Critics have long been cruel to Crossroads, a soap that debuted in 1964 with buckets collecting water from a leaking roof. But then the show began its broadcast on November 2, 1964, inside a former Aston cinema turned studio.
With theatre-style backgrounds and just eight prominent cast members trying to get the daily 25-minute episodes off the ground, things were always going to be shaky. The show had a reputation for being “wobbly.”
It used socially aware plots that make the bosses of EastEnders and Coronation Street green with envy, but 15 million people watched it every day at its peak.
To celebrate the birth of the show, ITVX will introduce Helena Bonham Carter as a star of a series called Nolly. This nickname was given to her when she wasn’t playing matriarch Meg. 700 hours of episodes are also set to be released on DVD at the end of January.
The Crossroads was set in the fictional Kings Oak, a village of 750 people ten miles from Birmingham’s city center. The village was named after King Charles II, who hid in a giant oak tree one night. St Mary’s and the Methodist Church were local places of worship.
There were three pubs: The Crown, The Kings Oak, and The Running Stag, as well as a Frescos supermarket. Heathbury was the nearest town, six miles away, with a nightclub called The Eldorado and a general hospital. Smaller neighboring villages and hamlets included Merryfield’s, Castlewich, and Paxton.
In the 1960s, a nearby motorway was built, which gave the owner of a bed and breakfast the idea to turn it into a motel. Newspapers from 1963 were used as props to set the opening scene of Crossroads apart once the show aired.
The Richardson family home was close to a junction. That’s why widowed Meg Mortimer called the motel attached to the motel Crossroads when she officially opened it in April 1963. She thanked Mr. Prescott, the bank manager, for his patience and kindness when he helped her raid the bank’s vaults. She also thanked her future husband, Hugh Mortimer, for building the motel.
In 1964, when the first episode of “Crossroads” aired, Meg Richardson (played by Nan Kendal) stayed at a motel with seven other characters. They were Beryl Johnstone (Kitty Jarvis, Meg’s sister), Roger Tonge (Sandy Richardson, Meg’s son), Jane Rossington (Jill Richardson, Meg’s daughter), Brian Kent (Dick Jarvis, Kitty’s husband), David Fennell (Brian Jarvis, Kitty’s son), Tony Morton (Carlos Raphael, the chef), and Malcolm Young (motel handyman Philip Winter).
After an explosion in 1967, a new foyer was built. In 1973 and 1976, more changes and additions made the number of chalets go up to more than 50. After a fire in November 1981, the building was rebuilt and grew significantly in 1982.
When creator Noele Gordon was fired from Crossroads at the end of 1980, the character of Meg Richardson passed on to her daughter, Jill. In the years that followed, viewers saw the show move from ATV to Central Television and back again.
By 1988, however, producers had decided to end the series. Fans were heartbroken when their favorite soap opera came to an end. The show was filmed in many locations throughout the Midlands and further afield.
Before the start of Crossroads, the motel reception was built to look like ATV’s office building at Rutland House on Edmund Street. Noele Gordon (Meg) and Beryl Johnstone (Kitty) gave an interview in Cornwall Street.
The doorway, which was close to where they are standing, is now called Kings Chambers. The company was founded in Manchester in 1946 and has offices in Leeds and Birmingham today.
The man who helped to get the main Crossroads off the ground was ATV manager Lew Grade.
Michael Grade’s nephew launched EastEnders on BBC1 three years later in February 1985. On April 25, 1988, 3 weeks after the 4,510th and last episode of the main Crossroads was transmitted, Walford Hall was given Grade II listed status. Historic England says it is a ‘small country house, now (an) agricultural training college. Early C18, partly remodeled in mid-C19 with later additions and alterations)’.
Peter Ling, who worked on the show Crossroads with Hazel Adair, had seen the word ‘motel’ in Fordingbridge. After the fire in November 1981, the set for Walford Hall was rebuilt at Halfpenny Green Airport, a disused runway.
The Golden Valley Hotel in Cheltenham was used for outdoor shooting locations from 1982 to 1986. The hotel has since been reinvented as a Thistle Hotel, then a Jury’s Inn, and is now a Leonardo. The show was filmed mainly at the ATV / Central studios off Broad Street.
The revived series of Crossroads, which ran from 2001-2003, was filmed at the Carlton Television studios in Nottingham. However, most of the original series had been filmed at ATV / Central’s Broad Street studios.
The Crossroads Leisure Centre was filmed at The House of Robin Leisure Centre in Quarry Bank when it was created in 1985. The original building was demolished in the 1990s, becoming Fitness4Leisure. However, the club suffered fire damage in October 2021, and work to clear the site began in March 2022.
During the 1960s and 70s, scenes along River Severn provided River Slotter as a fictional riverbank for Crossroads Motel lake at Penn’s Hall Hotel. Today there’s a carp fishery at Penns Hall Lake. The Worcester-Birmingham Canal, close to ATV Studios on Broad Street, played Kings Oak Canal.
It provided a canalside home for the Harvey family and Sam ‘Carney’ Carne’s cottage. A narrowboat would be used moored near the old turn junction.
Kings Oak Junior School was used for Baschurch Village School in Shropshire. The Dame Elizabeth Cadbury School in Bournville was used for the series’ high school.
The Dame Elizabeth Cadbury School, operated by the series in the late 1980s, is now closed. In a famous scene from Crossroads, Meg and Hugh have their marriage blessed at Birmingham Cathedral (St. Philip’s).
People who didn’t marry in a church married at the Birmingham Registry Office on Broad Street. Tom Yorke and Ruth Bailey, Diane and Vince Parker, and Meg and Hugh Mortimer were the first to get married there. When it closed in 2006, the building was demolished; today, marriages occur at Holliday Street.
People Also Read: