Rare early Archers scripts, including thought to be Pilot episodes set to sell at auction

A set of ten scripts dating from the early days of the world’s longest-running soap opera, BBC Radio 4’s ‘The Archers’ is set to come under the hammer at a West Midlands auction house in September.

Of the scripts, five relate to the first few episodes of the show which started in January 1951, and has since aired over 16,780 episodes (correct as of July 2012). The remaining five scripts are believed to be from the pilot series.

The typeset working copies were addressed for the attention of Harry Oakes, who played Dan Archer, patriarch of the middle-class Archer farming family around whom the show is centred. Carrying corrections and amends in black and red pencil, they offer a fascinating insight into how the actors were involved with the development of their characters.

The fact that the scripts are to sell in the Midlands is particularly poignant, as the fictional county of Borsetshire in which the series is based is located somewhere between the West Midlands, Warwickshire and Worcestershire. There is, however, another strong local link in the form of Wolverhampton-born actress Gwen Berryman, who played Doris Archer for 29 years from 1951 to 1980; the house where she was born – 123, Goldthorn Hill Wolverhampton – still bears a plaque in her honour. The fact that Gwen is only billed as Doris on the scripts from the first series, whilst the other five bear the name of Nan Marriott Watson in the role, adds to speculation that they are from the pilot series.

The lot also comes with a photo card signed by cast members, including Harry Oakes, Gwen Berryman, Pamela Mant, Norman Painting, Ysanne Churchman, Pauline Seville, Eddie Robinson, Bob Arnold, Leslie Bowmar, Denis Folwell, Thelma Rogers and Arnold Peters.

While early Archers’ scripts don’t come up for sale very often, when they do they command significant sums, as Dave Eglington, Auctioneer & Valuer at Cuttlestones, explains:

“This is a very interesting lot – The Archers is a real institution and still has a strong following. These scripts are a piece of true broadcasting history and what I feel makes them especially interesting are the annotations – there are even phonetic notes in the margin to ensure that actors used the local vernacular – like switching ‘yes’ for ‘aye’. The last time a script for episode 1 came up for sale it sold at Sotheby’s £6,875 in July 2011 – so the sky could be the limit!”

The scripts are set to sell at Cuttlestones’ Friday, 7th September Specialist Collectors’ Sale at its Wolverhampton sale room.

The full catalogue will be available online at www.cuttlestones.co.uk from Friday, 31st August with viewing on Thursday, 6th September from 10am – 7pm. Live internet bidding via www.the-saleroom.com alongside telephone and commission bidding options will open the field to an International audience.

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