The Rag Trade

The Rag Trade is a British television sitcom broadcast by the BBC between 1961 and 1963 and by LWT between 1977 and 1978.

The Rag Trade
Created byChesney and Wolfe
StarringPeter Jones
Miriam Karlin

Series 1–3 (BBC):

Unaired Colour Pilot (BBC):

  • Tony Robinson
  • Gaye Brown
  • Mollie Maureen
  • Jumoke Debayo
  • Diane Langton
  • Annabel Leventon
  • Jamila Massey
  • Trixie Scales

Series 4–5 (LWT):

No. of series5
No. of episodes58
Producer(s)Dennis Main Wilson (BBC)
Bryan Izzard (LWT)
Running time30 minutes per episode
Original networkBBC
Original releaseFirst run:
6 October 1961 –
30 March 1963
Second run:
11 September 1977 –
20 October 1978

The scripts were by Ronald Wolfe and Ronald Chesney, who later wrote Wild, Wild Women, Meet the Wife and On the Buses. Wild, Wild Women was a period variation of The Rag Trade.


The action centred on a fictional small clothing workshop (the title is a reference to the textile industry), Fenner's Fashions in London. Although run by Harold Fenner (Peter Jones) and the foreman and pattern cutter Reg Turner (Reg Varney), the female workers are led by militant shop steward Paddy Fleming (Miriam Karlin), ever ready to strike, with the catchphrase "Everybody out!" Other cast members included Sheila Hancock (as Carole Taylor), Esma Cannon (as Lily Swann), Wanda Ventham (as Shirley) in series 2 and Barbara Windsor (as Gloria, during series 1, who later returned as Judy in series 3) replacing Sheila Hancock.

In 1975, a colour pilot was made, with only Peter Jones reprising his role, this colour pilot featured a young Tony Robinson (replacing Reg Varney), Gaye Brown (briefly replacing Karlin), Jumoke Debayo, Diane Langton, Annabel Leventon, Jamila Massey, Mollie Maureen (replacing Esma Cannon) and Trixie Scales.

The theme tune for this colour pilot was performed by Alex Welsh and his Band, however, this was never transmitted, as the BBC rejected the colour revival of the series.

Two years later, the series was later revived by ITV company LWT, with Jones and Karlin reprising their roles. The 1977–78 version ran for two series, most of the scripts being based on the BBC episodes from the 1960s, and featured Anna Karen (reprising her role as Olive from On the Buses) and future EastEnders star Gillian Taylforth as factory workers.

The theme tune for the LWT series was written and performed by Lynsey de Paul and released as a track on an album of T.V. themes that also featured another de Paul penned theme Hi Summer.[1]

In 1990 the series was remade as the series Fredrikssons Fabrikk by NRK in Norway, it ran for three seasons (1990–93) (17 half hours and one 45min special) and spawned a film version Fredrikssons Fabrikk – The Movie in 1994 with a script credited to Chesney and Wolfe, and Norwegian series writer Andreas Markusson.




TV episodes

On original transmission many episodes of the original BBC TV series of The Rag Trade were not given titles, so some are from production notes and repeat screenings.

Original BBC TV series

Series 1 (1961)

Title Airdate Description Notes
The Baby 6 October 1961 Fenner is far from happy when factory girl Brenda (Ann Beach) brings her baby to work.
Getting Married 13 October 1961 Paddy must find Carole a wedding dress.
Early Start 20 October 1961 Fenner finds himself up against new factory Parks & Spicer Guest Stars: Frank Thornton and Raymond Glendenning
French Fashions 27 October 1961 Carol stands for a modelling competition Guest Star: Peter Gilmore
The Sample 3 November 1961 Paddy gives Carol a dress to go on a date with, but soon realizes the dress was specially made for a customer
Unhappy Customer 10 November 1961 Fenner bans food in the workroom when an unhappy customer complains about Fenners Fashion Guest Star: Brian Oulton
Episode 7 17 November 1961 Fenners Fashion stands to win a contract with the biggest clothes store in London Guest Star: Hugh Paddick
Doctor's Orders 24 November 1961 Fenners Fashion are hired to design TV costumes Guest Stars: Roy Stephens and Monte Landis
Episode 9 1 December 1961 To win a contract with a female buyer Reg masquerades as Roberto, an Italian designer.
Christmas Box 8 December 1961 In a bid to make more money for Christmas, Paddy and the girls go behind Fenner's back and start working for another company making Golliwogs Guest Stars: Terry Scott and Colin Douglas

Series 2 (1962)

Title Airdate Description Notes
The Thief 6 April 1962 There's a thief at Fenners Fashion and Paddy is determined to find out who
The Dog 13 April 1962 Lily's dog runs riot at Fenners Fashion Guest Stars: Patrick Cargill and Betty Huntley-Wright
Locked In 20 April 1962 Reg gets locked in the workroom just as an inspector arrives Guest Stars: June Whitfield and Alec Ross
The Flat 27 April 1962 With Fenner still in Amsterdam, Paddy and Reg are given the task of painting his flat
Episode 5 4 May 1962 Paddy and Carol take the day off but soon find themselves in trouble when Fenner unexpectedly returns This episode no longer exists
Guest Star: Norman Mitchell
The Client 11 May 1962 An important rich client is coming to Fenners Fashion and the girls decide to take him out for the day Guest Star: Bill Shine
Stay-In Strike 18 May 1962 Fenner's new assistant forces the staff to go on strike Guest Stars: Lynda Baron and Barry Linehan
The Fish And Chip Shop 25 May 1962 Reg and Paddy agree to take over a fish and chip shop This episode no longer exists
Guest Stars: Charlie Bird, William Kendall and Frank Peters
Safety Precaution 1 June 1962 Fenner faces money troubles when Reg destroys a load of dresses Guest Star: Dilys Laye
Stainproofer 8 June 1962 The girls end up ruining Fenners' new coat and have to work fast to replace it Guest Star: Fabia Drake
Doctor 15 June 1962 The arrival of a handsome doctor causes trouble for Fenner and Carol Guest Stars: Noel Trevarthen and Richard Caldicot
Barber’s Shop 22 June 1962 When Fenner refuses the girls a raise, they decide to start running a laundry cleaning service from inside Fenner's Fashions, their source of dirty laundry coming from a barber shop owner. Guest Stars: George Roderick and Barbra Keogh
The Bank Manager 29 June 1962 A bank manager threaten to close Fenners Fashion Guest Stars: Ronnie Barker and Hugh Paddick

Christmas Night with the Stars 25 December 1962 – featured a short sketch. (Has been lost)

Series 3 (1963)

Title Airdate Description Notes
The Australian 5 January 1963 Fenner and Paddy try to find Reg a woman Guest Stars: Aubrey Morris and Philip Grout
Triplets: 12 January 1963
Episode 3 19 January 1963 Fenners hires Reg's mother as his new assistant Guest Stars: Irene Handl and Jeremy Lloyd
Mistaken Tax 26 January 1963 Reg's lies over his tax forms come back to haunt him Guest Star: Hugh Paddick
Baby Dolls 2 February 1963 Fenner becomes obsessed with horse racing This episode was rediscovered in 2018
Second Mrs. Fenner 9 February 1963 Fenners wedding anniversary proves to be eventful
After The Ball 16 February 1963 Fenner has to pretend Judy is his daughter when they go to represent Fenners Fashion at a ball Guest Star: Jack Smethurst
The Budgie 23 February 1963 Guest Stars: Irene Handl and Peter Howell
The Engagement Ring: 2 March 1963 Reg and Judy's engagement party is ruined when the engagement ring is stolen Guest Star: Irene Handl and Pamela Cundell
The Italian Girl 9 March 1963 Judy accuses Reg of having an affair
Babysitters Unlimited: 16 March 1963 Fenner finds himself in debt with only the girls to help him Guest Star: Irene Handl
National Productivity Year 23 March 1963 Paddy's job is on the line when another strike attempt sadly backfires Guest Star: Irene Handl
The American Buyer 30 March 1963 Reg and Judy reveal their plans to leave Fenners Fashion Guest Star: Irene Handl

Colour Pilot (1975)

Title Airdate Description Notes
Colour Pilot Unaired

LWT re-launch series

Series 4 (1977)

Title Airdate Description Notes
Stay-In Strike 11 September A new arrangement in the workroom sparks off confrontation between Fenner and Paddy
The Sample 18 September Kathy steals a new dressing gown to impress her new boyfriend
Fixing The Rate 25 September Fenner becomes obsessed with Time and Money, giving Paddy an idea of money making
The Lunch Problem 2 October When Fenner refuses to open a canteen, the girls decide to run their own canteen
The Export Order 9 October Fenner's Fashion is falling fast and Fenner is determined to make some changes
The Italian Line 16 October A handsome Italian threatens to drive everyone out of Fenner's Fashion
Olive’s Baby 23 October The staff go on strike in a bid to help Olive look after her baby son
The Wedding Dress 30 October Fenner discovers the work force are making their own clothes
The Sideline 6 November Paddy gets attacked by a dishonest man and struggles to hold the workforce together
The Guv’nor’s Wife 13 November Mrs Fenner's dreams of meeting Margaret Thatcher land Fenner's Fashion in trouble
The New Girl 20 November Fenner's new assistant takes a shine to the girls
The Bet 27 November The workforce decide to make their own money on horse racing
The Accident 4 December Fenner's Fashion faces closure when an inspector is injured whilst touring the factory
The New Brother 11 December A diligent new Indian employee finds himself a victim of the girls' jokes

Christmas special (1977)

Title Airdate Description Notes
Christmas Rush 24 December The workforce are forced to work during the Christmas Holidays. Mrs Fenner returns to Fenner's Fashion

Series 5 (1978)

Title Airdate Description Notes
The Annual Ball 8 September The creation of a dress for Mrs Fenner causes chaos at Fenner's Fashion
The Leather Line 15 September Another argument between Paddy and Fenner could cost Fenner's Fashion their best customers
Stress 22 September Fenner's attempt to secure a loan results in a heath scare
A Bad Patch 29 September Fenner has lost all his customers. The Girls think of a way of making money
Come Back Paddy 6 October Paddy leaves Fenner's Fashion for another firm
Self-Defence 13 October Paddy attempts of a defence program have disastrous consequences
Fenner’s Folly 20 October The possibility of a large order prompts Fenner to think about his future

Missing episodes

Because of the BBC's wiping policy of that era, of the 36 episodes made only 21 episodes of the original BBC TV version (1961–62) still exist in the BBC archives.

The first series of the original BBC TV version of the show is complete, whilst the second series remains incomplete, as two episodes remain missing. Only one of the 13 episodes of the third (and final) BBC TV series (1963) currently exists - “Baby Dolls”, which was confirmed to have been unearthed by Philip Morris of TIEA and returned to the BBC in 2018.

DVD release

The 8 (out of the 10) existing episodes of the first series (broadcast in 1961) were released on DVD (DD Home Entertainment) in March 2006, followed by the 11 existing episodes of the second series (broadcast in 1962), released on DVD 7 months later in October 2006.

A Box Set consisting all the remaining episodes from the first two series of the show, was later released (through Simply Media DVD) on 23 October 2017.

All the episodes of both colour series 4 and 5 of the (1977–78) LWT version of the series, including the 1977 Christmas special, have been released on DVD through Network.

See also


  1. "Unknown Artist – T.V. Themes (Vinyl, LP, Album)". Retrieved 22 March 2017.
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