1 9 6 6 (UK)
49 x 30 minute episodes
This short-lived twice-weekly soap opera from Anglia was supposed to be television’s answer to The Archers and followed the activities of two country vets in the fictitious East Anglian English village of Weavers Green.
The serial revolved around local vet Alan Armstrong (Grant Taylor) and his wife Dotty (Megs Jenkins) and their interaction with local farmers and villagers, chief among them Alan’s fellow vet Geoffrey Toms (Eric Flynn), recently arrived from London with his highly-strung wife Celia (Georgina Ward).
The village was crammed with characters like Mrs Vincent (Susan Field), Dotty’s daily help and her cowman husband, Bert (Charles Lamb); progressive young farmer Jack Royston (Richard Coleman) and old-timer Ernie Arkwright (Frederick Piper); retired colonial civil servant Archibald Langley OBE (Gerald Young); Hazel Westcott (Marjie Lawrence, pictured at right) who lived in a small cottage with her son, Colin (John Moulder-Brown) and labrador dog, Holly; Captain Tony Patterson (Jack Melford) who trained jumpers – including those of middle-aged playboy Bobby Brent (Edward Underdown) – and worried about his daughter (Sheila Fearn) and his overdraft; Daniel Jessop (John Glyn-Jones), the wily old local handyman and poacher; Sam Moneypenny (Peter Lawrence) the village policeman; and agricultural machinery salesman Derek Swan (Maurice Kaufmann) who had only recently come back to Weavers Green.
The series was initially shown on Thursdays and Saturdays but succumbed to TV politics when ATV wanted the slot for Emergency – Ward 10.
Weavers Green was the creation of husband and wife team Peter and Betty Lambda, who after 30 episodes were succeeded by Troy and Ian Kennedy Martin (writing pseudonymously as Tony Marsh).
The serial was envisaged as ‘a mirror of country life’ but country living was not idealised, and the difficulties of village life, both for those who were new to the country and those who wished to escape, were sensitively, if a little earnestly portrayed.
It was one of the first shows to be shot primarily on location on mobile VTR equipment. This made the show extremely expensive and it was widely described in the press as the most elaborate and, at £250,000, the most expensive television serial to date.
But despite this blaze of publicity and optimism, Weavers Green lasted for only 25 weeks and is barely remembered today.
A scheduling decision by ITV dictated that while the Thursday episode of Weavers Green would be in peak-time (7.00 pm), the Saturday episode was only fit for children’s hour and, in some regions, a slot opposite Doctor Who.
Anglia argued, quite reasonably, that the high ratings of the weekday episodes would only be matched by a peak-time weekend slot, but amid much publicity in June 1966, ITV announced that Weavers Green would end in September.
Anglia accused the network of bullying and what had begun as a simple show about country living ended in acrimony and bitterness. It was no coincidence that years later Anglia was the last ITV region to promote Emmerdale Farm (often wrongly described as the first rural TV soap) to a peak-time slot.
Mrs Jessie Vincent
Archibald Langley OBE
Captain Toby Patterson
PC Sam Moneypenny