And No Birds Sing is the first episode of the first series of Rosemary & Thyme. It first aired on ITV on 31st August 2003. As the pilot episode, it introduces the main characters Rosemary Boxer and Laura Thyme.

Plot summaryEdit

Bedridden with severe dermatitis, Daniel Kellaway wishes to leave some of his wealth in an endowment for an academic position at the University of Malmesbury, his alma mater. Sam Trent, his business partner at their company Kellaway Garden Centres, wishes to see the money invested in the company instead.

Daniel is cared for at his country home, Winterbourne Manor, by his wife Alicia. He is often visited by Dr. Bob Whittaker, who upon confirming no improvement in Daniel's dermatitis, prescribes more hydrocortisone cream as ongoing medication, which Alicia applies to Daniel daily. Whittaker also prescribes Sam with more dixogen, a medication for a diagnosed heart condition.

Daniel invites his former teacher at the University of Malmesbury Rosemary Boxer, and Professor Julian Marchant, to discuss the academic position he wishes to fund, as well as to ask about for advice about a disease that has been afflicting the trees at Winterbourne Manor. Marchant volunteers Rosemary to diagnose the disease.

Winterbourne Manor2

Winterbourne Manor, the home of Daniel and Alicia Kellaway.

Following the discovery that her husband has left her, Laura Thyme moves out of her home and arrives at the house of Sam and Vickie Trent. Laura and Sam are old friends, while Vickie is jealous of their friendship. Sam arranges for Laura to stay at The White Hart pub, which happens to be the place Rosemary is staying while she tends to the trees at Winterbourne Manor, and agrees to meet her the following morning. That night while driving back home Sam suffers a fatal heart attack while driving, colliding with a truck at an intersection.

With Sam not appearing the next morning, Rosemary offers to give Laura a lift to Sam's house on her way to Winterbourne Manor; on the way they encounter Sam's wrecked car being towed away. Laura is immediately suspicious of the circumstances of Sam's death as he was a notoriously careful driver, and suspects that someone may have tampered with his heart medication. At Winterbourne the two discover a large specimen of the toxic giant hogweed plant (Heracleum mantegazzianum) growing, while Rosemary also spies Doctor Whittaker and Alicia in a closer embrace than their position as friends would indicate. They also encounter the dishevelled housekeeper Mrs Potts, whom Laura is convinced that she has seen before, but is only able to recall the word 'Withersedge'.

Rosemary learns from a letter delivered from her colleague Billie Halliday that Professor Marchant has terminated her employment at the University of Malmesbury. Later on, while working back at Winterbourne Rosemary spies the housekeeper Mrs Potts, holding a knife and a sack, acting suspiciously in the garden. Just as Rosemary begins to follow her a scream rings out across the garden: Daniel is discovered lying in the garden, having seemingly fallen from the balcony on the first floor. He is quickly attended by Doctor Whittaker and Alicia and is taken to hospital.

When Rosemary and Laura visit Daniel in hospital, they observe that Daniel's skin condition has improved while he has been away from home, as well as Doctor Whittaker and Alicia in close company again outside Daniel's room. Laura questions whether business money links the incapacitation of both Daniel and Sam.

Back at Winterbourne, Rosemary encounters Professor Marchant, and furiously confronts him, punching him in the process. Returning to the White Hart pub, Rosemary does an internet search for 'Withersedge', finding a website chronicling murders who were never convicted, including an entry 'The Wicked Witch of Withersedge'. A picture on the site of the murderer Delia Kettle bears a resemblance to Mrs Potts. Rosemary and Laura quickly suspect Mrs Potts of being involved in Daniel's fall, despite her alibi of being in the garden at the time. Laura also reckons Mrs Potts was involved in Sam's death, but Rosemary is not convinced. Laura calls her son, Matthew Thyme, who works for the Metropolitan Police Service, to bring up any information on Delia Kettle.

Laura joins Rosemary in working on the gardens at Winterbourne. The two discover dried foxglove and empty hydrocortisone cream tubs, the same cream prescribed to Daniel, in the barn, before being scared off by a knife-wielding Mrs Potts. Having tried some of the hydrocortisone cream on her hand, Laura develops a rash. Upon returning to the garden they notice someone has been cutting stalks off the toxic giant hogweed. Rosemary's knowledge of plant pathology and their observations lead them to conclude that Mrs Potts is deliberately preventing Daniel's dermatitis from healing by mixing the toxic hogweed, which causes phytophotodermatitis, with the hydrocortisone cream.

Daniel's lack of exposure to sunlight is the only stumbling block in their theory. Nevertheless, Rosemary decides to inform Alicia of their suspicions, sending Laura to Doctor Whittaker to get her hand treated. Rosemary discovers UV lamps in Daniel's bedroom that act as a substitute to natural sunlight. Encountering Alicia outside the bedroom, Rosemary confides in Alicia all she knows.

Matthew calls back Laura with what he found out about on Mrs Kettle, informing her about the misdemeanours committed by Mrs Kettle's daughter's, Alicia. Laura realises that Alicia is Mrs Potts' daughter, and that Alicia and Mrs Potts planned to make Daniel's condition so unbearable that he would take his own life. She and the police rush to Winterbourne, as Alicia and Mrs Potts chase Rosemary through the house, Mrs Potts injuring Rosemary's arm. Just as Rosemary is cornered the police arrive, and Mrs Potts and Alicia are arrested.

Laura informs Vickie that Sam was murdered because he was the only remaining obstacle to Alicia and Mrs Potts inheriting control of the Kellaway Garden Centres once Daniel had died. Mrs Potts achieved this by serving Sam herbal tea each time he visited Daniel, adding foxglove into his beverage, which served to strengthen the dose of digoxin (digoxin is derived from foxglove), enough to cause a fatal heart attack.

An improved Daniel reckons he will be fully recovered soon, and Rosemary informs him that the problem with the trees was a tropical fungus, brought over when the previous owner of Winterbourne, a Malaysian businessman who landscaped the garden, imported the trees from Malaysia. Rosemary reflects on the new found freedom both she and Laura have, now unconstrained from a job and a marriage respectively.[1]

Characters Edit

Recurring Edit

Guest Edit

Trivia Edit

  • The title of this episode comes from the first stanza of the poem La Belle Dame sans Merci by the English poet John Keats:

O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
Alone and palely loitering
The sedge has withered from the lake,
And no birds sing.
It is Laura's mention of Withersedge, which was triggered by her seeing Mrs Potts, that prompts Rosemary to quote the last two line of the quote.

  • This episode was one of three adapted into a novel written by Brian Eastman.

References Edit

  1. Rosemary & Thyme, Series 1 episode 1: And No Birds Sing. Director: Brian Farnham; writer: Clive Exton. Carnival Films. First broadcast 31 August 2003 on ITV.
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