Camberwick Green, Monday's Watch With Mother offering began in 1966 with the words "Here is a box, a musical box, wound up and ready to play. But this box can hide a secret inside. Can you guess what is in it today?" Then out of the rotating top would pop the "secret", which in fact was the featured character of that particular episode.
Amongst the rural village's cast of characters were local gossip Mrs Honeyman, Dr. Mopp, Peter the Postman, Mrs Dingles the Postmistress, Mr Carraway the Fishmonger, Mickey Murphy the Baker and Thomas Tripp the Milkman. But without a doubt the star of the show was Windy Miller the flour maker, who was in charge of the windmill.
The series was animated by Bob Bura and John Hardwick with assistance from fellow animators George Debouch, Colin Large, Len Palace and Pasquale Ferrari from stories by Gordon Murray and told by Play School's Brian Cant.
Gordon Murray had been writing at the BBC since 1955 when he delivered his first series of plays for children, performed by The BBC Puppet Theatre, titled A Rubovian Legend. The first three plays – ‘The Queen’s Dragon’, ‘Clocks and Blocks’ and ‘The Dragon’s Hiccups’ – were transmitted live and following their broadcast they proved popular enough with youngster for the BBC to commission 26 filmed episodes which were subsequently sold to a number of British Commonwealth countries.
Bura and Hardwick began their career performing Punch and Judy shows on Portsmouth's Southsea beach and within a few years had progressed to making animated advertisements for the cinema. In the early 1950s they started work at the BBC and were briefly employed as marionette and rod-puppet operators on the Puppet Theatre where they met Murray. Through their company, Stop Motion (a term that is today known throughout the industry), they continually invented or modified the technology that they were given to work with. Their original cameras were designed for normal, continuous filming, so they commissioned engineering companies to design machines that would enable the shutters to expose one frame at a time, instead of 24 frames per second. They were subsequently utilised on animated films for inserts in a variety of programmes, including Blue Peter and Pops & Lenny. They also made inserts for school television programmes.
By the 1960s it was clear that string puppets were becoming old-fashioned and Bura and Hardwick developed their pioneering stop-motion work even further. The technique was perfect for Gordon Murray's new series, Camberwick Green (Murray had planned to name the show "Candlewick Green" but the person writing the contract had misheard the name). Working from a Crouch End, North London house (later home to Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics), the duo spent a year completing the 13 episodes of the 15-minute series, at the rate of one frame per hour. While filming Camberwick Green, they also managed to persuade a reluctant BBC to use colour by, as a ploy, using one black and white camera and one colour camera. In the UK television was still being transmitted in black and white only but when the BBC saw the results, they chose colour - heralding a new era of children's television.
Although only 13 episodes were made, they proved so successful that there were two spin-off series, Trumpton and Chigley.
Published on April 19th, 2021. Written by Marc Saul for Television Heaven.