Memory Lane: Return to Camberwick

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“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?”

Middle-aged readers will doubtless smile as they recognise those words from their childhood.

They were spoken at the start of each episode of the first children’s animated colour television series, Camberwick Green.

Out of the box would rise the episode’s star character. The background would then appear and the story – featuring eight-inch tall stop-motion puppets, with ping pong ball heads and foam latex clothes – would begin.

The popular series went on air on BBC 1 exactly 46 years ago today, immediately before the midday news.

Now all 39 15-minute episodes of the trilogy – which also includes the sequels Trumpton and Chigley – have been digitally restored by BBC Studios and Post Production, fulfilling the wish of creator Gordon Murray to see his work preserved forever for future generations to watch and enjoy.

In a far-sighted and ambitious move, 90-year-old Gordon, with the help of son-in-law William Mollett, decided to locate, restore and future-proof the stories which were narrated and sung by Brian Cant.

William says: “We had no great expectations when we started out the process.

“Even if we did manage to find the original footage, we weren’t holding out much hope for the state it would be in after almost 50 years.”

But after finding some buried deep in his father-in-law’s attic, he then approached the BBC to see if they could track down the missing original footage from close on half a century ago.

They eventually traced it to a BBC vault in Perivale, West London, but it soon became clear restoration would be a painstaking task.

Gordon and William enlisted the expertise of BBC Studios and Post Production who, frame by frame, meticulously cleaned, scanned and digitally restored it.

Gordon says: “My mission was to preserve and future-proof the trilogy for new generations to enjoy.

“I’d love to see the people who first watched it back in the 1960s enjoy it again in pristine digital quality with their grandchildren.

“I’m so delighted it’s been so lovingly brought back to life.

“I was really worried it had been lost forever, and I can’t imagine a world without Trumptonshire.

Debbie Manners, chief operating officer at BBC Studios and Post Production, says: “It was a great honour for us to be involved with the restoration of this fantastic piece of television history. The trilogy holds a very special place in the nation’s hearts, and transports us back to a simpler and more innocent age.

“The beauty of today’s sophisticated digital techniques means we can now avoid classic footage being consigned to the annals of TV history, and keep and improve it for future generations to enjoy.”

The fully re-mastered series of Camberwick Green, which first aired on BBC 1 on January 3, 1966, is available to buy on Blu-ray, DVD and digital download via from Gordon Murray (Trumptonshire) Ltd.