25 Years ago on Easter Monday, April 4th 1988, the UK’s third most watched soap ended. For most of its life it had been the UK’s second most watched saga behind Coronation Street – an amazing feat considering it was a daytime series, and aired at different times across the country. During its run Crossroads played host to many faces who either had been big stars or went onto primetime success, here’s a run-down from Bob Monkhouse and Ken Dodd to a host of EastEnders and Coronation Street personalities.
Set in a fictional Midland village, Kings Oak, with the central focus being a motel it allowed for much more flexible comings and goings of characters who travelled the midland road. (Pictured above in 2011, the building used as the Crossroads Motel from 1964 to 1981.)
Bob Monkhouse, Joe Loss and Billy Wright. On the 18th of August 1966 three celebrities booked into the motel as themselves. Comedian Bob Monkhouse along with former footballer and ATV Sports anchor Billy Wright and musician Joe Loss all arrived in the midlands to perform a variety gig.
Bob liked Crossroads so much he returned to host the Variety Club of Great Britain’s celebration of the motel saga in 1980. In the show he was to perform his stand-up routine, but also found time to criticise the food which Spanish Chef Carlos was none too pleased about. (pictured above, inset, left)
Joe Loss was the youngest son of a Russian furniture maker. He created his first band in 1930 and from then onwards The Joe Loss Orchestra, with Joe at the helm, were still performing well into the 1980s. He appeared as himself brining a touch of music to the motel. (pictured main photograph above)
Billy Wright was the former England football player, and later Head of Sport at ATV, who was compare of the Miss Crossroads evening at the motel. (pictured, above, inset right)
The first big star to stay at Crossroads was within its first few years on air as Tony Britton arrived in December 1966. The storyline saw Tony staying at the motel while he was in pantomime in nearby Birmingham. He may be most fondly remembered for his role in the long-running television sitcom, Don’t Wait Up, however Tony has a wide range of film and television credits that span many decades including drama series Holby City.
Tony (pictured above far right with the cast) is the father of television presenter, Fern Britton.
Malcolm McDowell played Motel PR Consultant, Crispin Ryder, the son of Meg’s second husband Malcolm – who tried to murder the motel owner.
It was one of McDowell earliest television roles. Since those black and white days at Crossroads in the late 1960s he went onto become a major international movie star. His film credits are numerous and include A Clockwork Orange, If, The Raging Moon and Star Trek.
Elaine Paige arrived in Kings Oak back in 1968, fresh from drama school, Elaine played waitress Caroline Winthrop from episode 880 onwards. The storyline saw her become one of Sandy’s many girlfriends. Elaine became a noted figure in the theatre circle after finding fame in the stage show, Hair.
Theatre is where she has spent most of her career, although pop chart fame arrived in the 1980s thanks to a hit-song from the musical Chess being released. She has also appeared in a couple of movies in the 1970s and currently is a regular presenter for BBC Radio 2.
The EastEnders Connection
Of course the biggest link between Crossroads and ‘Enders is Simon May, composer of the EastEnders theme music and a couple of hits. He while with ATV produced a number of tracks for Crossroads including Born with a Smile on my Face, Summer of my Life, We’ll Find Our Day, Benny’s Theme and More Than In Love.
Appearance wise the most notable EastEnders star to grace the motel would be the late Gretchen Franklin who became the much loved Albert Square resident Ethel Skinner.
In Crossroads she played Myrtle Cavendish, the second wife of Wilf Harvey who worked as a barmaid. Marrying into the Harvey family, in 1974, placed her at the heart of the motel action with the family through marriage being linked to the owners, the Richardsons.
In 1975 Myrtle (pictured above, inset bottom right) died from pneumonia leaving Wilf and his pigeons heartbroken. Another of the Walford residents was Sandy Ratcliff.
Sandy played Barbara Parker the step-mother of Vince Parker – who was the same age. Yes Barbara had married 30-years her senior George – much to the bemusement of his son, village postman, Vince. Vince famously married long running character ‘Miss’ Diane Lawton, but that fell apart when her child to American Frank Adam was kidnapped and Diane turned to booze.
Sandy of course is best known these days as the downtrodden Cafe proprietor in EastEnders, Sue Osman. The nation was gripped when her early story lines saw her young baby die in a cot death incident. (Sandy as Barbara is the main image above)
Lynda Baron starred in the soap as secretary, Phoebe Tompkins. Phoebe was just one of the many women to have a crush on motel boss David Hunter, however he declined her offer of romance.
Along with her role as Linda Clarke in EastEnders Baron is possibly most well-known for her role as Nurse Gladys Emanuel in sitcom Open All Hours – starring opposite Ronnie Barker. She has also starred in soaps Coronation Street and Doctors. (Pictured above in Crossroads top right inset)
Hilda Braid is best remembered as Victoria “nana” Moon in EastEnders however Crossroads was the first of many ‘soap’ roles for the actress. Playing Winnie Plumbtree the kitchen hand she is most famously remembered by fans of the serial for causing chaos in the kitchen when she somehow managed to blow up the industrial dishwasher and flooded part of the motel in 1977. (pictured above, inset top left)
She went on to appear in Emmerdale and Brookside as well as a memorable appearance in sitcom Citizen Smith. We should also note Simon Lowe who played Jason Grice in the later years of the motel saga and has appeared as social worker Derek Evans in ‘Enders a couple of times.
Film stars at the motel who’d made their name before arriving in the saga included Anthony Steel who was during the 1940s and 50s a matinee idol in numerous classic movies. He joined Crossroads – his first major TV role – playing con-man Phillip Warner-Blyth. From the motel onwards he starred in many other television dramas, retiring from the business in 1984. (Pictured above, inset base left)
John Bentley began his film career in British movies before being snapped up by Hollywood. Unhappy with America he returned to the UK to front his own series, African Patrol, before joining Crossroads as businessman Hugh Mortimer in 1965.
In 1975 he married motel owner Meg Richardson, the recording of the ceremony in Birmingham Cathedral brought the city to a halt as thousands turned out to see ‘Meg and Hugh’ on their ‘big day’. (Pictured in the main photograph above)
Jimmy Hanley appeared in numerous films including The Blue Lamp which later spawned BBC drama, Dixon Of Dock Green. In the ATV soap he played artist and old college friend of Meg Richardson, Jimmy Gudgeon, who caused a fuss when he decided to paint a portrait of Meg – but unbeknown to her, it was a nude.
Dawn Addams had been a one-time major film star who appeared in Crossroads for a week during 1978 as the mother of Vicky Lambert – who was played by another busy film star of the time, Judy Matheson. Vicky was Hugh Mortimer’s secretary who also went on to have a romance with Sandy Richardson. Hugh – who moved his secretary into his cottage, much to the charing of wife Meg – also tried to make a pass at Vicky but suffered a heart attack in the process. He begged her not to tell anyone.
Another young movie actress to pop into Kings Oak was Dee Hepburn who joined the cast in 1985 as receptionist Anne-Marie Wade. She became romantically involved with a garage mechanic, but was taken advantage of by a perverted glamour photographer in the meantime. She won the beauty contest Miss Crossroads 1985. (Pictured above, inset top left)
Sue Lloyd (Pictured above, middle inset image) was an actress who appeared in what has become known now as the ‘classic era’ of television and film. Featuring in cult ITC classics such as camp detective series Department S, action thrillers The Saint and The Persuaders. And that is just a handful… Lloyd played the divine Barbara Brady who became Mrs Hunter in the motel series when she married the dishy boss David in 1980. Sue appeared in the midland soap between 1979 and 1985 and Jean Kent first appeared as Jennifer Lamont in 1982, the snobby wife of motel garage boss Reg. She had been a major film and television actress for many years before. Kay Dotrice and her daughter Yvette rolled into the motel to accuse the recently deceased Hugh of being her father. She wasn’t.
The Coronation Street connection
The most famous to go from Kings Oak to Weatherfield is Sue Nicholls. Her television career started on Crossroads in 1964 as motel waitress Marylin Gates. She was sure she’d win Miss Crossroads 1965, until an attractive young girl by the name of Diane Lawton turned up and stole her thunder. The pair eventually became friends when Diane later returned as a waitress at the motel, although they seemed to be forever in men trouble, especially when a platoon of solider rolled up into the village. The choice was just so difficult.
Also in the midland soap she became involved with an interracial storyline when she hooked up with an Asian boyfriend in 1965, was haunted by a ghost in a chalet, almost sold in exchange for a camel while on holiday with the motel staff in Tunisia and eventually was wooed into marriage by the local vicar, with the odd mishap along the way during their courtship – such as falling in a lake.
In 1967 she, in character, performed a song Where Will You Be?, penned by Tony Hatch, at a Birmingham nightclub and Marilyn was soon set for a pop career. In the series she released it as a single and in real life it later charted in the top 20. This lead to Sue quitting for a music career, Marilyn however continued in the series into the 1970s with another actress. (Pictured above, Sue as Marilyn in the main photograph)
Bryan Mosley is closely associated to Sue Nicholls thanks to their wonderful on-screen partnership as Alf and Audrey Roberts.
Alf, the corner shop owner, turned Mayor of Weatherfield, twice, was one of the few actors to appear in both Crossroads and Coronation Street at the same time; he commuted between Birmingham and Manchester. Bryan joined the motel saga in episode 501 as a Spanish hotel owner – just one of several parts he would play in the saga. During his 1960s stint at the motel he starred alongside his future Weatherfield wife.
Bryan spoke fondly of his time in Crossroads noting in his memoirs that it saddened him that the programme was often derided by critics that hardly watched it and that he remembered it with great affection. (Pictured above, bottom inset as Alf in Corrie)
Another link to Corrie’s corner shop is Kathy Staff. Kathy played four different roles on Coronation Street, beginning with an uncredited Customer in 1963, however her best known part was that of Vera Hopkins from 1973 to 1975 one member of the family who at that time ran the store on the street.
However her longest running serial role was that of cleaner and kitchen assistant Doris Luke at the Crossroads Motel. Staff joined the series in 1978 and remained on contract until 1985. She revived Doris Luke for the Carlton remake in 2001 for a year. Kathy had also appeared in the soap for a brief stint in 1971 as Mrs Dingwall – as a character who was at the motel to arrange her daughter’s wedding reception.
Kathy, although spending longer in sitcom Last Of The Summer Wine, always said Crossroads was her most favourite show to work on and she never wanted to leave. She also noted she never saw the sets wobble on the ATV series, however she had seen them wobble on Corrie! (Pictured above top right inset)
Stephen Hancock was another one of those actors who departed Kings Oak for Weatherfield. He infamously played Ernie Bishop, Emily’s husband who was shot and killed during an armed robbery at Mike Badlwin’s clothing factory. Speaking of Baldwin…
Johnny Briggs walked into the motel in 1973 as taxi firm boss Clifford Leyton and wooed recently singled Diane Parker. Other storylines saw him involved in a gambling scam and putting in a deal to take over the Crossroads Garage, which fell through. Despite what the press may have proclaimed the Granada producers and ATV counterparts were not rivals, both shows pulled in millions of viewers to ITV and often executives would talk. One discussion between the Corrie and Crossie bosses saw Briggs being recommended for a part in the primetime serial. Johnny took on the offered role as Mike Baldwin and here he stayed for 30 years. (Pictured above, middle inset)
Jacqueline Pirie is famous for her roles in both Emmerdale and Coronation Street. She spent two years in the Yorkshire Dales as Tina Dingle from 1994, before switching to Weatherfield in 1998 where she hooked up with factory boss Mike Baldwin. She made her first TV acting appearance in Crossroads, aged only 11.
And finally for Corrie Fred Feast became the much loved potman Fred Gee at the Rovers Return, having played a truck driver in Crossroads.
Other serial success, Diane Keen played the motel receptionist Sandra Gould from 1969 to 1973. Her biggest storyline saw her her involved in a car crash which doctors believed she may never walk again. Eventually, complete with sad theme, Sandra took to her feet. She’s best known these days for her long running role in fellow Birmingham produced soap, Doctors. (Pictured above, Diane as Sandra, bottom left inset)
Australian Vincent Ball started his television acting career in the UK on Peter Ling and Hazel Adair’s BBC soap Compact before moving over to Crossroads as motel manager Kevin McCarther. Meg met Kevin while on holiday in Spain. He thought she was rich, she thought he was rich. And a small romance bloomed. It turned out that he wasn’t rich and she wasn’t as well off as he thought. Still they became good friends and Meg invited Kevin to oversee her motel. Ball later returned home to Australia and became a regular in Australian dramas and serials including The Young Doctors , Home and Away and A Country Practice.
Arthur Pentelow undoubtedly will be fondly remembered as the character of Mr Wilkes in Emmerdale Farm – however in January 1965 he arrived at the Crossroads Motel as ‘The President’ an army official presiding over an army deserter who had been hiding under a fake name at the motel.
Another Emmerdale colleague was Richard Thorp who had become a household name in the 1950s and 1960s through his role in Emergency Ward 10 – ITV’s first medical saga and also its two spin-off series, Call Oxbridge 2000 and 24-Hour Call. Richard also had a stint in Crossroads during the 1970s as a love interest of regular hairdresser Vera Downend. Thorp’s motel character was a sailor so he was able to come and go freely from the series for long spells – making his last appearance in 1976. Since the 1980s he’s been businessman Alan Turner on the Yorkshire Dales saga. (Pictured above, top inset)
Another businessman Frank Tate in Emmerdale was played by Norman Bowler who had checked into Crossroads as a newspaper journalist Sam Benson who wooed the motel owner at the time. (Pictured above, in the main image, as Sam)
Over at Brookside, Channel 4’s ground breaking soap, Max Farnham was one of the show’s longest running characters, first appearing in 1990 and remaining through to the final episode in 2003. Actor Steven Pinder however had become known to 15 million ITV viewers as Roy Lambert in the revamped Crossroads from 1985 to 1988. In the midland series he arrived first off as a trainee mechanic, later with the help of a rich lady friend, he took over the village store. He also wooed receptionist Anne Marie Wade, played by Dee Hepburn. (Pictured above, centre inset, Steven as Roy) Jeff Stewart is best known as his role as Reg Hollis in cop show The Bill, in 1981 he terrorised Doris Luke when she was mugged and attacked in her own home.
Marjie Lawrence appeared in many sagas including Emmerdale, Weavers Green and Corrie, the mother of presenter Sarah Greene however arrived in Kings Oak as a fancy woman to one of the regular businessmen and drunk-drive killed regular Arthur Brownlow. And of course Tony Adams who became a ladies heartthrob thanks to his role General Hospital as Doctor Neville Bywaters. In 1978 he checked-in to Crossroads Motel as an accountant and remained, on and off, for a decade.
Comedy connections include David Jason who made one of his earliest television roles in the midland soap. It was his first drama role and as handyman and boxing promoter Bernie Kilroy in 1967 he gave the motel some serious action, he plotted to rob the motel becoming friends with Meg Richardson (Noele Gordon) however was caught in the act and did a runner – until returning three months later to show he’d had a change of ways. Jason will be best known as Del Boy from Only Fools and Horses of course. He speaks fondly of Crossroads in his forthcoming autobiography, ‘My Life’. (pictured above, main photograph)
Ken Dodd, yes even the legendary diddy man has stayed at the Crossroads Motel. Ken is the most famous export from Knotty Ash in Liverpool, Merseyside. One of the greatest all round entertainers in Britain from the past five decades. A popular singer and comedian – Mr Dodd can even act in serious roles as he proved in 1967 when he arrived at the motel as himself. Other later serious roles include a guest part in BBC One’s original Doctor Who. (pictured above, middle inset)
While it was ‘Allo ‘Allo to three of the wartime sitcom stars at the motel with Francessa Gonshaw appearing in 1984 as motel restaurant boss Paul Ross’ illegitimate daughter Lisa Walters also Carmen Sylvera checked-in as a recurring motel guest in the 1970s and Jack Haig had a long running recurring part in Crossroads from 1966 through to 1982 as villager and odd job man Archie Gibbs. Prior to this he’d appeared as two other, smaller characters. (Pictured above, bottom inset)
Funnyman Larry Grayson first came to television screens on ATV’s entertainment series Saturday Variety. Larry proved such a hit with ITV viewers the channel gave him his own series, Shut That Door. During his time with ITV he made numerous appearances in Crossroads. Firstly in 1972 he played himself. Grayson, while supposedly doing a theatre show in Birmingham stayed at the Crossroads Motel – and found the whole experience terrible. However he forgave Meg for the Ferret in his chalet and returned for the Christmas Special where he starred as ‘Santa’ at the motel fancy dress festive party. In 1975 he returned as the wedding chauffeur at Meg and Hugh’s wedding. (Pictured above, top inset)
Wee Georgie Wood appeared as himself in the series, again a famous face that simply stayed at the motel. Georgie was part of a once famous double act. Between 1917 and 1953 Wood appeared with his stage mother Dolly Harmer in many variety stage shows and pantomimes.
And from Last of the Summer Wine there was Jean Furgusson famous for her role of Marina, the elderly tart. Back in the 1970s she played Caroline Herbert in Crossroads, a former love interest of Roy Molison who was wooing – and later married – village regular Sheila Harvey. While Jane Freeman best loved as Ivy, the café owner in the Yorkshire sitcom, was Kings Oak villager Emily Burrell – a friend of farmer Ed Lawton, the uncle of regular Diane Parker.
It was Hi De Hi to Jeffrey Holland who a month after making his television debut in BBC police drama Dixon of Dock Green was signed on a six week contract to appear in eleven editions of the midlands saga. He joined the cast as Mike Hawkins, a friend of Crossroads‘ regulars Sheila and Roy Mollison as a market fruit stall holder.
Kate Robbins reached number 2 in the UK pop charts thanks to Crossroads with the song, More Than In Love. The track was performed in the soap several times as the storylines saw Kate Lorig become a pop star, her manager staying at the motel. She also had a romance with motel accountant Adam Chance, but she was just one of a string of short-term female interests for the money man. (pictured above, inset top right)
Another comedy legend is Stan Stennett (pictured above, far left) originally a jazz musician who also turned his hand to acting and comedy. While best known for his funnyman career he also turned to serious drama as Hilda Ogden’s brother in Coronation Street. Crossroads first came calling in 1970. He turned up as GI Harry Silver who was on the run from the law. He ended up being sent to prison for 20 years after holding several villagers hostage with a toy gun in the church crypt. He returned to the show in 1982 playing garage mechanic Sid Hooper for seven years.
Barry Evans is best known for his comedy parts in series such as Doctor In The House, but had a serious, verging on sinister role in Crossroads as Trevor Wood, who was involved with the motel garage and hairdresser Vera Downend (pictured above, inset bottom) while Max Wall was one of Britain’s best loved variety performers, his career spanned almost 70 years and one of his final regular TV appearances was that of Walter Soper, cousin of villager Arthur Brownlow and friend of Sid Hooper at the Crossroads motel. Trevor Bannister between series of Are You Being Served? in 1974 popped up as twins Keith and Ken Willets – a lot of blue screen was involved with this storyline. Pretending to be one person, to pay only a single occupancy at the motel, the boys were rumbled when their love lives exposed two shared the chalet.
And dear Margaret John best known these days as the saucy old granny in Gavin and Stacey, joined Crossroads in 1978 as a semi-regular and remained with the cast until 1985. (pictured above, far right)
Television Personalities include radio and telly broadcaster Clifford Davis who checked into the motel as himself while ITV political presenter Godfrey Winn was so indignant at the critics snide remarks about the soap he wrote a four page tribute to the programme in the TV Times! He appeared in the soap twice; The first time in 1968 to interview ‘Meg Richardson’ for an ATV programme about hospitality, later returning in 1971 to mark the motel’s anniversary. His latter appearance included screening footage from 1964 of the soap’s launch trailers that within the storyline were passed off an an early report on the opening of the motel. (Pictured above, far left)
Shaw Taylor (pictured above, inset top) became a mainstay presenter at ITV, fronting groundbreaking crime series Police Five, the forerunner to Crimewatch, which also spawned off Crimestoppers for ITV. He also fronted many local programmes for ATV in the 1950s and 60s in the London and Midlands regions. His catchphrase is “Keep ’em Peeled”. Shaw stayed as a guest at the motel as did fellow ATV presenter Alton Douglas. (Pictured above, inset bottom) BBC regional news presenter Stuart White was heard announcing the motel fire on the radio at the motel while BBC Radio West Midlands presenter Ed Doolan was heard twice in the series making general midland chatter. JoAnne Good today is a popular BBC radio presenter, but with Crossroads she became soap’s first female mechanic as Carol Sands.
Another midland icon is Bob Warman who is nationally known to Sky One viewers as the host of its version of quiz show The Price Is Right. But its his four decades in local news, both in the midlands and yorkshire, which he is best known to millions of viewers.
He has presented ATV Today, Central News and YTV Calendar News. Warman appeared as himself in the soap reporting for Central News about the 1985 Crossroads Motel strike and picket protest. (pictured above, far right)
Funnyman and presenter Don McLean checked-in for his first television appearance – later going on to stand-up telly fame on ATV’s Saturday Variety Don is best known these days as a long running presenter of BBC Radio 2’s Good Morning Sunday programme while Call My Bluff team captain Arthur Marshall raved how he loved the show so much a guest spot was especially written in for him in 1985. (pictured below, top right inset)
Best of the rest include Don Henderson who is no doubt best remembered for his long running role of detective George Bulman across three separate television dramas. He also starred opposite former EastEnders actor Leslie Grantham in BBC series, The Paradise Club, in the early 1990s. Don played investigator Mr E Black in Crossroads in 1979 who had been hired to track down a conman who ended up hiding out at the motel.
Jon Finch starred as Gareth Leyton in the Midland soap, the brother of Johnny Briggs’ character. Finch went onto many other film and TV roles including The New Avengers and Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile.
Even the Olympics touched Kings Oak when swimmer Duncan Goodhew, the Olympic gold and bronze medalist, appeared as himself in the soap when opening the brand-new motel leisure centre in episode 4,216. There was also time travel, well not quite, but Wendy Padbury – better known for her role in Doctor Who – played the 14-year-old Stevie Harris when she was 17 for a year, the character was almost adopted by Meg – she had a habit of adopting children long before Pippa in Home & Away – but it fell through when she returned to her natural mother. (Pictured above, far left with Noele Gordon)
Softly Softly’s Terence Rigby (pictured above, top inset left) became the new motel owner Tommy Lancaster in early 1987, UFO famed Gabrielle Drake (pictured above, bottom inset right) had previously taken on the motel three years previous as Nicola Freeman, while Ronald Allen had a distinguished career from movies such as A Night To Remember, about the Titanic, to Doctor Who and The Comic Strip Presents. From 1970 to 1985 he appeared as motel boss David Hunter.
Jess Conrad starred as Philip Bailey in 1978. Following the death of his wife at the motel his character turns up looking for answers. During the 1950s and 60s Jess was a popular pop singer, before turning to acting. Some of his hit songs include, Pretty Jenny, This Pullover and Cherry Pie. Conrad has also had a successful stage career performing in musicals. In the 1990s he became a regular ‘special guest’ on The Generation Game. (pictured above, bottom inset left)
Popular character actor Frank Middlemass featured as a guest at the motel in the late 1980s, had a long and varied stage and television career. He became a regular on BBC sitcom As Time Goes By while Andrew Ray – the son of 1950s radio celebrity Ted Ray, – came to Kings Oak as Howard Coates. He went on to star in Tales Of The Unexpected and had previously been seen in classics such as Upstairs Downstairs.
Derek Farr played Timothy Hunter, brother of David, in the 1970s. Timothy was always ‘on the take’ borrowing money from people, including Meg. He was left distraught in 1972 when a car he should have been driving crashed – leaving Meg’s son Sandy unable to walk. The character suffered a stroke in 1978 and wasn’t seen again. Derek had been a well respected film actor since the 1930s and continued to act until his death in 1986. Singer Carl Wayne, best known for his time with sixties group The Move joined as Colin the Milkman, and sung the theme tune within the show. And of course former West End actress turned television personality Noele Gordon featured, but she was a leading lady in the series for 18 years. Noele’s ATV Icon can be found here.
Rather dispels the myth of the tabloid press that no one worked after soap opera…
With thanks to the official Crossroads Fan Club/Central TV archive for additional information.