Waggoners' Walk was a daily radio soap opera broadcast on BBC Radio 2 from 1969 to 1980 and set in the cul-de-sac of Waggoners' Walk and its environs in Hampstead, North London. It was transmitted in the form of 15-minute episodes on weekday afternoons with a repeat the following weekday morning. The programme came to a sudden end in May 1980 as part of a number of economies made by the BBC.
Waggoners' Walk street sign illustration used by Radio Times in April 1969
|Other names||Waggoners' Walk NW|
|Running time||15 minutes (4:30 pm–4:45 pm)|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|Home station||BBC Radio 2|
|Written by||Peter Ling, Barbara Clegg, Terry James et al|
|Original release||28 April 1969 – 30 May 1980|
|No. of episodes||2,824|
The programme was created by writers Jill Hyem and Alan Downer and has its origins in their Saturday Night Theatre production of The Ropewalk broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in January 1969. This play featured some of the same characters, actors and theme tune of Waggoners' Walk with the story centring on three women who share a flat in Hampstead.
Waggoners' Walk was designed to move away from the "cosy" world of The Dales and feature "fast-moving stories" and have "few taboo subjects". During its run the storylines tackled issues such as illegitimacy, homosexuality, abortion, child custody and murder.
The first edition was broadcast on the afternoon of 28 April 1969 with a repeat the following morning. Early editions were given a title, the first edition billed as Moving Pictures for instance, but this was dropped after just three weeks. Initially the programme had an audience of two million listeners but by 1974 was achieving four million.
Hyem and Downer continued to produce scripts for the programme throughout its run and were joined by other writers including Peter Ling, Barbara Clegg and Terry James. The directors included Piers Plowright, who later became the programme's executive producer, David Spenser, Glyn Dearman, Anton Gill, David Johnston and Kay Patrick.
Most of the storylines involved the various tenants of No. 1 Waggoners' Walk, a large townhouse divided into several flats. Other settings included the local pub The Waggoners, the offices of the Hampstead Herald, Minden Road and the nearby Belsize Park.
In January 1980 a Sunday afternoon omnibus edition was added to the schedule, heard only on Radio 2's medium wave transmitters.
As part of a series of cost-cutting initiatives by the BBC in 1980 Waggoners' Walk came to an abrupt end on 30 May 1980 with a cliffhanger ending in which George Underdown proposes marriage to Sophie Richmond and assures her that "you have all the time in the world" before the closing theme comes in.
The Corporation received over 1,000 letters of protest about the ending of the programme, It rejected a request from Capital Radio to take it over.
A number of famous people made cameo appearances on the programme:
- Mike Nash, ran a PR firm and later became editor of the weekly newspaper The Hampstead Herald. Mike and Claire owned No. 1 Waggoners' Walk from late 1969 to early 1980 when they moved to Bath. Played by Edward Cast.
- Claire Nash, a former fashion model. Played by Ellen McIntosh.
- Peter Tyson worked as Personnel Officer at Abercrombies, a central London department store. After resigning his job he worked part-time at a boatyard. Played by Basil Moss.
- Liz Tyson (née Warner), editor of the woman's page of the Hampstead Herald and takes over from Mike Nash as the newspaper's editor in 1980. Played by Ann Morrish.
- Arthur Tyson, a widower and father of Peter Tyson. A retired former solicitor and estate agent. Played by Lockwood West and also by Peter Pratt and Gerald Cross.
- Matt Prior, ran Home from Home, a domestic agency and later a catering supplier, with Lynn Tyson. Following a private aircraft crash in late 1974 he was wheelchair-bound. Married Lynn in 1975 and later they opened up a restaurant called Priors. Played by Michael Spice.
- Lynn Prior (née Dixon) initially shared a flat with her sister Tracey and Barbara Watling. Married Peter Tyson in late 1969 and had a son Jeremy in 1972. Following her divorce she married Matt Prior. Played by Judy Franklin.
- Mrs Tandy, part-time cleaner for the Nashes. Played by Grizelda Hervey
- Rupert 'Rusty' Vaughan, the original owner of No. 1 Waggoners' Walk until he sold it in late 1969. Continued to occupy the studio flat until December 1972. Played by Nicholas Edmett and later by Derek Seaton
- Stan Hickey, who, with his wife Alice, had been a tenant of the basement flat for over 20 years. Died in 1972. Played by Leslie Dwyer later by Edward Evans.
- Alice Hickey, married to Stan and then to Gordon Turner. Played by Hazel Coppen. After her death the character continued played by Hilda Kriseman, Anna Wing and finally Peggy Aitchison.
- Gordon Turner owned the local newsagents. Married Alice in 1973. Played by Will Leighton.
- Barbara Watling, moved from Hull to flat share with Lynn and Tracey. Her illegitimate daughter Emma Jane was born in 1973. She married Colin Bartley in 1974 and they both ran an antique shop. Played by Heather Stoney and later by Patricia Gallimore.
- Jack Munro, the Canadian nephew of Gordon Turner ran the Waggoners pub and later married Kay Marsh. Played by Rod Beacham and then by Malcolm Terris.
- Kay Munro (née Marsh) worked as a barmaid at the Waggoners and married Jack Munro in 1972. Played by Frances Jeater and then by Jo Kendall.
- Cliff Edwards, married to Shirley. The couple were unable to have children and considered adoption but in 1979, after a one-night stand with Debbie Franks, Cliff became the father to Sam. Played by Anthony Jackson and also by Peter Messaline and Sion Probert.
- Shirley Edwards (née Cook). Played by Carole Boyd.
- George Underdown, a former bank employee who married Kath Miller. After her death he befriends Sophie Richmond and, despite being 30 years her senior, proposes marriage. Played by Alan Dudley.
- Sophie Richmond, a waitress at Priors restaurant. In 1979 she is raped by a man she later identifies as a regular customer. Played by Glynis Brooks
- Kath Miller, mother of Shirley Edwards, ran the newsagent's and married George Underdown but died of a heart attack in 1979. Played by Charlotte Mitchell.
- Ben Woodhouse, the local GP who later marries Soo-Ming. Played mainly by David Valla and sometimes by Derek Seaton.
- Debbie Franks, a reporter on the Hampstead Herald. Played by Tara Soppet.
Others actors appearing in the programme include Peter Tuddenham, Michael Troughton, Norma Ronald, Barry Creyton, Jeffrey Segal, Harry Fowler, Patrick Allen, Hattie Jacques appearing briefly in 1969 as sisters Harriet and Tilly Gibbon, Nigel Lambert, Christian Rodska, Robert Beatty, Saeed Jaffrey, Bruce Alexander, Gillian McCutcheon, Pik-Sen Lim, Harry Towb and Elaine Stritch.
A number of arrangements of the theme were used and in 1971 a version credited to Trane was issued on an EP by BBC Records.
- Starkey, Guy (2014). Radio in Context (Second ed.). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 182. ISBN 978-1-137-30225-0. Retrieved 24 September 2017 – via Google Books.
The 2,824 episodes of BBC Radio Two's Waggoners' Walk ran from 1969 to 1980...
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