Who comes out on top in the battle of Trumptonshire?
Camberwick Green, Chigley or Trumpton?
It’s often the case when you reach a certain age. Something you randomly see or hear triggers a long-forgotten memory and all of a sudden, you’re wallowing in fits of nostalgia.
This is exactly what happened when I was wandering around a car boot sale with my grandchildren. Amongst the tat, pots and hand me down clothes were hundreds of DVDs. Nothing surprising so far and pretty much standard boot sale fare. But then among the battered cases of never popular movies something caught my eye.
It isn’t? It can’t be? It is! A Trumpton DVD. I never even knew they existed. But there it was. The entire collection of Trumpton epsiodes on a single DVD. Brilliant.
Instantly I waltzed off into the recesses of my childhood memory banks to recall innocent days in the 1960s watching Chippy Minton, the mayor and the brave boys of the Trumpton fire brigade. And then of course Windy Miller and friends from Camberwick Green joined the party not to mention Lord Belborough from Winkstead Hall in Chigley.
I enthusiastically tried to tell my granddaughter how great the tales of Trumptonshire were. Naturally, she was having none of it. A Peppa Pig fan and Xbox junkie 8-year-old Lola wasn’t interested. With a sigh I returned the DVD to the pile.
Later, I regretted not stumping up a quid. It’d be nice to see the old characters again. So, off to Amazon I went and pretty soon the postie delivered the full box set of Camberwick Green, Chigley and Trumpton. I had some serious binge watching to do.
Early surprises from Trumptonshire
As a kid I remember watching all three programmes seemingly on a constant loop. So, it was a surprise to find only 13 episodes were made of each show. If I’d have had to guess I would have said many more. Certainly, Camberwick Green seemed to be on every day.
But, as we all know by now, the memory does play tricks. Especially when recollecting stop motion television programmes we watched over forty years ago. Speaking of which…
I was always a Camberwick Green man
Camberwick Green was the original show in the Trumptonshire triumvirate. And in my mind, it was the best. It had the most interesting characters. Though I was never a fan of Mrs Honeyman.
Of course, Windy Miller was the rock star. He grabbed all the attention. But he was well supported by Farmer Bell, the Murphys and good old Doctor Mopp. But the main supporting cast were the soldier boys from Pippin Fort.
Ably commanded by Captain Snort and Sergeant Major Grout, Private Meek and the rest of the boys would jump into their army truck to keep Camberwick Green safe from invaders. And to help out Mickey Murphy with the baking on occasion.
But aside from the characters I loved the vehicles. I’ve already mentioned the army truck. But my favourites were Farmer Bell’s smart vehicle, Mr Dagenham’s shiny red sports car and Mr Crockett’s garage truck. And of course, I have to mention Dr Mopp’s vintage car and the trusty bicycle belonging to Windy and the motorcycle of PC McGarry (number 452).
Transportation was a theme running through all three shows. Lord Belborough’s train puffed its way over bridges and under bridges on its way to its destination (see what I did there) but Chippy Minton’s battered pickup cruising the streets of Trumpton was one of my all-time faves.
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Something which all three shows had in common was the catchy music. The theme tune for Camberwick Green is still memorable fifty years on. But one of the best was the Trumpton fire brigade song. You know the one… “Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble, Grubb…”
Having said that the catchiest tune was Lord Belborough on his train. I still remember all the words to this day. Though I must admit my hazy recollection placed the engine driving aristocrat in Trumpton rather than Chigley. My bad.
A quick reminder of Trumptonshire and its shows
The Trumptonshire franchise was the creation of Gordon Murray. Trumptonshire was comprised of the village of Camberwick Green and the town of Trumpton with the small hamlet of Chigley.
The programmes first aired in 1966 and were narrated by Brian Cant (of Play School fame). Freddie Phillips was the musician behind the catchy tunes and all the action was filmed in stop motion.
The one that started the dynasty. January 1966 saw the first episode broadcast. It featured Peter the Postman. But of course, the thing everyone remembers about Camberwick Green is the musical box.
At the start of every episode the musical box would play, the lid would open and the starring character of that episode would gradually rise up from the depths of the box. All this while Brian Cant uttered those immortal words:
“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’s in it today?”
Ironically, the star of the first show, Peter the Postman, is one of the less well-known characters. Or at least I can’t remember him. But it has been a while. Other characters appeared in every episode. These included Windy Miller, Dr Mopp, Mr Carraway and Mrs Dingle.
Mrs Dingle was the postmistress back when people in post offices actually knew how to do their jobs. Sorry, just needed to vent…
The thirteenth and final episode of Camberwick Green was broadcast in March 1966. Mrs Honeyman and her baby took centre stage. After many repeat showings Camberwick Green along with Trumpton and Chigley finally faded away from the BBC in the mid-eighties.
However, it did make a brief comeback on Channel Four from 1994 to 2000. Video and DVD releases followed with the programmes being digitally remastered for a 2011 compilation DVD. This was the set I purchased from Amazon.
Almost exactly a year to the day since the launch of Camberwick Green, Trumpton hit the small screen. To the delight of children everywhere there was now even more wonderful characters having adventures in Trumptonshire.
Brian Cant was again the voice behind the action and, like the Green, Trumpton had a special opening sequence. No musical box this time but the Trumpton Town Hall clock took centre stage.
“Here is the clock, the Trumpton clock. Telling the time, steadily, sensibly; never too quickly, never too slowly. Telling the time for Trumpton,” intoned Brian. It wasn’t as good as the whole magical musical box thing but nevertheless it set the scene.
Like Camberwick Green there were only 13 episodes of Trumpton ever made. And each followed the formula of the elder programme. Trumpton was a small town with each episode featuring a single character as they went about their daily business. I’m not sure children of today would be entertained for more than a nanosecond but it hit the spot for kids in the sixties and seventies.
I think it’s fair to say the box office stars of Trumpton were the fire brigade. Thankfully they never actually had to deal with a real fire. But Captain Flack and his brave boys were always there to help in any emergency and they appeared in every episode. And the fire brigade also doubled as the town band and lustily played their tunes as the end credits rolled.
Given the success of Camberwick Green and Trumpton it’s surprising that another couple of years passed before Chigley completed the trilogy. October 1969 was when it first aired on the BBC.
Chigley is often viewed as the poor relation of the three shows. Which is unfair. Especially as it had two of the most memorable sequences; Lord Belborough’s train and the biscuit factory dance.
Chigley had fewer characters than the other two shows. This is because many Camberwick Green and Trumpton characters appeared in Chigley. But Chigley did have its own charm with the six o’clock whistle and the dancing factory workers playing out every episode.
The big star of Chigley was Lord Belborough who featured in three of the thirteen episodes. But of course, he also appeared in every show playing his marvellous organ at the dance.
Top five Trumptonshire characters – a personal choice
1 – Windy Miller. The most famous resident of Camberwick Green. Windy lived at Colley’s Mill. You might remember the massive sails on the windmill which made it tricky for Windy to actually get in and out of the mill. Often seen on his bicycle or fishing with his friend Mr Carraway, Windy was a gentle soul and very much the star of the show.
2 – The soldier boys of Pippin Fort. They even turned their hands to firefighting before the Trumpton fire brigade arrived on the scene. Seen in every episode demonstrating their impeccable drill skills the 9 soldiers were always smartly turned out.
3 – Farmer Bell. “Driving along in a farmer’s truck in an I can do anything farmer’s truck…” Jonathan Bell was a modern farmer well ahead of the times. He was always showing off new equipment including a milking machine and forklift. I always liked his truck which he sometimes drove to Chigley.
4 – PC McGarry. Never mind Columbo, Kojak or even Inspector Barlow – PC McGarry was the most famous TV policeman of his day. Every kid knew his number was 452 and he was regularly seen around the village on his motorcycle.
5 – Mickey Murphy. The village baker was a regular along with Mrs Murphy and children Paddy and Mary. One of the village’s entrepreneurs. And he drove a great van.
1 – Chippy Minton. Unsurprisingly Chippy was the town’s carpenter. Wearing his trademark white hat and apron Chippy drove a great looking pickup type van. Chippy’s son Nibbs always accompanied him but Mrs Minton never made it out of the kitchen of their cottage. Stereotyping was alive and kicking on the 1960s BBC.
2 – Trumpton Fire Brigade. They may never have had to actually put out a fire but the brave boys of the Trumpton Fire Brigade were local heroes. All the townsfolk and those in Camberwick Green and Chigley could sleep easily knowing Captain Flack and the lads were ready to act in any emergency. The fire brigades roll call was probably the most memorable of any of the songs in all three shows. Fireman Cuthbert was the only one of the fire brigade to have his own episode. A particularly riveting one which followed him as he fed the ducks on his day off. Different times.
3 – Mr Antonio. To be honest I’d forgotten all about the town’s ice cream man until I watched the episodes again. He has a cool little ice cream cart and, despite his name, the same Middle England accent the rest of the characters had. Brian Cant wasn’t big on doing accents during his narration.
4 – The Mayor. Never given a name The Mayor nevertheless was the consummate politician. His worship ruled the town with a sage wisdom always finding solutions to the direst of problems. Though to be fair a cat stuck up a tree was usually the biggest crisis anyone had to deal with. Strangely, The Mayor was one of the few characters in any of the shows who didn’t have their own song. But he did have a sidekick. Mr Troop the town clerk. Mr Troop was Robin to The Mayor’s Batman.
5 – Mrs Cobbit. The local flower seller who had a pitch in front of Queen Victoria’s statue in the town square. Mrs Cobbit had a ferocious work ethic. She never missed a day (except Sundays) for forty years. She could teach today’s yoofs a thing or two about hard work. Needless to say, Mrs Cobbit ensured all the townsfolk had a fresh bloom for their buttonhole.
Only a tiny hamlet there weren’t many characters who were exclusive to Chigley. Most episodes featured visiting stars from Camberwick Green or Trumpton. So, a top five list of Chigley characters is a bit redundant. Everyone would be on it. So, let’s settle for a top three.
1 – Lord Belborough. Probably no surprise. I loved trains as a kid and I do now so his lordship was always going to be number one. And of course, he had that brilliant theme song.
2 – Mr Rumpling. Treddle’s Wharf was the best thing about Chigley. Mr Rumpling was the bargee who sailed his boat up and down the canal.
3 – The men and women of Cresswell’s Biscuit Factory. I loved the idea of a factory which made biscuits. And the ‘behind the scenes’ episode was fantastic. But the staff of the biscuit factory are best remembered for the six o’clock whistle and dance which ended the working day and every episode of Chigley. Lord Belborough showed he was a man of the people by enthusiastically playing his organ while the workers danced their cares away.
Trumptonshire facts and trivia
The Sussex village of Wivelsfield Green was the inspiration for Camberwick Green with Trumpton taking its name from Plumpton and Chigley from Chailey.
The programme was supposed to be called Candlewick Green but was mistakenly written as Camberwick Green on the contract Gordon Murray signed with the BBC.
Private Eye spoofed the show with their Camberwick Greenbelt cartoons.
Gordon Murray destroyed all the original puppets in the 1970s. They’d be worth a fortune now.
Trumptonshire has appeared in many songs by artists like Radiohead amongst others. Probably the most notable though was the Half Man Half Biscuit EP – The Trumpton Riots.
Chippy Minton and Windy Miller have appeared in Children in Need sketches.
Huffington Post once did a parody video with Donald Trump as mayor of Trumpton.
Apparently, Lord Belborough’s butler Brackett was the inspiration for a line in Champagne Supernova by Oasis.
I think the endearing legacy of the Trumptonshire trilogy was that the stories were just ordinary people doing ordinary things. There wasn’t any superheroes or fire breathing dragons. No violence or even the suggestion of crime. Yet each character was interesting and every child was invested in their lives. It was innocent and all the better for it.
You can keep your ninja turtles, badly drawn pigs and slick CGI adventurers. Give me Windy Miller and Mr Carraway lazily fishing at the pond in Camberwick Green any day of the week.
Trumpton Wars – The Verdict
Trying to think back to when I was a kid and putting the shows into a preferred order I’d go:
1 – Camberwick Green.
2 – Chigley.
3 – Trumpton.
But all were touched with greatness. And I loved watching them all again. Though the missus thinks I’m on the cusp of retreating completely into childhood. She may be right.
It would be wonderful if you could share your memories of Trumptonshire in the comments box below.
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