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Catweazle (ITV Kids, Geoffrey Bayldon, Robin Davies)

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Ask anyone of a certain age what their favourite kids show of all time is and you can bet a fair percentage of them will say Catweazle, it’s certainly in our top ten of any genre – kids or adults.

The series was created and written by the legendary Richard Carpenter – Catweazle was his first success as a writer, he was a former actor and he would go on to be one of the mainstays behind The Adventures of Black Beauty and creator of such shows as The Ghosts of Motley Hall and Robin of Sherwood. Carpenter said that he was inspired to come up with the show after spotting the name Catweazle on a farmhouse nameplate.

A brief snippet in the Sussex Agricultural Express – Friday 19 May 1916 featured a classified ad for an auction by Messrs. Winch & Sons to take place on Monday 29 May 1916 at Castweazle Farm, Biddenden where offered for sale were thousands of flowers, tomato plants, furniture and hay stacks for Hohn Goodwill. There was the addition of an s in the Catweazle name but was this farm that Richard Carpenter saw that gave him his inspiration for the series? Meanwhile a wedding announcement in the Kent & Sussex Courier – Friday 23 April 1954 noted that on Easter Monday at Rolvenden Parish Church Mr Victor Just, only son of Mr & Mrs T. Just of Castweazle, Tenterden married Miss Dorothy Rachel Stone. Again there was an extra S in the Catweazle name, interestingly Tenterden has a whole street that is known as Castweazle, Rolvenden Road. Taking a tea-break during rehearsals for London Weekend International’s new series Catweazle are left to right: Executive Producer Joy Whitby; Geoffrey Bayldon (Catweazle); Neil McArthur (Sam); Robin Davies (Carrot); Charles Tingwell (Mr. Bennett) and Producer/ Director Quentin Lawrence (The Stage Thurs 3 July 1969).

The Sunday Mirror of Sunday 18 January 1970 saw critic James Pettigrew giving younger viewers a preview of the show: I’m taking a back seat today, so that the very young can have their say. You see, London Weekend TV have been giving me the big build-up about their new Sunday afternoon series which faces the enormous challenge of meeting children’s imagination with charm, ingenuity and non-violence.

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Their verdicts: Marie Louise aged 5: “Catweazle is a very funny man and he doesn’t frighten you. I like him more than the Clangers — puppets are a bit soppy. No wonder Catweazle thought electric light was the sun in a bottle. It was magic to him.”

Shaun aged 7: “I like it better than puppet programmes because there are alive real people. I’m sure mummies and daddies will watch Catweazle. He’s better than Spacemen getting lost.”

Patrick aged 9: “It was a very good film, but it’s hard to say whether I like it more than Dr. Who because I like aliens, and a bit of fighting. Pity we couldn’t have had more chases and fights. I like lots of action.”

Passed to children’s programme planners without comment.

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The series begins with Catweazle (superbly played by Geoffrey Bayldon) being chased in the 11th Century by a pair of Norman Knights, using his magic skills he is able to whisk himself away through time, he ends up in the present day (1969 as then was), unable to get back he is completely bewildered by the modern world around him (he thinks a light bulb is the sun in a bottle – “shine tiny sun”) and is convinced everything around him is magic.

Young Carrott (Robin Davies), son of farmer Mr Bennett (played by our own Charles ‘Bud’ Tingwell), takes him under his wing and throughout much of the first season tries to keep Catweazle out of trouble and mischief. At the end of the first season Catweazle manages to get himself back to his own time.

In The Stage, Thurs 20 May 1971, in an article about the closure of London Weekend International (the part of LWT geared towards making overseas sales) it was mentioned that the first season of Catweazle had a budget of £200,000, a huge sum for a series at that time.

On Thursday 16 April 1970 The Stage revealed that Catweazle had been entered by ITV for the Prix Jeunesse, the International Children’s Festival which was due to take place in Munich, Germany from 5-12 June.

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  Catweazle – Season 2 Cast

 

Season two is slightly different in that Catweazle once again lands up in the 20th century, this time helped out by Cedric (Gary Warren) (12 year old son of Lord and Lady Collingwood), Catweazle embarks on a quest for the hitherto unknown 13th sign of the zodiac that will enable him to once again return to his own time. In the Daily Mirror of Sat 20 Feb 1971 Richard Bates, then Deputy Managing Director of London Weekend International, explained that the change in scene for season two was down to an attempt to get international sales. “The rural accents of the first series were proving a bit difficult for some overseas viewers to understand.”

As the season continued it turned out that rather than a “flying spell”, the rhyme was actually a treasure “clue”. This referred to the 12 hours of the high clock on the tower of a mansion house where the roman numerals showed “XIII” in the twelve o’clock position instead of “XII”.  The treasure was found in the loft area behind the clock.

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The premiere of season 2 was reviewed in The Stage, Jan 21 1971 with critic John Lawrence being more than happy to have the series back: It is a great pleasure to welcome back this imaginatively written and finely produced programme. On the evidence of the first two episodes, this new series is going to be at least as good as the first, if not better. Back in the twentieth century again, in a second frustrated at tempt to escape the wrath of the Normans, Catweazle encounters the owners of a small stately home… This time it is more complex, wandering between mistrust, awe, scorn and curiosity on both sides. Geoffrey Bayldon’s Catweazle continues to grow in all directions. His knowledge of the times has benefited from his previous visit, but not enough to allow him to avoid difficulties wherever he goes. Because of the careful attention to detail in the writing and characterisations the humour arises naturally from the situations. All in all it adds up to one of the most entertaining programmes. It has all the ingredients it should have, both in direction (by David Lane) and writing (by Richard Carpenter).

In an interview with Ian Williams in the Harrow Observer, Fri 10 Mar 1971, Carpenter spoke about the possibility of a third season: “We’d like to do a third series. After writing 26 episodes I’m not so frightened about running out of ideas for another 13.” However, Richard is not sure if yet another series would be a good idea always provided London Weekend agree to provide the cash. “There is an unfortunate trend in television to break the theatrical maxim of leaving the audience wanting more.”

Shot on film and with a wonderfully glossy feel Catweazle is superbly entertaining, a real gem from the golden age of TV; Geoffrey Bayldon really is brilliant as the rag wearing, goatee beard sporting magician out of his time.

production details
UK / ITV – London Weekend Television / 26×30 minute episode / Broadcast 1970 – 1971

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Writer: Richard Carpenter / Executive Producer: Joy Whitby / Producers: Quentin Lawrence, Carl Mannin

cast
GEOFFREY BAYLDON as Catweazle
ROBIN DAVIES as Carrott Bennett(Season 1)
CHARLES TINGWELL as Mr Bennett(season 1)
NEIL McCALLUM as Sam(season 1)
GARY WARREN as Cedric Collingford (season 2)
MORAY WATSON as Lord Collingford (season 2)
ELSPET GRAY as Lady Collingford (season 2)
PETER BUTTERWORTH as Groome (season 2)

THE EPISODES

SEASON 1
1. THE SUN IN A BOTTLE
2. CASTLE SABURAC
3. THE CURSE OF RAPKYN
4. THE WITCHING HOUR
5. THE EYE OF TIME
6. THE MAGIC FACE
7. THE TELLING BONE
8. THE POWER OF ADAMCOS
9. THE DEMI DEVIL
10. THE HOUSE OF THE SORCERER
11. THE FLYING BROOMSTICKS
12. THE WISDOM OF SOLOMON
13. THE TRICKERY LANTERN

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SEASON 2
1. THE MAGIC RIDDLE
2. DUCK HALT
3. THE HEAVENLY TWINS
4. THE SIGN OF THE CRAB
5. THE BLACK WHEELS
6. THE WOGLE STONE
7. THE ENCHANTED KING
8. THE FAMILIAR SPIRIT
9. THE GHOST HUNTERS
10. THE WALKING TREES
11. THE BATTLE OF THE GIANTS
12. THE MAGIC CIRCLE
13. THE THIRTEENTH SIGN


Alastair James is the editor in chief for Memorable TV. He has been involved in media since his university days. Alastair is passionate about television, and some of his favourite shows include Line of Duty, Luther and Traitors. He is always on the lookout for hot new shows, and is always keen to share his knowledge with others.

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