'The Archers' connection with Campden

Judith Ellis

1937 Radio Times advertisement for 'Motor Cars or Hosses?'
1937 Radio Times advertisement for 'Motor Cars or Hosses?'
'Upper Slocombe' radio team,
l-r: Bill Payne, George Hart, unknown, Bob Arnold, Lionel Ellis, Garnet Keyte, unknown, Charles Gardiner
'Upper Slocombe' radio team, l-r: Bill Payne, George Hart, unknown, Bob Arnold, Lionel Ellis, Garnet Keyte, unknown, Charles Gardiner
1948 Radio Times advertisement for 'Liberty Hall'
1948 Radio Times advertisement for 'Liberty Hall'
1948 Radio Times extract with cast list
1948 Radio Times extract with cast list

We have just been given a souvenir booklet about people in ‘The Archers’. You might wonder about its relevance to Campden history, but it all started here!

Charles Gardiner (1902-1966) was Clerk to Evesham Rural District Council for 37 years with a variety of responsibilities, particularly during WWII.

He was also a keen observer of country life and a prolific writer about customs, dialect, work and leisure in the Vale and Cotswolds.

He wrote books and humorously descriptive magazine articles on a range of local topics, and in 1936 submitted a radio play to the BBC. It was called ‘Motor Cars or Hosses’ and was the first of a series of comedy plays on ‘the deplorable episodes in the history of the Parish Council of the Cotswold village of Upper Slocombe’.

The Cotswold dialect was not familiar to BBC actors and so local people were enrolled to play the parts. They continued to act in the following twelve half-hour episodes and also in other productions.

The amateur actors included:  Bill Payne, George Hart, Garnet Keyte and Lionel Ellis – Campden men who were in the Upper Slocombe plays and many others through to the late 1940’s.

‘Liberty Hall’ was one of the later half-hour plays, in 1948, and two years later the first episode of ‘The Archers’ was broadcast, with a number of the ‘Upper Slocombe’ actors moving into key roles, including  Bob Arnold, Bill Payne and George Hart.

 ‘The Archers’, was said to be inspired by the Upper Slocombe series. Bob Arnold became Tom Forrest, Bill Payne turned into Ned Larkin and George Hart was Jethro Larkin until he was ‘killed off’ in 1987. Bill lived at Ebrington and George ran an agricultural engineering business in Campden.

 

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