The Production of a BBC Television play in the 1950's. Nathaniel Titlark.

David Sharp's picture
BBC Manchester Studios, Dickinson Road, 1956.

The Production of a BBC Television play, 1950s style.

Whilst checking a file on Sheelagh Rees (BEHP interview No 249), I came across an article about BBC TV drama which sheds some light on the history of live television production. A short series of linked plays, produced at the BBC Lime Grove studios, written by James Lonsdale Hodson, and produced (that is, directed) by Adrian Waller, called Nathaniel Titlark and set in a fictional village in the Chilterns. The four episodes were: Matrimonial Affairs (transmitted on February 21st 1956; The Major and the Widow (March 6th); A Vote for Titlark (March 20th) and Nathaniel helps an Invasion (April 3rd). The stars were Bernard Miles, no doubt in a familiar “rural” role, with Megs Jenkins as his wife. Other parts were played by James Page, Richard Caldicot, John Moore, Dorothea Rundle, Julian d’Albie, Harriette Johns, Norman Pierre, Jean Taylor-Smith and J. Leslie Frith. Designs for the play were by Guy Sheppard, who did a lot of TV drama in this period.


A fuller description of the production process, with illustrations of the studio and the sets is in the article itself, which is included with this note*. It was originally published in The Sphere of April 14th 1956. The pictures which are sketches are by Jack Merriott, R.I. who was a regular contributor to The Sphere, but is perhaps better known as one of the great illustrators of transport posters for British Rail.

I don’t know whether Sheelagh was involved in the production, but she must have wanted to show the kind of work she was involved with at the BBC.


BONUS FEATURE. The final photographs adjacent to the article are of the then newly opened BBC Manchester Studios, at Dickinson Road, Rusholme, with a rehearsal in progress. Towards the rear of the picture can be seen the Littlewoods Girls Choir (rivals of another football pool’s group, The Vernons Girls), with Ken Frith at the piano on the right. Producer Barney Colehan is in the foreground.

David Sharp


*we are most grateful to acknowledge the images are © Illustrated London News/Mary Evans Picture Library.