I have always been a fan of the work of H.E. Bates & can recall a series on ITV in the 1970s called “Country Matters” which featured some his short stories about the goings on in a rather idyllic countryside, which probably never existed.
I can also remember seeing a film on T.V. about the same time, which was in a similar style clearly filmed in my native Gloucestershire which starred John Mills. We were all discussing how good it was at work the next day & ever since then I have been desperately wanting to see it again but without success.
Since our new age of the internet I have tried albeit without any results to find more information on this ‘lost film’. That was until last week when by chance I came across Bob Meade’s website!
I immediately ordered a copy of the film & so was put out of my misery!
It was as good as I remembered & I will never tire of it’s superb simplistic tale. English films such as this are so refreshing to watch & with the added bonus of seeing a snapshot of my local area 35 years ago.
I have lived in Gloucestershire all my life & can think of a few farmers like “Mr Parker” although small farmers are becoming less & less these days due to small farms being uneconomic.
Although to the outsider the Cotswold Countryside still looks the same these small farms are being sold off as desirable residences to ‘do up’ & the land is farmed as part of bigger neighbouring farms or contract companies. The county now has few people like Mr Parker & most of the farms & cottages are lived in by people that have no connection with the land whatsoever.
So this little film portrays a life style that has all but gone & there certainly aren’t many farms left in such a poor state of repair around here. The fact that they have been ‘done up’ rather than bulldozed & replaced by modern buildings is a good thing. Other countries have not fared so well & I visit Ireland regularly & believe me that countries rural architecture has been obliterated in the space of 20 years!
On watching the film again it was so refreshing to see how little has changed since it was made.
The only real bloomers in the film was the accents of the characters.
Dulcima's just about passes but Mr Parkers ranges between Suffolk & Norfolk! One of the men at the market clearly thinks he’s from Devon!
Albert the gamekeeper is the most unlikely gamekeeper I have ever seen.
I have never seen a keeper walk around with a gun let alone wear designer jeans & jacket, I should know I used to be one!
Apart from that the acting is brilliant & even has a bit of Benny Hill type chasing after each other, hilarious.
I decided it would be good fun to take pictures of every scene in the film & so I have included a selection, which I hope you will enjoy.
My wife Jackie & Border Terrier Hendrix are always looking for a day out on ‘a mission’ & so I made notes & took some stills from the film to load on my camera to compare the film to ‘the actual.’
We didn’t have many problems as I recognised most of the places when watching the film however I had to identify the farm location first. I am a cartographer these days & after not too much bother located it on the map from the views on the film. Luckily the farm & fields all have public footpaths through them & the pictures shown have all been taken from these. We really didn’t want to knock on any doors as I felt enough of an ‘anorak’ already.
Clearly the farm buildings have changed considerably in fact much work was in progress at the time of our visit however the fields & setting have altered very little apart from the hedgerows being tidier. Some trees have gone & some have matured since Mr Parkers Day. It was quite nice to see on neighbouring farm hay making being carried out with a small tractor about the same size as the Fordson in the film, usually tractors are great monsters these days. We didn’t bother to try & find Albert's or Dulcima's Family house but did walk up in Albert's woods which was refreshingly cool on such a hot day.
It was then on to some more scenes.
The opening sequence of the Land rover coming round the side of some common ground proved a bit of headache at first but by identifying the field pattern in the distance I am pleased to say it definitely is Frocester Hill between Uley & Selsley.
The place where the shot was taken from is now heavily covered in scrub & trees hence the angle I have taken it from is slightly different.
Finding the actual location on Minchinhampton Common from the opening sequence (& later with the bus crossing) was also quite difficult due to tree ages & the background changing slightly with some new hedges.
However from the two views I have included which were taken by the rear of the church I think I have them about right.
Minchinhampton was quite easy as I shop there regularly, they still have an excellent butchers. Apart from a lot of the little shops changing hands or now out of use the centre has changed very little.
On viewing the film again I noticed that the seat for the bus stop is now in a slightly different position. The bus has ‘Forest Green’ (which is near Nailsworth) on the display & also passes a once familiar Hillier's Pies & Meats Van in the street. The speed the bus is shown in one of the shots is quite incredible when you see how narrow the junction is outside the drapers shop. The film hasn’t been speeded up either as so often happens in old films unless the pedestrians were asked to walk in slow motion!
We had a pint in the Crown Inn & although the actual bar is different the bay window & shelving is unchanged. In the film it is worth noting the adverts for Chelt Ale from Whitbreads West Country Brewers which was just about all you could get around here in the seventies. I had a pint of Adnams which I am sure was better than what Mr Parker was drinking!
We then went down the hill towards the Weighbridge Inn to find the entrance of the farm used in the film. It has changed a little but the location was confirmed by a telegraph pole near where the milk churn ‘prop’ was placed.
These little platforms where the farmer placed the churns each day were a familiar sight all over the country until bulk tanker Lorries were introduced in the seventies. The scene of the entrance to the farm is many miles from the actual farm & we found this with the help of one of the contributors to Bobs site.
It was then on to Avening for the scenes on the corner which really don’t look any different today.
Our final location was Tetbury & despite loosing it’s stock market several years ago has also changed very little in appearance.
It’s interesting to note on the film that after leaving the pub by the back entrance Dulcima & Mr Parker pass the same ‘new’ house at the bottom of the Chipping Steps twice!
I am pleased to say that two of the auctioneer's huts & some of the pens have been preserved as a reminder that this once was a market town. The animals used to be sent by train from the goods yard below where the new houses have been built. There are still the remains of the ‘cattle dock’ next to the disused goods shed.
Little stock markets like the one in the film have all but disappeared with the last one in the area at Cirencester closing only last year. They were such a part of rural life & a chance for fellow farmers to meet, do deals & discuss farming matters & I am sure sadly missed.
We finally ended up in the Royal Oak pub above the market, which ironically was the first scene of the film. A very nice pub it was too with excellent food & beer & most importantly friendly staff.
We told the bar maid that we were on a film hunting mission & to our surprise she said she used to go out with one of the cast who still lives in the area. Jackie & I looked at each other & thought she doesn’t look old enough?
It only turned out to be Dulcima’s baby brother Arnold, played by Phillip Marsden who must be all of 35 years old now!!
Richard & Jackie Chandler, Chalford,Glos