unprepared for the tumultuous past she uncovered.

The plight of Aaron Harding and his children left a deep impact on her, describing it as “utterly heartbreaking.”

A Glimpse of Family Connections: During the episode, Manville had the opportunity to meet two of her female cousins who shared family resemblances with her.

Despite initially being strangers, the encounter was heartwarming, and they quickly bonded.

The cousins presented Manville with a picture of Mr. Harding and a copy of an inquest report by the Adelaide Times, a South Australian newspaper, revealing his accidental death.


The warmth and kindness of her newfound relatives left a lasting impression on Manville.

Complexities in Her Maternal Grandparents’ Story: Further revelations awaited Manville as she explored her maternal lineage.

Her grandparents, James Edwards and Harriet Barton, had a complex history of wartime separation and adultery, as they were both previously married to other people and had children from those marriages.

Despite never officially marrying, they lived together with their daughter, who would become Manville’s mother.

An Emotional Revelation: One particularly touching aspect of her family’s story was the revelation found in James Edwards’ will.


Referring to Harriet as his “friend,” he left all his possessions to her upon his death in 1943.

The relationship between her grandparents had faced stigma, but learning the truth behind their bond deeply moved Manville.

She expressed her regret that her mother could not be present to hear the vindication of her parents’ love.

Anticipation for the Episode: Lesley Manville’s journey of discovery will be showcased in an upcoming episode of Who Do You Think You Are?, scheduled to air on July 27 at 9pm on BBC One.

The episode promises to unveil more intriguing aspects of her family history and the emotions associated with unearthing one’s roots.


Conclusion: Lesley Manville’s experience on Who Do You Think You Are? highlights the power of exploring one’s ancestry and the profound impact it can have on an individual.

Her journey of self-discovery serves as a reminder of the importance of understanding and appreciating our family’s past, even if it reveals unexpected and sometimes poignant stories.


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