The news of Gordon Murray’s death closes another door on the golden age of British children’s television. Camberwick Green (1966), Trumpton (1967) and Chigley (1969) were repeated for decades by the BBC and were then later picked up by Channel 4 and Nickelodeon Junior.
All three series were remastered a few years ago and are therefore available on DVD to enchant yet another generation. And I see no reason why the magic of the Trumptonshire trilogy shouldn’t endure for years to come – as all three series have a timeless feel.
Murray didn’t make the shows on his own – Bob Bura, John Hardwick and Pasquale Ferrari were responsible for the animation, Freddie Phillips wrote the music, Alison Prince provided the scripts for Trumpton, Andrew and Margaret Brownfoot constructed the sets, whilst the unmistakable tones of Brian Cant enchanted a generation.
Why has Murray’s world endured? In a 1996 interview for the radio series Trumpton Riots (this title was a sly nod to Half Man Half Biscuit’s legendary song) Murray felt it was due to the air of innocence that pervaded all three series. “There’s no crime you know in Trumptonshire, it’s a happy world, and a lot of people say ‘well you shouldn’t encourage children to think that the world’s like that’. Some people throw their children into the deep end of the swimming bath at an early age and say ‘swim’. You know, that’s the way to learn, life’s hard. Hard things are coming to you. I don’t believe in that. I believe that you must protect your children while they are children for as long as possible from this dreadful world we’re living in.” You can listen to the episode here.
Another reason why they have such appeal is the sense of repetition. For a pre-school programme this is quite important, as the audience will no doubt enjoy the comfort and stability of the same things happening again and again. If most people were asked their memories of the shows, they might mention the music box, or Pippin Fort, or the Trumpton Clock, or Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble and Grubb, or Lord Belborough’s train, etc etc. These things remain in the memory longer than the individual plots.
All the series had memorable opening and closing sequences. Camberwick Green had the music box (“Here is a box, a musical box, wound up and ready to play. But this box can hide a secret inside. Can you guess what is in it today?”). Trumpton opened with the town clock (“Here is the clock, the Trumpton clock. Telling the time steadily, sensibly, never too quickly, never too slowly. Telling the time for Trumpton”) whilst they ended with the fire brigade entertaining the locals at the bandstand. True, the opening of Chigley was less iconic than the previous two series, but the closing sequence of the dancing workers from the biscuit factory made up for it.
Thank you Gordon, from millions of children of all ages. RIP.