Sunday, 16 July 1972

Advertising poster

Sunday, 16 July 1972 08:00 pm
This poster was probably drawn up in July 1972, when filming had just got under way. It features an artist's impressions, possibly from photos, of scenes from "Arthur is Dead" and "The Challenge."

HTV publicity 2 small
Poster courtesy of Paul Lewis.

Romance, legend, myth and misunderstanding veil the true story of ARTHUR, the man who roused all England to repel a barbaric invader. Behind the legend lies a freedom fighter, a leader of genius.

In “ARTHUR of the Britons”, HTV West, within whose borders ARTHUR built his own Camelot, have created a 24-part series on the life and battles of the hero ‘king’.

It is the dramatic story of desperate men and desperate times, an age of bloodshed, but an age also of a warrior who held dear the vision of a free, united and Christian kingdom.

The £500,000 series was filmed on West Country locations that once rang to the clash of Celtic and Saxon sword. Two stockaded encampments, one Celtic and one Saxon, were recreated in painstaking detail.

The writers who contribute are of international repute. They include: Terence Feeley, Robert Banks Stewart, David Osborn, David Pursall and Jack Seddon.

ARTHUR and his story belong to the so-called Dark Ages of English history that must remain partly veiled. This television series is the first realistic attempt to look behind that veil.

The text reiterates the premise of the show: Arthur as a wily war leader, trying to unite his people against invaders.

It is interesting to note that Arthur is referred to as "a warrior who held dear the vision of a free, united and Christian kingdom." But nowhere in the series does Arthur refer to his own religious faith, and though a white banner with a red cross is on display in Arthur's village, he never fights anyone simply because they are not Christians; indeed, his foster-father, Llud, believes in different deities, though we are not told which ones.

In "Arthur is Dead", a large book - which might well be a Bible - is seen in Arthur's room; later in the series he consults a monk, but about an agricultural rather than a spiritual problem, and later still, he takes issue with Rolf, for preaching Christian peace and love, causing some of the Celts to lay down their arms.

Perhaps it was thought that a Christian leader might hold greater appeal, but religious fervour just didn't fit with the character of the practical hero they created in Arthur.
In, in response to a request in the Chew Valley Gazette, Mrs Barbara Hatherall offered these memories.

Barbara Hatherall knew the Maxwell family who owned Woodborough Mill Farm, where much of “Arthur of the Britons” was filmed; the "Giant’s Dam" - seen in the episode, “In Common Cause” - is the weir at Woodborough Mill Farm, where they used to play when they were kids.

Barbara’s son Robert helped his uncle to build the village on a field near the River Chew, dragging logs and such like from the nearby woods to make the buildings, etc.

In the summer of 1972, Barbara would go up to the shooting location nearly every day, for one thing or another. She appeared as an extra on many occasions, and they all thought the pay they got as extras was brilliant.

The family had a caravan in their back garden and the production rented it from them for the summer, for one of the crew who had to be there early. It came back spotless.

She had a shop that sold odds and ends in her front room. The cast and crew would come in to buy chocolate, etc. Patrick Dromgoole, the Executive Producer who also directed five episodes, used to come in and sit in her chair, and put his cup of tea on the arm (there was a little wooden stand to put things on) and say what a nice chair it was. She got it for £12!

He’d ask her to recommend people who lived in the area for particular parts. At one time, he wanted a man of a certain age. She said, “Well, my husband’s free that day,” so Patrick had a look at a picture, and cast Barbara and her husband as the jeweller and his wife in “The Penitent Invader.”

Well, her husband went into the make-up caravan, and when he came out she didn’t recognise him! They put him in a wig and a beard, and – later on, after he was supposed to have been robbed by Rolf – Patrick gave them some dirty old rags to bandage his head. Patrick kept screaming at her because she was laughing so much at silly things her husband was saying to her while they were trying to film.

In the scene where Rolf had attacked a young girl on the river bank, Patrick was telling the victim to spread her legs out, and look like she’s been raped, but she said “I can’t, there’s all stinging nettles there!”

Barbara was also in a banquet scene as a serving wench, and they had to do the scene over and over, because she had to take a tray of food to where Oliver Tobias was sitting, and he would stab a dagger into the table, making her jump back.

In the scene in “The Penitent Invader”, where Clive Revill, as Rolf, has to walk across hot coals as penance, he was supposed to put his feet in gaps which had been left between the coals, but ended up actually walking on hot coals because he kept missing the gaps. And he had to do it again, because Patrick shouted out “someone’s got a watch on!” and that was Barbara, with a watch under her hessian dress!

Hot coals (31) Hot coals (35)

Barbara’s daughter also appeared in a scene1, walking across a bridge.

One day, Patrick Dromgoole had asked the agency to send a lot of dark (meaning “dark-haired”) extras, but when the transport turned up, it was full of black people! They couldn’t be used for filming, but they got a free meal at the canteen.

The production really brought the village to life, with all the horses coming in, in big wagons, and all the cast and crew. There were a lot of people involved. It was good fun, and the actors would all chat to you. Barbara couldn’t remember anyone being stand-offish – everyone mucked in and worked together.

1 Possibly in “The Gift of Life.”

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