Worzel Gummidge

Worzel Gummidge

infobox television
show_name = Worzel Gummidge

format = Children's television series
runtime = 25 minutes
starring = See cast below
country = UK (1979–81)
New Zealand (1987–89)
network = Southern Television for ITV (1979–81)
Toti Productions for Channel 4 (1987)
Creative Arts for Channel 4 (1989)
first_aired = 1979
last_aired = 1989
num_episodes = 30 plus one Christmas Special (UK); 22 (New Zealand)
creator = Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall
based on characters created by Barbara Euphan Todd
imdb_id = 0078713
tv_com_id = 6521

Worzel Gummidge is a British children's fictional character – a walking, talking scarecrow, who originally appeared in a series of books by the novelist Barbara Euphan Todd. ["Creator Barbara Euphan Todd" http://www.screenonline.org.uk/tv/id/956561/index.html Retrieved 09/10/07]

Gummidge had a set of interchangeable turnip, mangel worzel and swede heads, each of which endowed the character with a specific skill or to suit a particular occasion.

The books were adapted into a children's television series, starring former Dr Who, Jon Pertwee, originally made in the UK, but later in New Zealand, where the character was extremely popular.


* "Worzel Gummidge" (1936)
* "Worzel Gummidge Again" (1937)
* "More About Worzel Gummidge" (1938)
* "Worzel Gummidge and Saucy Nancy" (1947)
* "Worzel Gummidge Takes a Holiday" (1949)
* "Earthy Mangold and Worzel Gummidge" (1954)
* "Worzel Gummidge Railway Scarecrows" (1955)
* "Worzel Gummidge at the Circus" (1956)
* "Worzel Gummidge Treasure Ship" (1958)
* "Detective Worzel Gummidge" (1963)



The first broadcast with Worzel was before World War II on the BBC's Children's Hour. By 1946, Worzel was played by veteran radio actor Philip Wade, John by John Clark, Susan by Rosamund Barnes, and Earthy Mangold by Mabel Constanduros. Later, Worzel was played by Denis Folwell, who went on to play Jack Archer in the BBC's perennial soap opera "The Archers". ["radio star in the 1940s " http://www.screenonline.org.uk/tv/id/956561/index.html Retrieved 09/10/07]


In July 1967 five Worzel Gummidge stories were read on "Jackanory" by Gordon Rollings [Cite web|url=http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0712606/filmoseries#tt0177448|title=IMDb filmography for Gordon Rollings|accessdate=2007-12-30] . In 1979 a television adaptation of Worzel Gummidge was produced by Southern Television for ITV, written by Keith Waterhouse and Willis Hall, and starred former "Doctor Who" actor Jon Pertwee as Worzel and Una Stubbs as Aunt Sally, a life-size fairground doll and Worzel's femme fatale. ["Worzel played by Jon Pertwee and Aunt Sally by Una Stubbs" http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/ilove/years/1979/tv3.shtml Retrieved 09/10/07] The Crowman, who made Worzel and some of his other scarecrow friends, is played by Geoffrey Bayldon better known for his starring role as the title character of "Catweazle".

Occasional guest appearances were made by big TV stars of the time and appeal to a family audience – Barbara Windsor as Saucy Nancy, a ship's figurehead, Billy Connolly as a Scottish piper scarecrow, Bill Maynard as Sergeant Beetroot, Joan Sims as Mrs Bloomsbury-Barton, the local aristocrat, and Lorraine Chase as Dolly Clothes-peg, a shop window mannequin come scarecrow.

Four series, totaling 30 episodes and one extended Christmas special, were made between 1979 and 1981, when Southern lost its franchise. The new franchise-holder, TVS, did not renew the show (despite a massive press campaign led by the Daily Star) after a deal with HTV fell through. Pertwee and Stubbs also starred in the musical "Worzel Gummidge" in 1981 at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre. Jon Pertwee's final TV appearance as Worzel was in 1995, to celebrate 40 years of ITV.

"Worzel's Song", sung by Jon Pertwee, was released at the height of the original series' popularity. Less remembered is Worzel's second single, warning children about the danger of strangers, released in 1987. ["Pertwee sung Worzel's Song" http://www.televisionheaven.co.uk/overview9-3.htm Retrieved 09/10/07]

Filming Locations

The main locations for filming were the villages of Stockbridge, King's Somborne and Braishfield all near Romsey, Hampshire in England.

Scenes at 'Scatterbrook Farm' were filmed at Pucknall in Braishfield. Michelmersh was used for the scenes in the Scatterbrook barn. It is not known where the title credit sequence was filmed.

New Zealand

The programme remained in limbo until Television New Zealand commissioned "Worzel Gummidge Down Under" in 1987, which was shot in New Zealand ["Worzel Gummidge Down Under" http://www.televisionheaven.co.uk/overview9-3.htm Retrieved 09/10/07] and ran for two series totaling a further 22 episodes. Only Pertwee and Stubbs remained from the original cast, with Bruce Phillips joining the cast as the Crowman (Geoffrey Bayldon declined to re-create the role, partly because he didn't want to be typecast in the part, but partly because he didn't want to work so far away from home) and Olivia Ihimaera-Smiler, daughter of prominent Maori author Witi Ihimaera joining as one of the children. "Lord of the Rings" director Peter Jackson received an [http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0001392/ early credit] for his work providing special effects for the series.

Series two of "Worzel Gummidge Down Under" was written by a rotation of New Zealand writers, while everything that had gone before was entirely the work of Waterhouse and Hall. Jon Pertwee was unhappy with the scripts for the sequel, which he stated did not have "the underlying morality" of the originals. Aunt Sally found herself a human boyfriend in this new series, which infuriated Pertwee – he considered this beneath the series.Fact|date=February 2007

Michael Grade, the newly appointed head of Channel 4 which co-financed the programme, ordered its axing when the New Zealand version of the show failed to catch the viewers imagination as before. ["Michael Grade axed show" http://www.screenonline.org.uk/tv/id/956561/index.html Retrieved 09/10/07]


Worzel Gummidge was a special scarecrow that came to life and lived in Ten Acre Field. He often wandered into the nearby village of Scatterbrook to see what mischief he could get up to. In the first episode he befriends children, brother and sister, John and Sue Peters, who spend most of the next four series trying to clear up the messes he creates. Charlotte Coleman (Sue) went on to secure considerable achievements in the acting profession. Jeremy Austin (John) went on to play Humphrey in the BBC children's drama Jonny Briggs.

Worzel's gimmick was a set of interchangeable turnip, mangle worzel and swede heads each head allowing Worzel to perform a certain skill or to suit a particular occasion. Should Worzel be required to sing, for example, he would put on his singing head, and to read, his reading head and so on. He also had his own language Zummerset dialect Worzelese. ["Zummerzset" http://www.screenonline.org.uk/tv/id/956561/index.html Retrieved 09/10/07] Worzel's catchphrases were: "A cup o’ tea an’ a slice o’ cake" "I'll be bum-swizzled" and "Bozzy MCoo". He was madly in love with Aunt Sally, a cruel-hearted fairground coconut-shy doll ["Aunt Sally a fairground coconut-shy" http://www.screenonline.org.uk/tv/id/956561/index.html Retrieved 09/10/07] who considered herself a lady and far too good for a common scarecrow such as Worzel. Aunt Sally often exploits Worzel for her own ends (in one episode, she promises to marry him if he frees her from a junkshop washing machine, but she never has any intention of going through with it and jilts him at the altar).

The subtext of the move to New Zealand in "Down Under" was that Aunt Sally is purchased by an antiques dealer visiting from New Zealand. At the airport, Worzel spots Aunt Sally going down the luggage chute and throws himself in after her.

A good deal of the show's entertainment value came from the interaction between Worzel and Sally, played with relish by Pertwee and Stubbs. Pertwee is virtually unrecognisable due to the make-up that was applied to him in a gruelling six hour process every day – and the audience is invited to cry along with Worzel as much as laugh at him. The character Worzel has often been referred to as "the tragi-comic scarecrow."

There was a notable inconsistency in Worzel's ability or inability to pronounce certain words. He would often struggle with "bonfire" or "compost heap" (though for perhaps understandable reasons), yet when he meets Aunt Sally he protests: "I ain't snivellin'! It's me rheumaticky eyes what's waterin'!"


Episode list

"Worzel Gummidge" (1979–1981)

eries One

* "Worzel's Washing Day"
* "A Home Fit For Scarecrows"
* "Aunt Sally"
* "The Crowman"
* "A Little Learning"
* "Worzel Pays A Visit"
* "The Scarecrow Hop"

eries Two

* "Worzel and the Saucy Nancy"
* "Worzel's Nephew"
* "A Fishy Tale"
* "The Trial of Worzel Gummidge"
* "Very Good Worzel"
* "Worzel In The Limelight"
* "Fire Drill"
* "The Scarecrow Wedding"

eries Three

* "Moving On"
* "Dolly Clothes-Peg"
* "A Fair Old Pullover"
* "Worzel The Brave"
* "Worzel's Wager"
* "The Return of Dafthead"
* "Captain Worzel"
* "Choir Practice"

Christmas Special

"A Cup O'Tea and a Slice Of Cake" (broadcast 27 December 1980)

eries Four

* "Muvver's Day"
* "The Golden Hind"
* "Will The Real Aunt Sally..?"
* "The Jumbly Sale"
* "The Return Of Dolly Clothes-Peg"
* "Worzel In Revolt"
* "Worzel's Birthday"

"Worzel Gummidge Down Under"

eries One (1987)

* "As The Scarecrow Flies"
* "The Sleeping Beauty"
* "Full Employment"
* "Worzel's Handicap"
* "King of the Scarecrows"
* "Worzel to the Rescue"
* "Slave Scarecrow"
* "The Traveller Unmasked"
* "A Friend In Need"

eries Two (1989)

* "Stage Struck"
* "A Red Sky In T'Morning"
* "Them Thar Hills"
* "The Beauty Contest"
* "Balbous Cauliflower"
* "Weevily Swede"
* "Elementary My Dear Worty"
* "Dreams Of Avarish"
* "The Runaway Train"
* "Aunt Sally, R.A."
* "Wattle Hearthbrush"
* "The Bestest Scarecrow"


* In the early 1980s British Labour Party leader Michael Foot was satirically compared to Worzel Gummidge as a criticism of his allegedly unkempt appearance. ["Private Eye Michael Foot Cover, Dec 1982" http://www.private-eye.co.uk/pictures/covers/full/547_big.jpgRetrieved 11/10/07]

*In the 1980s Harvester restaurants had a full size Worzel in the entrance to greet people.

* Whilst filming the Christmas Special in the town of Lymington during the summer of 1980, sudden winds blew the titanium dioxide which was being used as "snow" all over nearby homes, shops and businesses. The resultant mess caused food shops to dispose of stock, clothing to be ruined and forced many businesses to close early, landing Southern Television with a considerable bill for damages.


External links

* [http://www.screenonline.org.uk/tv/id/956561/index.html Screenonline: Worzel Gummidge]

* [http://www.scatterbrook.co.uk Fan Site]

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