In The Watch House (based on a fine children’s mystery novel by Robert Westall) teenage Anne’s parents are going through a divorce and she is sent to stay with old family friends Prudie and her brother Arthur in on the North East coast. Arthur is custodian of the old Watch House (which is next to his house) former headquarters of the Garmouth Volunteer Life Brigade. It has fallen into disuse over the years but Arthur would like to see it turned into a museum.
As soon as Anne enters the Watch House she feels a strange presence and she soon discovers that it is haunted by the spirit of Henry Cookson, the man who founded the brigade. Cookson beseeches Anne for help but it isn’t until she digs deeper with her new friends Pat and Timmo that she discovers that a more malignant spirit – a shipwrecker by the name of Scobie Hague is at the heart of the mystery. Underlying all this is the angst that Anne is going through with her parents break up – she wants to live with her father but her mother wants her to move in with her and her new man.
Although The Watch House is high quality children’s telefantasy it would definitely have benefited from a longer running time, maybe six episodes instead of three. Lots of Westall’s novel had to be trimmed and not always for space reasons, the BBC naturally enough shied away from an exorcism and a seance.
The serial was a co-production between the BBC and Television New Zealand which means that basically TVNZ would have contributed finances. Trivia wise the book and the serial feature a character called Chas McGill who fans of Westall’s work will remember as being the name of the lead character in his wartime book The Machine Gunners. No mention is made of this but it could well be likely that the Chas here is the grown up Machine Gunners Chas.
The story was mostly filmed in Tynemouth.
UK / BBC-1 – TV NZ / 3×25 minute episodes / Broadcast 7 – 21 December 1988
Writer: William Corlett / Novel: Robert Westall / Stuntwomen: Helen Caldwell, Elaine Ford / Stuntman: Steve Whyment / Fight Arranger: Nick Hobbs / Costumes: James Keast / Video Effects: Dave Chapman / Production Design: Bob Hutton / Music: Rodney Newton / Executive Producer: Paul Stone / Producer: Brenda Ennis / Director: Ian Kell
DIANA MORRISON as Anne
LYNETTE DAVIES as Fiona
SHERI SHEPSTONE as Prudie
JAMES GARBUTT as Arthur
BENNY GRAHAM as Mr McGill
PETER VAN GAVER as Curator
LINDA HUNTLEY as Pat
MICHAEL NICHOLSON as Timmo
ALLEN DALE as Old Feller
YING TONG JOHN as Scobie Hague
RICHARD SANDS as Joseph Beavers
MIKE ELLIOTT as Robert Johnson
GARY CATLIN as Wrecker