I guess many readers of my blog outside the UK will have no idea at all what this apparent gibberish title is all about.
But I bet there are some UK readers—and avid BBC Radio 4 listeners—who will understand it right away.
Yes, it’s Barwick Green, the theme to the BBC’s long-running radio soap opera, The Archers, by Yorkshire composer Arthur Wood.
Normally, it’s only the first 15 seconds that’s ever heard, so it’s quite a treat to listen to the whole composition.
The Archers, ‘an everyday story of country folk’ has been broadcast continually since 1 January 1951, with more than 17,600 episodes. Can you imagine that?
I grew up listening to The Archers, and that continued through the late 60s while I was at university. But since the 1970s, I can’t remember the last time I heard an episode. Not surprising really since I was abroad for about 27 years.
Created by Godfrey Basely, The Archers was originally a radio drama that also served up practical farming advice. I read somewhere that the Ministry of Agriculture was also part of the team that developed the drama. Central to all the storylines were ‘Dan and Doris Archer’ and their family at ‘Brookfield Farm’, and set in the Midland county of ‘Borsetshire’, the mythical Archer country located somewhere south of Birmingham.
I live in Bromsgrove, about 13 miles south of Birmingham and more or less the same distance north of Worcester. Bromsgrove, a small market town (or at least it once was) in north Worcestershire is generally considered as the model for ‘Borchester’. And villages in the rural areas around Bromsgrove, such as Hanbury and Inkberrow, are also considered as ‘Archer models’. Perhaps the cathedral city of Worcester (with its own university) is the model for ‘Felpersham’.
Now I’m no longer a fan of The Archers (although it still has a faithful following) and haven’t been for a very long time. So why this sudden interest in the program, and the urge to write something here on my blog.
Well, a couple of days ago I was looking through some old slides I’d digitized, and came across a set of six that took me back more than 60 years. As I’ve written elsewhere, I was born in Congleton, Cheshire, and didn’t move to Leek until I was seven in 1956. Although we lived close to Congleton town centre at 13 Moody Street, I (and my two brothers and sister) attended primary school in the village of Mossley, a couple of miles to the southeast.
And from about 1954 it must have been (I don’t think earlier), and for the next four or five years, my dad was one of a team helping to raise funds for a new village hall in Mossley, on a plot of land donated by the Chappell family who lived close by.
Each year the highlight was a May Fair, quite large even by today’s standards. And of course, there had to be ‘celebrity’ to open each Fair. So for each one, a member of the cast of The Archers was invited in that capacity.
Denis Folwell, who played ‘Jack Archer’, son of Dan and Doris, and landlord of the local pub, ‘The Bull’, was the first Archer invited. Then came Doris, played by Wolverhampton-born actress Gwen Berryman, see in this series of photos below.
Other Archers characters invited were ‘Tom Forrest’ (Bob Arnold), and ‘Walter Gabriel’ (“My old pal, my old beauty”, played by Chris Gittins). I don’t think Dan Archer (Harry Oakes) came to Mossley, but I did meet him one year at another May Fair in a village near Congleton when I went along with my father to cover this event, as he was Chief Photographer at the Congleton Chronicle. I seem to recall I also met Dan and Doris’s other son, ‘Phil’, played by Norman Painting, but whether this was at Mossley or elsewhere, I just don’t remember.
The May Fairs were a lot of fun. A big marquee for afternoon teas, sideshows, fancy dress competitions (which my elder brother won at the very first Mossley May Fair, dressed as a press photographer, and with a message on his back: Following in Father’s Footsteps!). And they were always held in the grounds of a Chappell family home, a large house across the road from Mossley Holy Trinity Church, at the crossroads of Biddulph Road (A527) and Leek Road/Reade’s Lane where an old friend of my parents, the Rev. Cyril Green was the vicar. From a quick look at Google maps (satellite view) it looks as if the Chappell’s house has been demolished and the whole site redeveloped.
Not too late to start listening to the Archers again.
I’m Congleton born and raised too. Been away far too long now so I really enjoyed reading your post. I have countless happy memories of time spent in Mossley with mates and girlfriends, in my late teens, early 20s in the 70s and 80s. My brother lives in Hightown so I still get to see some of it when I visit him … and I can still taste those wonderful fish and chips from Mossley chippy even now :-). Yep, One of my favourite places.
I remember Rev. Green and Miss Chappelle but not the May Fair. I never knew about the Archers coming to Mossley. We moved there in 1961. Yes, Mossley House (?) was built on quite a while ago.
We had ‘school dinners’ and PE in the village hall and later Brownies and Guides. Mossley Village Hall now has a large annex, The Chappell Centre.