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 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, and local farmer and father-to-be Jack Royston (Richard Coleman).
The series also featured Maurice Kaufmann, Georgina Ward, Susan Field, Marjie Lawrence (pictured at right), John Moulder-Brown, John Glyn-Jones, Gerald Young and Vanessa Forsyth. Also seen, as youngsters, were Susan George and Kate O’Mara.
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 weekday episode of Weavers Green would be in peak-time, the weekend 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.