Mary Smith, a young Englishwoman who narrates the little affairs of the spinsters living in the village of Cranford.
Miss Deborah Jenkyns
Miss Deborah Jenkyns, a domineering spinster. She makes all the decisions for herself and her fifty-five-year-old unmarried sister Matilda, called Matty. They are the daughters of a rector. When Deborah dies, her sister finds it difficult to make decisions for herself.
Miss Matilda (Matty) Jenkyns
Miss Matilda (Matty) Jenkyns, who, though she has a better mind than Deborah, allows herself to be dominated by her sister. As a young woman, she had rejected a suitor in order to remain with her mother. When her financial situation becomes grave, her greatest concern is that she will be too poor to be included in the society of the village spinsters. She sets up a small shop and sells tea.
Thomas Holbrook, Matty’s rejected suitor.
Lady Glenmire, Mrs. Jamieson’s sister-in-law. She upsets the little community by marrying a doctor, whom many regard as no better than a tradesman.
Mrs. Jamieson, a friend of Matty. She becomes the social leader of Cranford’s spinster population upon the death of Deborah. She upsets her friends by not including them among the people she invites to meet her sister-in-law, Lady Glenmire. She later drops her sister-in-law when Lady Glenmire marries a doctor.
Mr. Hoggins, the doctor whom Lady Glenmire marries.
Miss Pole and
Mrs. Forrester, friends of Matty.
Peter Jenkyns, the long-lost brother of Matty and Deborah. He returns to the village to care for Matilda when she is in financial straits.
Martha, Matty’s faithful maid.
Captain Brown, a semi-retired man who is crude but whom the spinsters learn to accept because he is kind and considerate to them. He has two unmarried daughters.
Mary Brown, Captain Brown’s older daughter, who is dying of an incurable illness.
Jessie Brown, Captain Brown’s younger daughter. After the death of her father and sister, she marries a suitor of long standing.
Major Gordon, who marries Jessie.
Mr. Smith, the narrator’s kindly father. He becomes Matty’s adviser.
Betsy Barker, the owner of a famous cow.