1 9 7 5 (UK)
13 x 60 minute episodes
This epic series from Granada Television was set in the mining and fishing village of Sleescale in the northeast of England and spanned 22 turbulent years from 1910 to 1932, taking in World War I (with the battlefields of the Somme recreated on slurry wasteland near Astley Green Colliery in Lancashire).
Over 13 consecutive Thursday evenings – between September and November 1975 – The Stars Look Down chronicled the lives and loves and varying fortunes of pit folk and their families.
The Neptune mine, owned by Richard Barras (Basil Dignam), has always cast its shadow over Martha Fenwick (Avril Elgar) – the stern matriarch of the mining Fenwick family. Overworked and prematurely aged with three miner sons, she is pregnant again when the series opens. Her youngest son, David (Ian Hastings), shares the miners’ hardships at the coal face, but his social conscience – honed in the pit – will take him into politics.
Jenny Sunley (Susan Tracy), the daughter of the inn owner, considers lowness a cardinal sin but falls for the eligible David and becomes his wife.
Meanwhile, Joe Gowlan (Alun Armstrong) – Jenny’s former boyfriend – decides to leave the pit for the iron foundry, but his ruthless ambition is grasping for more lucrative goals.
The Sleescale mine is ultimately destroyed by fire in the penultimate episode.
The series – based on a best-selling novel by A J Cronin relating his experiences as a young pit doctor working in a Welsh mining village – took four years to plan and ten months to film, using 80 leading actors, hundreds of extras, 54 studio sets and miles of film. The production cost £500,000 to make – Granada’s highest budget ever at the time.
Four separate locations represented the fictional pit village of Sleescale, meaning that a miner stepped out of his two-room stone cottage in Railway Street, Langley Park, County Durham, crossed the road to shops in Bollington, Cheshire, and tramped through the entrance to the Hayfield pit – in reality, a disused printing works.
Filming the mine flood disaster required the actors to stay bent double for extended periods while they were sprayed with thousands of gallons of water.
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