Pebble Mill at One

Pebble Mill at One was a British television magazine programme that was broadcast live weekdays at one o'clock on BBC1, from 2 October 1972 to 23 May 1986 and again from 20 October 1991 to 25 May 1996. It was transmitted from the Pebble Mill studios of BBC Birmingham, and uniquely, was hosted from the centre's main foyer area, rather than a conventional television studio.

Pebble Mill at One
Pebble Mill at One opening titles
Also known asPebble Mill (1991-6)
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original language(s)English
Running time45 minutes
Original networkBBC1
Original release2 October 1972 (1972-10-02) 
25 May 1996 (1996-05-25)

In 1991, a revival of the series was aired, which ran to 1996.


Until 1986 there were few television programmes transmitted on BBC Television during daytime hours. For this reason, Pebble Mill acquired a unique following from those who found themselves at home at lunchtime. Housewives, students, and those recovering from an illness remember it with fondness for its variety and the problems inherent with live television.

The show was broadcast from the foyer of Pebble Mill because a planned third studio was never constructed on the site, and existing facilities were fully booked for network drama production and local news. In the beginning, visitors to the studios were seen arriving in the background as the programme was transmitted. Gradually, as the show became more successful, the foyer became a studio, and visitors had to use a new entrance.

Two weeks after the show began, ITV launched a brand new daytime line-up, including an ITN News bulletin at lunchtime, placing it in direct competition with Pebble Mill.[1][2][3]

Only a handful of the programmes are known to survive.[4] However, one episode that does survive from the early years celebrated the tenth anniversary of Doctor Who in 1973, featuring interviews with Patrick Troughton and visual effects designer Bernard Wilkie, which is included on the special features of The Three Doctors DVD. Some other Doctor Who related interviews from the series have survived due to early domestic video recordings and have been released on DVDs.


Presenters during the long run included Jan Leeming, Donny MacLeod, Fern Britton, Marian Foster, Debi Jones, Bob Langley, Tom Coyne, David Seymour, Magnus Magnusson, Alan Titchmarsh, Chris Baines, Josephine Buchan, Judi Spiers, and Paul Coia. Editors for the show included Terry Dobson, Jim Dumighan, and Peter Hercombe.[5] A regular cookery slot was presented by Rev John Eley, popularly known as the Cooking Canon.[6]


In 1986, Bill Cotton, then Managing Director of Television at the BBC, decided that a full daytime service was required on BBC1. As part of this new service, the decision was taken by BBC1 controller Michael Grade to replace Pebble Mill at One with a new lunchtime news bulletin, the One O'Clock News. Over 30,000 viewers wrote to the BBC to complain. A previous Assistant Editor of the programme, Roger Laughton, later to become a senior executive with the BBC and Meridian Broadcasting, was given responsibility for planning the BBC's new daytime schedule.

The Pebble Mill format returned in 1987 as Daytime Live, renamed Scene Today and finally Pebble Mill though no longer at 1pm.

Theme music

The show's signature tune was initially "As You Please", written by easy listening composer Raymond Lefèvre.[7] It was later changed to "Miller's Tune" by Patchwork.


There were several Pebble Mill spin-offs, particularly in the 1970s, such as the late night chat show Saturday Night at the Mill which began in 1976. Kenny Ball and His Jazzmen were the regular house band, and they performed the show's signature tune. Until 1978, the spin-off was hosted by Bob Langley and Donny MacLeod, who was replaced by Tony Lewis. Lewis was replaced in 1980 by Arianna Stassinopoulos, but she was dropped after just five editions[8]. For the remainder of the season, Langley was joined by a different female co-host each week, which included Hayley Mills[9], Sue Cook[10], Liza Goddard[11], Maureen Lipman[12], Jill Townsend[13], Jackie Collins[14] and Jenny Hanley, who became the permanent co-host to Langley for the final season broadcast in 1981[15][16]. In 1981 an early evening version called Six Fifty-Five Special surfaced during Pebble Mill's summer break, presented by Sally James, Paul Coia, David Soul and Bob Langley. In 1986 The Clothes Show presented by Jeff Banks and Selina Scott was created from a strand produced by Roger Casstles, first shown on Pebble Mill at One.

Memorable moments

HMS Ark Royal live broadcast

On 20 September 1979, the show was visited by a Sea Harrier aircraft from RNAS Yeovilton (aircraft FRS.1 XZ451 of 700A Squadron) flown by Lieutenant Commander Nigel "Sharkey" Ward, which landed (and later took off) vertically, on the adjacent BBC Social Club's football pitch.[17]

The programme returned the favour on 7 April 1986 by transmitting a live programme from the newly launched aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal in the English Channel. This programme, near the end of the show's life, was produced by Tom Ross and directed by Tony Rayner. It attracted the programme's highest ever audience of nearly six million viewers.

Owen Paul miming incident

One of Pebble Mill at One's more frequently repeated scenes was in 1986 when Marian Foster introduced pop singer Owen Paul who was to perform his hit cover of Marshall Crenshaw's "My Favourite Waste of Time". He was to mime to a backing track but could not hear the foldback loudspeaker as it had failed, so was seen standing looking into camera while the music played and his recorded voice was heard.


  1. "Daytime Hours - Programming". Transdiffusion,org. Retrieved 27 March 2017.
  2. "40 years since itv extended hours: 16th Oct 1972: Started with rainbow a british Revolution in better Kids TV - Page 3 - TV Forum". Retrieved 27 March 2017.
  3. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 7 February 2015. Retrieved 7 February 2015.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. "Missing or incomplete episodes for programme Pebble Mill at One". Lost Shows. Kaleidoscope. Retrieved 13 February 2017.
  5. "Farewell BBC Pebble Mill". BBC - Birmingham. Archived from the original on 4 April 2019. Retrieved 4 April 2019.
  6. "Cooking Canon recalls Dorset life". BBC News. 17 December 2010. Archived from the original on 10 October 2014. Retrieved 31 March 2019.
  7. "As You Please (Theme From Pebble Mill At One) - Raymond Lefèvre Song - BBC Music". BBC. Retrieved 4 April 2019.
  17. Negus, Geoffrey; Tommy Staddon (1984). Aviation in Birmingham. Leicester: Midland Counties. p. 118. ISBN 0-904597-51-2.
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