The four-parter, exploring Victorian Britain through paintings, opened to 4.33m (16.6%) in the 9pm hour. It followed on from ongoing drama Lark Rise To Candleford, which had a strong 5.73m (21.1%), and Antiques Roadshow, which managed 6.27m (24.8%).
Meanwhile, the latest Dancing On Ice performances show brought in a sizable 9.24m (35.8%) to ITV1 between 6.55pm and 8.30pm, a rise of around 260k week-on-week.
Wild At Heart had 7.58m (28.1%) in the hour that followed, then Dancing On Ice - The Skate-Off, in which rugby star Ellery Hanley was voted off, put in 7.93m (31.5%).
ITV1 averaged out to 29.4% in primetime, leaving BBC One in second with 19.6%.
A celebrity edition of Come Dine With Me, featuring Christopher Biggins and Edwina Currie as guests, had a strong 2.43m (9%) for Channel 4 in the 8pm hour, with a further 466k (2%) on Channel 4+1. A screening of Tom Cruise actioner Mission: Impossible III followed with 2.66m (12.6%) until 11.20pm. An additional 327k (2.7%) watched on Channel 4+1.
Richard Hammond's new series Engineering Connections - first shown on National Geographic - began with a strong 2.89m (10.7%) for BBC Two at 8.30pm, then a Philippines-set Explore appealed to 1.31m (5.3%).
Five averaged 1.02m (4.2%) throughout much of primetime for a screening of WWII epic The Dirty Dozen.
Overall, Channel 4 took third place in primetime with an average share of 8.7% (+1: 1.1%). BBC Two was next with 7.7%, while Five trailed with 3.6%.
Lost topped the multichannel ratings, taking 876k (3.7%) for Sky1 in the 9pm hour. Ross Kemp: Return To Afghanistan followed at 10 with 794k (4.7%).
BBC Three had a strong night, starting with 697k (2.9%) for coverage of Italian derby Inter Milan vs AC Milan. Being Human had 656k (3%) in a slightly later, 9.20pm slot.
ITV2's top audience was 515k (2.2%) for Supernatural in the 9pm hour, with a further 126k (0.7%) watching on ITV2+1.
Ratings data supplied by Attentional