If it's true that the first viewing of anything always has the biggest impact,then we'd really better start with those lucky tots who saw the very first transmission of Camberwick Green.
Picture the scene,or relive it if you were lucky enough to be there......
It's 1.30pm,January 3rd,1966 and you've settled down to watch this new Watch With Mother series on BBC1.
Every single UK tv set has just 3 channels.Everything's still broadcast in black & white.And because the Beeb still view the concept of a programme trailer as somewhat vulgar,we have no idea who,or what,"Camberwick Green" is.
What's it going to be about ? Will it be any good ?
More string puppets I suppose.Just like Andy Pandy,The Woodentops and The Flowerpot Men.
Which is fine,because that's all we've ever known.
But how about giving us something different ? Something really different.
Well,whatever it is,I've finished my eggy soldiers early in anticipation.It's a pretty dreary winter's day outside and the recent entertainment's been restricted to helping mum do the washing-up and watching Hammy the hamster having a thrash in his wheel.So it's pretty thin pickings and this things got my undivided attention.
Anyhow,here we go.Cue theme tune and .............Oh,a clown (sigh). How original .........
Hey.Hang on a minute though.That clown's got no strings.No Strings ?!
Oooh,and now there's a box. Look out,the music's stopping and...........
"Here is a box.A musical box.Wound up and ready to play.
But this box can hide a secret inside. Can you guess what is in it today ? "
This'll do very nicely thank you. Mum ! Please stand down for the next 15 minutes. I'm busy !
And so it all began........
Of course I'm well aware that many of you will only ever have seen the series in colour.
So I've specially tweeked those opening titles so they start in b&w,and change to colour part the way through.
The arrival of colour obviously added a fantastic new dimension to the whole experience.
It's debatable just how fondly it would be remembered without it.And there's absolutely no doubt we'd have seen and heard a lot less of it over the years.
Of course,if you've only ever seen them in colour then it's maybe slightly hard to comprehend.
But it must've been such a great eye-opener for any tot who straddled the changeover from black and white.
A sort of slightly surreal moment with accompanying sensory overload -and actually a subject that they based a whole 1998 movie around called "PleasantVille"
That 1st episode featured Peter Hazell,the Postman.
But 12 other characters also emerged from the music box over the course of the series,and each episode was woven around them.And at such a tender age,the suspense of waiting to see who'd pop up each week was great.
Simple,but very effective.
The Peter Hazell episode is unique though because it also doubled as the original pilot episode.
And it includes certain little touches that they obviously had a rethink about before filming the rest of the series.
1) The use of dancing to accompany the songs.
Aside from the biscuit factory dance at the end of every Chigley episode,Peter Hazell's twirl with Mrs Dingle proved to be the only other example.The Chigley footage was re-used 13 times,so the extra animating time could be justified.
2) The use of mouth movements.
Lip-synching was avoided altogether of course because it was far too time-consuming.But they did start out using the odd isolated shot of an "open" mouth to reinforce surprise or an exclamation.And this actually lasted for the first 2 or 3 Camberwick episodes before being dropped (ie. some whistling in Windy's episode...Micky Murphy burning his hand etc
Ok. Let's take a look at all the constituent parts of Camberwick Green ......
Before listing all the characters,I think it would be a good idea to put them into some sort of context first.
So,this is the world they inhabit.
Camberwick Green in the County of Trumptonshire.A small,country hamlet based around a village green.
Well,I say "Green",but it's actually a large tree with a seat round it and a small (very small) bit of greenery.
But a proper village green would've probably meant extra demands on the animator's...imaging having to animate a cricket match maybe ?
And this option provides a nice turning circle for the vehicles if nothing else !
All the houses are detached.Well,link-detached in the case of the Bakery and Fishmongers.
And there's a real mish mash of architectural styles,with Doc Mopp's Georgian splendour sitting next to a Post Office which looks as though it's just dropped in from the Swiss Alps.
Throughout the entire series we're never shown the whole Green in one shot.
Very civilised shopping hours too :- 9 till 5 except half-day early closing at 1pm on Wednesdays & Saturdays.And closed all day Sundays ie.pretty much what shoppers would have experienced in the UK in 1966.
The Green (as in Camberwick "Green") From left to right ie.the order they appear on screen ......
1. The Murphy Family Bakery 2. Mr.Carraway's Fish Shop (Open in Pic 2 & Closed in 5)
3. Mrs.Dingle's Post Office & General Stores 4. Dr.Mopp's House / Surgery.
5. The 'Green' around which they're located [with Carraway's shutter down]
During it's 1965 production,2 seperate versions were actually filmed in tandem -one in b & w and one in colour.
The producers knew it would initially be shown in b&w,but also realised that there'd be little or no call for b&w programmes in an era of colour.
Which isn't the no-brainer you might think.As it meant extra costs onto an already very tight budget,with no knowledge when colour was actually going to be introduced and no guarantee the series would be successful enough for colour repeats to even be required.
But a 50 year shelf life on tv,vhs,dvd and blu-ray proves just what a huge call it was to get right !
And never under-estimate just how important the choice of stop motion animation was too.
Because the string puppetry alternative would've rendered it stillborn.
As well as consigning it to a future as a rarely seen quaint curiousity.... .....that not even a colour version could rescue !
Interior shots of the above ? This is the full extent of what's shown:-
The Bakery1a- This is the only area shown downstairs 1b- Paddy and Mary's bedroom. Only shown in one episode.
The FishMongers.No interior shots. We never get past the threshold.
The Post Office 3a-The shop & post office counter.And,as the hub of the village,it's not used as much as you might have thought.
Doctor Mopp's House 4a- Downstairs room. Only shown in one episode.
Other Locations outside the Green
The Green is obviously the hub of activity.
But there are other important locations of course.
One of those cluster-type signposts pointing every whichway would be very handy for us navel-gazers to pinpoint exactly where they are.But in the absence of that we can only live off scraps like Mickey Murphy saying that Colley's Mill is "quite a long way" from his shop. Or the fact that son Paddy can rollerskate from there to the Dairy.And so on.
And we're also not told where they are in relation to each other either.
You'd have thought Gordon Murray would've paced it all out for us wouldn't you ?!
Anyhooo....here they are,in no particular order.And I've tried to select the widest/best views of them we're given.
Top row,from left to right
Colley's Mill ( Windy's home/workplace )
In addition to the Mill itself,we get 3 other constituent parts
Pic 1 shows the "Granary" to the left .Pic 2 the Well to the right. And Pic 3 the "Cookhouse"-which is only ever seen in one episode and only from this angle,so we don't know where it is in relation to the other bits.And the reason there's only half of it on view is because it's shot from the other end to double up as Roger Varley's house -also only shown once
And just for good measure,Windy's bit also appears to double as the back of the Bakery for one scene.Just as well a lot of houses have the same styles and paint colours of course or we'd be on the phone to continuity !
Either side of the Bakery and Doc Mopp's house ? Brief stretches of brick wall and open countryside.(see pic 4)
Missing ? The Chemist's Shop.
Mrs.Honeyman was the wife of the Chemist,but we never actually saw the shop (or him for that matter).
Presumably it's on the other side of the Green ? ie. the side we never see.
2nd row,from left to right
Pippin Fort -home to Messrs Snort,Grout and the soldier boys.
Farmer Bell's Farm
And as a reminder of the time the series was filmed,2 typically ghastly bits of bland 60's minimalism ........
Mr.Crockett's Garage and Tripp's Dairy
But at least it cut down on the model makers workload I suppose.
The only interior shots we ever see of all those are a scene in Windy's cookhouse and one in Bell's milking parlour.
Which is a pity. Because 2 things I always wished we'd been shown were:-
1) The Mill workings -some nice chunky machinery and suitably clunky sound effects would've gone down a treat. And,
2) A parade ground set inside the walls of Pippin Fort which meant we could've seen that great portcullis-type gate working.
And if they'd had the time and money,I'd like to think they may well have done just that.
But the "get out" is that you can usually rely on a kid's imagination to fill in the gaps.
Locations mentioned,but never actually shown.
The first 2 are both courtesy of the Pippin Fort troupe.
Incidentally,did anyone find it strange that they were described as "boys who want to be soldiers" and yet we see Private Lumley driving the baker's van in the Mickey Murphy episode ?
Makes you wonder just how old they were supposed to be ?
Anyhow,"Camberwick Common" is mentioned in one episode as a place where they "play their tracking games".
And in another episode,we're told that "every tuesday after parade,the boys go to "the swimming pool".It's their favourite sport."
Pity we didn't get to see the former but we were never going to get to see the latter now were we ! They must have had a giggle lobbing in that nugget.As a swimming pool packed full of people is enough to make any stop motion animator reach for the paracetemol
Moving on from the Pippin Fort gang,there's a reference to "the packing station" by Windy in the Farmer Bell episode. Mentioned in relation to his egg production. But that's all we get on that.
In Mrs Honeyman's episode,she assumes the presence of workmen on the Green is a prelude to the building of "an electricity sub station".Everyone's up in arms and rallies together to stop it,because we're told,
".....nobody wants the Green to be changed.They like it just the way it is".
Fortunately,it's all been a misunderstanding and they're only there to install "a new drain" (hurrah)
And the sub station ? Well we're told that it's going to go behind Crockett's Garage.
So a brief look into some future development there but,miraculously,50 years later and....it's still exactly the same !
All of which goes to prove that Camberwick Green is the only part of Britain where phrases like 'green belt', 'conservation area' and 'S.S.S.I' actually mean something.
Well,ok,maybe there and Postman Pat's Greendale !
And,lastly,there's "the Chemist's shop" which I mentioned further up the page.And which ends this segment.
For all the Camberwick characters and their songs please go to the Camberwick Pt.2 page