Advertising

Crossroads lives again as 'lost' footage rediscovered - watch the video clips

By Mark Andrews | Telford | In photos | Published:

Maybe it is the water feature from the Crossroads motel in his garden. Or the Crossroads costumes in his wardrobe. You only have to spend a few moments in John Drury's company to know that what John doesn't know about the long-running West Midland soap opera really isn't worth knowing at all.

"I have a very understanding wife," jokes the 41-year-old primary school teacher, who grew up in the Sutton Hill area of Telford. For the past 12 years John has been running a fan site dedicated to the much-maligned Midland motel drama, and it would take a brave man to argue that he is not one of the most knowledgeable experts on the series in the country.

So it is not surprising that he is looking forward to watching several "lost" episodes of the series which will be shown at a special event in Birmingham today, organised by West Midland television nostalgia society Kaleidoscope.

Clips from the lost episodes - ITV/The Kaleidoscope Archive:

Lost Crossroads clips

The footage, discovered at the ITV vaults in Leeds, will today be shown for the first time in half a century, having previously been presumed lost. Dramatic scenes from the 32 cans of uncatalogued 1960s footage include waitress Marilyn Gates, played by Walsall-born Sue Nicholls, chasing a drug dealer to France by aeroplane, the motel being blown up by an old Second World War bomb, and the staff being taken on a trip to Tunisia while the motel was rebuilt.

Chris Perry of Kaleidoscope adds: “We also found six minutes from an old 1975 edition on a Phillips videotape featuring all the classic characters we know so well. None of this footage has been seen since its original broadcast.

A young Warren Clarke is in this scene on the train, along with Susan Hanson who played "Miss" Diane Lawton and Denis Gilmore, who played her brother Terry

"It changes the way people view ‘Crossroads’ today to see the series staging ambitious aerial chases and trips to Africa."

Advertising

John adds: “The scenes involving a wartime bomb that destroyed part of the motel are particularly important as it led to an updated set and the characters going on a busman’s holiday to Tunisia. This footage alone shows the ambition of the producers to produce an entertaining and engaging programme that still stands up well against the soaps of today.”

He says many of the scenes that will be shown, including the wedding of Brian Baschurch, were filmed at the Walford and North Shropshire College, near Baschurch. The college was used for external shots of the motel in the 1960s, and it formed the "motel entrance" that was used in the opening credits until the early 1980s.

A still from an episode in the late 1960s, where waitress Marilyn Gates chased a drug dealer by aeroplane to France

"There is also an aeroplane in one of the clips," John adds. "I know the production team had a relationship with Halfpenny Green airport, so I don't know whether it was filmed there."

Advertising

Despite its reputation for fluffed lines and shaky sets, the series regularly topped the TV ratings, pulling in 15 million viewers, and turned Whitchurch actor Paul Henry into a household name as slow-witted handyman Benny Hawkins. Fittingly, today's event will be held at Birmingham City University, where Henry trained as an actor.

John says Crossroads reputation for shoddy production values is largely undeserved, pointing out that many other popular series of the time had the same problems.

"I all the episodes in the DVD box set, there are three instances where the wall wobbles," he says.

An advert for Crossroads, the only daily drama serial on TV at the time

"Fawlty Towers had wobbly walls, Coronation Street had wobbly walls, it's the way it used to be if you were being screened five days a week, and had to change the sets quickly."

For Sue Nicholls, the role of Marilyn saw her enjoy chart success with the song Where Will You Be?, before going on to play Audrey Roberts in Coronation Street.

John says he first became a fan of the series as a child, being drawn in by gripping storylines such as the huge fire of 1981, where viewers were led to believe that matriarch Meg Mortimer had been burned alive – only for her to reappear days later on the QE2.

"Being from the Midlands, I suppose I thought it was more 'my' soap than EastEnders, or the soaps that were set in the north," he says.

Marilyn Gates, played by Sue Nicholls, hits the road in a sports car in one of her adventures

"But it was also fairly glamorous. If you look at Crossroads from 1985, and then look at EastEnders from the same time, EastEnders was very gritty with very dark sets, whereas Crossroads was Britain's Dynasty, with shoulder pads and big business.

"It was a soap where people were being nice to one another, sitting by the fireside sipping tea, and calling each other by their surnames, which seems terribly quaint now."

He says the dramatic storylines and engaging characters are also part of the appeal, reflecting the changing society of the Midlands in the 1960s and 70s.

"In the beginning you had the warm, family relationship between Meg, her brother and her sister, and then there was the relationship between Meg and her children.

"You had the characters like Jill and Adam Chance, David and Barbara Hunter, who were glamorous, and later there was Gabrielle Drake as Nicola Freeman, and "Bomber" Lancaster who was very much a self-made man with a strong Midland accent.

The Crossroads team head for a busman's holiday in Tunisia while the motel is being rebuilt

"But then you had the likes of Mavis Hooper and Amy Turtle, who spoke with real Brummie accents, and they perhaps represented the old Midlands, so it represented the Midlands as a whole at that time."

Today's event, at Birmingham City University's Curzon building between 10am and 6pm, will be attended by Tim Woolgar, the son of actor Jack Woolgar, who played Sam Carne in the series, and will appear in some of the footage shown.

The event will also feature other archived and lost material from Midland-based shows and stars, including rare and lost material from Tony Hancock, almost 50 years since his death. Archivist for the Tony Hancock Appreciation Society, Tristan Brittain-Dissont, will show visitors the only known footage of Hancock's, the Birmingham funnyman's last UK television where he played the manager of a nightclub, as well as his final television performance, which originally aired in Australia in 1968.

Crossroads originally ran from 1964 to 1988, and was then briefly revived from 2001 to 2003. John believes that the revamped series would have been more successful had ITV bosses shown more patience with it.

Tv Theme Crossroads Tony Hatch

"They brought back Jill and Adam, who were much-loved characters, and then in episode 55 they killed off Jill," he says. "So after 11 weeks you have got rid of your most-recognised character, and they blamed it on Adam.

"The writing was very good, and you had very good actors such as Roger Sloman, Jane Gurnett and Sherrie Hewson, but they then interrupted at the end of 2002, and it came back as a completely different show.

"Had they shown more faith in it, I think it could have survived."

Mark Andrews

By Mark Andrews
@MAndrews_Star

Senior news writer for the Shropshire Star specialising in in-depth features and commentary, investigative reporting and political matters.

Advertising

Top stories

Advertising

More from Shropshire Star

UK & International News