When you think about soaps you tend to think about the ones we still have, such as Coronation Street and EastEnders, or the memorable ones that have long since ended; Eldorado, Brookside and Crossroads. But over the years there have been many other soaps which have come and gone as broadcasters try to copy the success of the big soaps. Some of these soaps lasted for just a few months while others actually managed to run for years – but how many do you remember?
Weavers Green – Anglia 1966
Rural soap set in Norfolk and about a small community. The soap was notable for extensive location shooting using videotape rather than film, which was the standard practice at the time. Amongst the cast was a young Kate O’Mara playing a student vet and Wendy Richards playing a barmaid in the village pub. Both roles quite different from the ones the actress’ would play later in their careers. 49 half hour episodes of the soap were produced and all were written by husband and wife team Peter and Betty Lambda. In many ways the soap is an early version of Emmerdale Farm; which would launch several years later. Few regional companies outside of Anglia showed the soap and the slots it was given was not good for viewers; airing on a Thursday and Sunday.
It was axed much to the anger of Anglia. When Yorkshire Television launched Emmerdale Farm in 1972 Anglia bosses were quick to spot similarities. Later when Emmerdale moved from daytime to peak time, during the 1980s, Anglia left it exactly where it was – daytime.
Castle Haven – Yorkshire Television 1969/1970
Twice weekly soap set in Victorian house that had been converted into flats, in a sea-side town. The soap followed the lives and loves of the residents of the flats. Amongst the cast of the Yorkshire series was Roy Barraclough, Gretchen Franklin and Kathy Staff. Staff and Franklin would both join the cast of Crossroads later into the 1970s and Staff would also appear in Coronation Street. When the series ended after just a year, in 1970, one hundred episodes, all 25 minutes long, had been produced. Don’t expect to see them on UK Gold or DVD anytime soon though; as only fifteen minutes of footage is believed to have survived in the archive, and the footage that does remain (a second half of an episode) was only recently discovered.
High Living – Scottish Television 1969/1970
Launched alongside Yorkshire’s Castle Haven in 1969, High Living was pretty much a Scottish version of the Yorkshire soap. Set in a block of flats, in Glasgow, it dealt with the residents who were – according to the STV press release – “closer to the clouds” whatever that means. While Castle Heaven was the standard 25 minutes long High Living was produced for a 15 minute slot. 200 episodes of the soap were produced before it was brought to the ground.
The Cedar Tree – ATV 1976 – 1979
Period drama set “between the wars” in Larkfield Manor owned by a relatively well off family. The series aired on ATV, the midlands franchise of ITV, and had therefore didn’t have a huge budget. The series was created by Alfred Shaughnessy who had previously been the script editor on the LWT series Upstairs, Downstairs. After the popular LWT period drama ended in 1975 Shaughnessy moved over to ATV and developed The Cedar Tree for the company. Because of the small budget for the series the Cedar tree, which stood in the garden of Larkfield Manor, wasn’t actually ever seen on screen. A plot line involving the tree being hit by lightening featured in the series but no footage of the tree was shown. An animated version of it appeared in the show’s title sequence however.
The show, despite its lack of exteriors, was popular enough with viewers to last for three years. Amongst the cast was Angus Lennie who was also appearing in fellow ATV soap Crossroads as Scottish Chef Shughie McFee at the same time! Later Cedar Tree actor Peter Hill would also switch to the motel rather than the manor. It’s likely the majority of the soap’s episodes no longer exist in the archives. UPDATED: Since they article was published we’ve been emailed and informed that the majority of The Cedar Tree episodes actually do still exist in the archives. So the big question now is why hasn’t it appeared on DVD?
Garnock Way – Scottish Television 1976 – 1979
Scottish soap set in a town between Glasgow and Edinburgh and is now considered to be a forerunner for Take The High Road which debuted in 1980 and had a bigger budget that Garnock Way – and, ultimately, was more successful. Amongst the cast was Eileen McCallum, who played Jean Ross, who later joined the cast of High Road when it started production in 1979 and would remain with the soap until its demise in 2003.
Gems – Thames Television 1985 – 1988
Thrice weekly daytime soap set in a fashion house in London’s Covert Gardens, run by two brothers. The brothers had little in common beside their business and were completely different, which lead the plots. While Alan looked after the house’ financial affairs and was happily married – brother Stephen was the designer with an eye for the ladies. Among the cast was Cindy O’Callaghan who had been a regular in the truly awful BBC soap Triangle and in the late 1990’s appeared in EastEnders. The actress is probably best known for her role in Bedknobs and Broomsticks as Carrie.
Machair – Scottish Television 1993 – 1998
Gaelic language soap set in a further education college on the Island of Lewis, one of the Hebridean islands. The fictional Bradan Mor College specialised in business and media studies and the majority of the soap was filmed on location to showcase the beauty of the island. The show didn’t travel well, being rarely screened outside of Scotland, because it was shot entirely in Gaelic which would have made it impossible for English speaking viewers to follow the action without subtitles.
Over 151 episodes were produced before the axe fell in 1998 because of declining ratings. Amongst the directors who worked on the series was Fiona Cumming who had also worked on Eldorado, Angels and Doctor Who.
Family Pride – Central Television 1991/1992
Short-lived Birmingham based series that was produced by Central Television and shown in the Midlands by Central but was nationally shown on Channel Four. The series followed the lives of three Asian families in Birmingham and their friends. The show ran for 51 episodes before being dropped in 1992 and amongst the cast was Paul Henry, better known as Benny in Crossroads, and Rula Lenska.
Quayside – Tyne Tees 1996-1997
Tyne Tees Television’s attempt at finding at successful soap along the lines of EastEnders and Coronation Street. Launching in September 1996 it was produced by Zenith North Television for the local ITV company. The soap was directed and produced by Matthew Robinson; who had directed episodes of Doctor Who, EastEnders and was a long term director and producer on Byker Grove – the teen drama series. Many actors who appeared in Byker Grove also appeared in Quayside.
The series launched with strong figures but these quickly dropped away because the soap aired against EastEnders and wasn’t shown nationally – only broadcasting on Tyne Tees and Yorkshire Television. After just a couple of months the axe fell and Robinson later returned to EastEnders as the show’s Executive Producer. The show was repeated in the daytime schedules back in 1998 – but even daytime audiences didn’t take to the saga.
Canary Wharf – Live TV! London 1996 – 1997
Very low budget soap set around a cable company in Canary Wharf, a redeveloped area of Greenwich, London. The soap starred Clare Wilkie who had previously enjoyed the sandy beaches and warm climate of Spain during her stint in Eldorado, before the BBC axed the Spanish soap. Not long after Canary Wharf finished Wilkie cropped up in fellow London soap EastEnders as Sandra Di Marco and then later in the “glam” version of Crossroads. Also amongst the cast was future Bad Girl and EastEnders actress Kika Miraless and David Banks who is probably more familiar to TV audiences as the Cyber-Leader in Doctor Who!
Tristan Gemmill, now in Casualty, was also a cast member. The last episode of the dodgy soap saw Canary Wharf disappear in a special effects shot that the word cheap just doesn’t describe. Whether it was abducted by aliens or just fell down a plot hole we don’t know!
London Bridge – Carlton Television 1995 – 1998
Originally a late-night drama series that was re-launched after its first series as a twice weekly soap. The drama, later soap, revolved around a restaurant, SE1, and a block of flats nearby. The saga dealt with gritty storylines such as rape, stalkers, armed robbery and murder. Amongst the cast were Simone Lahbid and Mandana Jones who would both work together on Bad Girls a few years later and Sunetra Sarker who would go on to work on Brookside, Emmerdale and Casualty.
As with our other regional soaps low ratings finally prompted the series axe in 1998.
Poboly Cwm – BBC 1974 –
Welsh language soap that is still running today, and broadcast on S4C, in Wales. In the 1990s the soapaired on BBC Two nationally but English speaking audiences had little enthusiasm for a Welsh soap which they could only follow via the use of subtitles. Very quickly the series disappeared from network BBC Two, despite much promotion of Poboly Cwm by the channel in trailers and publicity as its first-ever soap. The show has been running since 1974 and in 1988 went five nights a week.
Some famous faces have appeared on the soap such as Ioan Gruffudd who now enjoys a Hollywood film career and a cameo from Big Brother contestant Imogen Thomas – who was Welsh.
[Written by Mike Watkins and Doug Lambert]