THE TRUMPTONSHIRE TRILOGY
CAMBERWICK GREEN,TRUMPTON and CHIGLEY
*Each series had 13 episodes,and each was 15 minutes long.
*All 39 episodes were first broadcast in the BBC 1 1.30pm Watch With Mother timeslot for pre-school children.
*The first broadcast dates were
Camberwick - 3rd January,1966
Trumpton - 3rd January,1967
Chigley - 6th October,1969.
*The sets were designed and made by a husband and wife team,John and Margaret Brownfoot,who's background was in theatrical set design (for big people).But they'd also previously worked with Murray at the BBC.
All the sets were made and stored in one single room of their house in Harrow Hill,North London
*The animation was done by Bob Bura and John Hardwick,and their team.Both of whom were also ex-colleagues of Murray's on various BBC string puppet projects.But who'd subsequently embraced stop motion with work on adverts and animated inserts for kids tv programmes.And they also,famously,went on to work with writer/proudcer John Ryan on his 3 signature BBC kids series of Mary,Mungo & Midge,Captain Pugwash and The Adventures of Sir Prancelot.The last of which was effectively a knights-in-armour re-working of Pugwash.
*The filming was done in a disused church situated on Crouch Hill in London. Pic
Bura & Hardwick later part-leased it to "The Eurythmics" pop music duo of Dave Stewart and Annie Lennox,who completed their debut "Sweet Dreams" album there in the early 80's before eventually buying the whole freehold.
They then sold it to singer/songwriter David Gray in 2004,who recorded all his first few albums there.
In 2013 he decided to move it on,and following a lack of interest to take it as a going concern he got planning permission for a flat conversion.However a last minute deal was done to keep it as recording studio when it was bought by music producer/writer Paul Epworth -a solution that David Gray and most local residents had actually always strongly favoured. Studio website
* All 3 series were made using stop motion model animation,and actual 3D scaled down models.
The characters were about 6" tall.They had very simple aluminium wire skeletons to make them sufficiently rigid yet pliable.With ping pong balls for the heads,and clothing made predominantly out of foam latex.
None of them were given mouths,as lip movements were too time consuming (costly) to film.So the idea of speech is simply reinforced by all the usual body language that accompanies it,with plenty of arm and head movements,as well as basic nods and waves in response to direct questions from the narrator.
That said,in Camberwick there were some instances of open mouths suddenly appearing in a fixed position to reinforce an exclamation.Although even this very minor add-on was subsequently dropped for Trumpton and Chigley.
In short,it was a much cruder form of stop motion than that used for Wallace and Gromit,but the same basic principles.
And each 15 minute episode still took around 4 weeks to film even allowing for the re-use of stock footage.
Which is not surprising when you consider that 25 still photos produced just 1 second of footage.
Rubovia was shown at lunchtime on BBC1.
And the other 2 were both shown on Noel Edmond's Multi-Coloured Swap Shop,and also featured in its printed annuals.
But all 3 failed to get re-commissioned after their 1st series,and the really small amounts of spin-off merchandise they generated confirms their general lack of impact.
But Murray's place in tv history had already been assured and Trumptonshire merchandise had handsomely paid off the mortgage,so I don't suppose he lost too much sleep over it.........other than maybe nursing a slightly bruised ego.
*Where are they now ?
As far as I know,all the team are still with us except Freddie Phillips and John Hardwick,who passed away in 2003 & 2004 respectively.
All the remainder are in retirement,except for Brian Cant -who still divides his time between writing and performing,despite suffering from Parkinsons disease.
The original puppets have proved mortal too
Unfortunately,foam doesn't age particularly well and starts to break down chemically.The clothing was also becoming tatty and,by the late 1980's,Murray decided they'd reached the point of no return and famously cremated them in a back garden bonfire.(including all the remaining sets as well apparently.)
But there were at least 2 known survivors :-
One of the Camberwick "soldier boys" was gifted to a family friend by Murray's daughter Emma in 1986.And he put it up for sale at a Christies auction in London in May 2003.But it failed to meet its reserve,with what turned out to be an overly optimistic estimate of £2,000 to £3,000.
Then a couple of years later,Doctor Mopp emerged,although his particular escape route isn't documented.But he too was authenticated by Christies and included in their October 2005 London sale.Allbeit with practically none of the media coverage the first one got and carrying a much lower estimate of just £300 to £500.But at least he found a taker at the bottom end.Which I reckon was still quite a lot in view of the condition. Nevermind the relative ease with which anyone could build a suitably distressed one from scratch and pass it off as original.
*When were the series last shown on the BBC ?
Camberwick on Nov.1st,1985 ,and Trumpton on Nov.29th,1985.
With Chigley stealing the limelight for once by being the last of the 3 to air on Jan.3rd,1986.
Why ? No-one knows for sure.
Maybe the Beeb simply thought they'd become too old-fashioned and lacked enough social diversity for kids in 1980's Britain ? Or maybe it was something as basic as the quality of the footage which was struggling to meet modern broadcast standards in the absence of the original master tapes [which were presumed lost and only re-discovered in 2010/11]. But all that's pure guesswork in the absence of anything official.
And,whatever the reason,Channel 4 were only too happy to give them a residency for a number of years after that (details pending).
And they currently have an ongoing slot on the NickleOdeon Jnr kids channel,in addition to being digitally restored on several dvd and blu ray releases.
So there really is no escape !
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ON THIS PAGE - some basic facts and figures about Camberwick Green,Trumpton and Chigley.
*All the songs and sound effects were composed and performed by classically trained guitarist Freddie Phillips.
Following his death,his son,John,now holds all the rights to the music -the only part of Trumptonshire that Gordon Murray doesn't hold the copyright to.
*The narration and singing was all done by Brian Cant -the only voice you ever hear in all 3 series.
Predominantly a theatre actor,he got the job largely off the back of presenting BBC's PlaySchool since it started in 1964. And he continued to do both PlaySchool and its' offshoot PlayAway until the early 80's. With his last big tv role coming when he fronted the Channel 5 kids' programme Dappledown Farm in the 90's.
For Trumps,he recorded 3 full episodes in a single day at Freddie Phillip's house in Chessington,which doubled as a makeshift studio.A suitably Heath Robinson affair,as befitted the cottage industry nature of the whole production. With frequent pauses in recording caused by aircraft noise. Not that you'd know it from the iconic end results of course.
*Why no fourth series ?
Gordon Murray was quoted as saying "....although I toyed with the idea of a fourth series using a seaside location,I felt the Trumptonshire programmes had run their natural course"
Whether that was true or it was a BBC decision or a combination of the two has never really been established.
But seeing as Chigley was the least popular of the 3,then it probably wasn't that hard a decision,whoever actually took it.
* Gordon Murray post-Chigley ?
Trumptonshire was a once-in-a-lifetime creation,so it's not surprising that what followed wasn't nearly as successful. Although I can't say "as good" because I haven't see any of them. And how many of us have to be fair ?
But all the following were again made using stop motion. And left to right in the photo montage were........
1976- Rubovia. 6 episode remake of a string puppet series he'd made pre-Camberwick whilst still working for the Beeb.
1977- Skip and Fuffy.Short 5 minute episodes with the 2 main characters using rhyming wordplay.
1979 -The Gublin Legends.13 episodes featuring rather bizarre looking monkey-like "people" & more rhyming wordplay
*All 39 episodes were shot in colour.But colour wasn't introduced to BBC1 until the autumn of 1969,so both Camberwick and Trumpton were originally shown in black & white.Whilst only some of Chigley's initial run coincided with the change.
*The series creator was Gordon Murray (b.1921). Pictured here in 2005.
He worked as a professional puppeteer for the BBC,,left to develop a series of his own,
and hit the jackpot with his first attempt [original working title of which was "Candlewick"]
He became a stringless animation convert in the process,wrote the scripts and made
most of the characters.
In the case of Trumpton,he shared writing duties with author Alison Prince,who also
came up with the names of the firemen.
And she later created and wrote another much-loved Watch With Mother series, "Joe"
* The first episode of Camberwick featured Peter the Postman,and had actually been made as the original pilot.
A postman was considered the ideal narrative vehicle to introduce most of the main locations and cast during the course of his daily round.