Welcome to the official web site of the Summer Wine Appreciation Society, in partnership with Holmfirth Web. This is our tribute to the world's longest-running TV comedy series which is filmed in the Holme Valley, and surrounding villages.
FIRST OF THE SUMMER WINE - SPECIAL ARTICLE
What a surprise it was to see that you're hunting for details of First of the Summer Wine! It's been one of my favourites since I first saw it and I hope that this exercise will help to make more LOTSW fans aware of it and increase its popularity.
I have all 13 episodes of the show on video, including the pilot, so thought I might make a contribution, following your request for details.
First of all, I can assure you that the show was indeed broadcast abroad -- in Australia, if nowhere else! It was aired here nationally on the ABC network. Series 1 and 2 were originally shown together in a 12-week block at 8pm on Saturdays. This would have been around late 1990/early 1991. I know for certain that Series 2 was repeated at least once, but am not aware of any repeat screenings of Series 1. I don't know if the pilot was ever screened here.
Now, about the show itself. It is set in a town in the West Riding of Yorkshire. The name of the town is never mentioned in the scripts, though it is obviously meant to be the same one as in LOTSW. The exterior of the Co-op building and the Co-op's van both display the name 'Oakroyd & Dist. Co-operative Society', so I guess we can only assume that the town is named Oakroyd.
The action takes place between May and September, 1939, during the lead-up to the Second World War, and is based on the antics of a group of young men and women in their late teens, some of whom grow up to become our favourite characters in Last of the Summer Wine.
The main male characters are Norman Clegg (played by David Fenwick); Sherbet (Paul Oldham); Foggy (Richard Lumsden); Compo (Paul Wyett); Seymour Utterthwaite (Paul McLain); and Wally Batty (Gary Whitaker).
The always level-headed female characters are Dilys (Joanne Heywood); Ivy (Sarah Dangerfield -- presumably this is the Ivy of Sid and Ivy, though the character of Sid doesn't appear in the show); Nora (Helen Patrick) and Lena (Judy Flynn). These four are joined in Series 2 by Anita Pillsworth (Linda Davidson).
Before I go any further, you may already have noticed a major inconsistency between FOTSW and LOTSW. The Seymour Utterthwaite character doesn't exist in LOTSW until the 'Uncle of the Bride' special in 1986, when he's first introduced to Clegg and Compo, yet here he is, best pals with them in FOTSW in 1939!
Clegg, Sherbet, Seymour, Dilys and Ivy work in the local Co-operative Society shop -- Clegg and Sherbet in the linoleum department, Seymour in menswear and the girls in groceries and provisions. Compo joins the staff at the Co-op in the last episode of Series 1, 'Youth Wanted'.
Compo is scruffy, of course, though he cleans up his act once he's joined the Co-op staff. Series 2 sees him mainly wearing a suit!
Seymour has aspirations to higher things (he says he's a victim of the class system) and wants to become a fighter pilot in the RAF. He obviously has some money as he owns a car -- albeit a three-wheeler.
Foggy works for the local council's highways department as a sign-painter. A member of the Territorial Army, he spends his time looking forward to the possibility of war. The other lads regard him as a 'total willy'.
Wally works as a station porter for the LNER (London & North Eastern Railway, for those who don't remember the railway companies before they were nationalised in 1948). His three obsessions are (not necessarily in the following order):
Nora works at a garage just outside the town, as well as being an usherette at the local cinema at night. She plays hard-to-get with Wally, but seems resigned to the fact that they're going to end up together. She does wish that he were taller, though!
Lena is the maid for the posh Norbury family. Seymour fancies Deborah Norbury, who won't have anything to do with him. He persists, but with no luck. Lena fancies Seymour and, in the final episode of Series 2, having been rejected yet again by Deborah Norbury, Seymour finally realises how attractive Lena is and decides that he'd be better off with her.
Anita Pillsworth works in accounts at the Co-op. Apparently, she latches onto Norman at the Co-op ball, but he would prefer that it had never happened and tries his best to keep his distance.
There are only three regular adult characters in the show:
I've searched the internet, looking for information about the show, but haven't been able to come up with much, other than what's on the phill.co.uk site, although I can tell you that the pilot episode, screened in the UK on 3 January 1988, was approximately 45 minutes in length.
You said in your article that none of the filming was carried out in Holmfirth. As I'm an Aussie who's only spent brief holidays in the area, it's difficult for me to say one way or the other on this one. Shots of Holmfirth were definitely inserted in the episodes from time to time, probably to make some sort of visual link with LOTSW. To me, none of the action takes place anywhere that is obviously in Holmfirth. Shots of streets and houses could be anywhere in a West Riding town or village in the Pennines. However, a fan in the UK assures me that she is convinced that at least some of the scenes appear to have been shot in Holmfirth, and it is beyond doubt that the exterior of the Co-op is actually the Post office in the village of Netherthong, only a mile or so from Holmfirth. It seems likely, therefore, that the show was indeed filmed in and around Holmfirth.
Anyone who has a copy of the delightful book 'Summer Wine Country' by Roy Clarke (writing as Norman Clegg), with glorious photographs by Paul Barker, published in 1989 by Pavilion Books and re-published in 1995 by Claremont Books, can see a brilliant shot of the Netherthong Post Office. It's easy to see that it was the building used for the Co-op in FOTSW.
As far as other locations for filming are concerned, the town's local cinema, the Hyde Park Picture Palace, which features in several episodes, is actually in Leeds. At least some of the filming for the pilot episode (only) was done at the Beamish Open Air Museum in County Durham. The scenes of the lads riding on a tram in the episode 'Snuff and Stuff' from Series 1 were most likely filmed at the National Tram Museum at Crich in Derbyshire, though I've yet to confirm this. Also, it would appear that some scenes were shot in the Colne Valley as they are these days for LOTSW, rather than the Holme Valley. In the last two episodes of Series 2, 'The Body Snatchers' and 'Quiet Wedding', I'm sure I recognize the Huddersfield Narrow Canal and the village of Marsden and possibly a mill at Linthwaite. Someone must recognise the bridge near the end of 'Quiet Wedding', where Compo falls into the water while trying to retrieve Foggy's bayonet. Is it near Marsden? I'd be interested to know if anyone can confirm any of the filming locations for the show.
Although the name of the town in which FOTSW is set never gets mentioned, strangely enough, Holmfirth itself does get a 'mention' in two episodes, though only visually. A couple of the signs Foggy has to paint read 'HOLMFIRTH URBAN DISTRICT COUNCIL'.
The Co-op's products' brand name is C.W.S. This logo appears all over the Co-op in most episodes, but does anyone know what C.W.S. stands for? Was it a brand name actually used by Co-ops in England at that time?
One interesting thing I discovered while watching 'Not Thee Missus...' (Series 2, Episode 1) was where Foggy's mother took him to the Co-op to buy him some new pyjamas. She actually calls him 'Graham'! Definitely not Walter (or Oliver, for that matter!) Have I stumbled across something that fans of LOTSW have been trying to find out for years? Was Foggy's first name really Graham? I think we'll just have to regard it as another inconsistency between FOTSW and LOTSW.
Something which added to the show's charm for me was the use of period recordings of popular songs, though I do think that too many from the late '20s and early '30s were used. These would have been considered old-fashioned in modern 1939! More use of songs from the late '30s was made in Series 2. For me, this gives a much better feel of 1939 to the show. The recording of the song 'Sweet and Lovely' which is used during the opening credits for each episode was made in London on 18 September 1931, by Roy Fox and his Orchestra. The vocalist is the renowned Al Bowlly, who, sadly, was killed in London during the Blitz.
While I've seen most of the actors in other shows since FOTSW, Richard Lumsden in particular, I don't believe I've ever seen David Fenwick (Clegg) or Paul McLain (Seymour) in any other TV productions. Does anyone know what these two have done since?
All in all, First of the Summer Wine is just as charming as its parent show, with some very funny and also very poignant moments. It's a pity it didn't extend past two series. It would be nice if the BBC were to release all the episodes on video and DVD, but I think that rather unlikely, don't you?
That's about it for now. I hope all this will prove useful for you and fans of both First and Last of the Summer Wine, and I also hope that we get some interesting discussion from it. I'm really looking forward to hearing other fans' recollections of FOTSW.
© 2000 Area5. The Summer Wine On-Line web site brought to you by Area5 Public Relations, Holmfirth. Thanks to everyone who has contributed material to this web site, including Colin Frost, of Side's Café, Holmfirth.