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Silver Swan, The

1 9 5 2 – 1 9 5 3 (UK)
6 x 30 minute episodes

The Silver Swan is thought to be the very first children’s serial written for British television and not adapted from a literary source.

The central idea of a violin handed down through the generations came from BBC children’s producer John Hunter Blair, and the concept of time travel was used to create the most interesting and different drama idea yet produced for children.

Lucy (Carole Maybank) visits her aunt, a housekeeper at Gresham Hall and finds the music room fascinating. The walls are decorated with portraits of the Gresham family line and many include the family crest of a silver swan.

Picking up a violin she finds in the room, she notices it is also decorated with a silver swan and appears in the portrait of Francis, a Gresham family member from the time of Queen Elizabeth I.

Sitting at the piano she discovers a piece of music called The Silver Swan and is transported back in time to 1558.

Lucy’s adventures take her through the ages to meet the Gresham lineage, beginning with a tale of Franco-Italian skullduggery at Queen Elizabeth’s court. On her further trips, Lucy meets a Royalist who becomes fiddler to Oliver Cromwell, sees how the violin saved a Gresham from being press-ganged into service on a boat in Bristol, discovers the ‘lost’ violin unearthed in Vienna in 1850, visits Belgium at the time of the Great War, and joins the Resistance in occupied France in 1942.

The serial – broadcast from the BBC studios at Lime Grove – was designed to educate and inform but doubtless also entertained its audience.

The small part of Lord Henriques in the first episode was played by a young actor called Peter Cushing.

Lucy
Carole Maybank
Francis Gresham
Robert Irvine
Gerald Gresham
Randal Herley
Mary Cromwell
Pat Fryer
Sir Willoughby Wilkie
Hamlyn Benson
Margaret Read
Lillian Christine
Lord Henriques
Peter Cushing
Giovanni
David Kossoff
Housekeeper
Violet Lamb
Dick
Michael Brill
Oliver Cromwell
Oliver Burt
Burrows
Philip Dale
Pierre
George De Warfaz
Willi Schnitzler
Dawson France
Mrs Schnitzler
Joan Young
Madeleine
Olive Gregg
Franz Wehrli
John Levitt
Elsa Gresham
Peggy Livesey
Mr Goldschmidt
Tom McCall
Jenny Lind
Elsie Morison
Stephen
Victor Platt
Old Peg
Gladys Spencer
Jane Kendall
Gudrun Ure