Fans of feel good BBC drama series Call the Midwife are counting down the days until Season 8.

The close of Season 7 left audiences across the UK heartbroken following the death of much-loved nurse Barbara Gilbert to septicemia.

And now viewer’s hopes rest on a brighter beginning for the residents of Poplar and the nurses, midwives and Sisters of Nonnatus House for Season 8.

READ MORE: Miranda Hart’s upsetting news

One thing we’ve learned from Series 1-7 is that Call the Midwife never shies away from addressing important issues in whichever time period it is set – from the thalidomide scandal to the challenges faced by immigrants making a new life in London.

On the flip side there’s also plenty of love and laughter added into the mix – and we’re keeping our fingers crossed that there’s a new romance on the cards in Season 8!

READ MORE: ‘I’m so proud of you’: Shayne Ward posts heartfelt tribute to his Call The Midwife star fiancée

As the start of the series draws ever closer, here’s everything you need to know about Call the Midwife Season 8.

Call the Midwife Cast: Season 8

As well as the return of some season regulars, we will also see some brand new faces. Actress Miriam Margoles – most recently known for the role of Professor Sprout in the Harry Potter film series – will play Sister Mildred a ‘forthright and indefatigable’ who arrives unexpectedly at Nonnatus House with four Chinese orphans in tow.

Two more midwives will also be brought in to bolster the forces at Nonnatus House after several departures. Ella Bruccoleri (Genius: Picasso, The Last Kingdom) will play Sister Frances, while Fenella Woolgar (Victoria & Abdul, Harlots and War & Peace) will play Sister Hilda.

Georgie Glen (Waterloo Road, Damned) also joins the cast as Miss Higgins – a new receptionist at the surgery.

Also returning are:

Helen George as Nurse Trixie Franklin

Leonie Elliott as Nurse Lucille Anderson

Jennifer Kirby as Nurse Valerie Dyer

Linda Bassett as Nurse Phyllis Crane

Judy Parfitt as Sister Monica Joan

Victoria Yeates as Sister Winifred

Jenny Agutter as Sister Julienne

Laura Main as Shelagh Turner

Stephen McGann as Dr Patrick Turner

Max MacMillan as Timothy Turner

Cliff Parisi as Fred Buckle

Annabelle Apison as Violet Buckle

Daniel Laurie as Reggie Jackson

Trevor Cooper as Sergeant Woolf

Producers on the show have also teased that the door is always open for Miranda Hart – aka Camilla “Chummy” Fortescue – to make a return to the series, tweeting the above earlier in the year.

Fans will be sad to hear that Barbara’s on-screen husband Reverend Tom Hereward (Jack Ashton) will not return for Season 8 as the duties of missionary life call.

When does the Call the Midwife Christmas Special: Season 8 air?

Season 8 will kick off with a Christmas Special airing in December.

And now, new pictures of the highly-anticipated episode have been released, revealing a first look at the three new additions to the midwives of Nonnatus House.

The most notable new character is Miriam Margoyles, as Sister Mildred – looking slightly stern, we must say! She’s joined in the image by two other newbies, Sister Frances and Sister Hilda, played by Ella Bruccoleri and Fenella Woolgar.

In a second, newly-released snap, fans have been treated to a familiar image, with the much-loved Fred dressed up as Father Christmas, accompanied by his wife Violet and his cousin Reggie. It’s a very festive season – and it’s definitely put us in the Christmas mood!

In past seasons, the Christmas episode has normally aired on Christmas Day around 8pm, and 2018 may well continue this trend, though exact details haven’t been confirmed.

In the episode the Sisters of Nonnatus House are leaving for a spell at the Mother House, leaving midwives – including Trixie – to hold the fort.

And as the midwives balance readying themselves for the festive season with the needs of expectant mothers in Poplar, a knock on the door reveals the arrival of a surprise party of Sister Mildred and four orphans.

It materialises that the orphans were abandoned in Hong Kong and have journeyed thousands of miles to be adopted in the UK as part of the World Refugee Project.

Over at the Mother House there’s more drama in store. The Order’s Mother Superior has taken ill and as the election process gets underway for her successor it soon becomes clear that the ever-reliable Sister Julienne is the candidate of choice – much to her shock.

Call the Midwife episodes: Season 8

There are a total of eight episodes in Call the Midwife Season 8, which starts in January 2019.

The series starts in the spring of 1964, with the whole of Poplar filled with excitement over Queen Elizabeth’s impending birth.

Violet even throws a Teddy Bears’ Picnic with the proceeds of a competition on whether the Queen will be welcoming a daughter or son.

Over at Nonnatus House things are as hectic as ever, with the two new midwives getting used to their surroundings and the introduction of new midwifery bags.

All this change seems to have an impact on Sister Monica Joan who makes her escape from Nonnatus House.

Nurse Crane is also on tenterhooks as she awaits the progress of a twin delivery, but she is confident the team can handle what’s to come.

Sister Julienne also looks very reflective. Does she have a lot on her mind?

’60s fashion is also in full swing…

And Fred reprises his role as Santa…

But come what may the residents will still be gathering around the dinner table for a meal and a catch up…

We can’t wait to see it all!

From our sister site, Woman & Home.