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All Creatures Great and Small (TV series)

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Title: All Creatures Great and Small (TV series)  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Peter Davison, The World of James Herriot, List of Peabody Award winners (1980–89), Sharon Twomey, Andrew Timothy
Collection: 1970S British Television Series, 1978 British Television Programme Debuts, 1980S British Television Series, 1990 British Television Programme Endings, 1990S British Television Series, Bbc Birmingham Productions, Bbc Television Dramas, British Drama Television Series, English-Language Television Programming, Peabody Award Winning Television Programs, Television Programs Based on Novels, Television Series About Animals, Television Series Set in the 1930S, Television Series Set in the 1940S, Television Series Set in the 1950S, Television Shows Set in Yorkshire
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

All Creatures Great and Small (TV series)

All Creatures Great and Small
Cast of All Creatures Great and Small, circa 1978: Christopher Timothy, Robert Hardy, Peter Davison, Mary Hignett and Carol Drinkwater
Genre Comedy-drama
Created by Bill Sellars
Written by James Herriot
Directed by Peter Grimwade
Starring Christopher Timothy
Robert Hardy
Peter Davison
Carol Drinkwater
Mary Hignett
John McGlynn
Margaretta Scott
Lynda Bellingham
(list of characters)
Country of origin United Kingdom
No. of series 7
No. of episodes 90 (list of episodes)
Producer(s) Bill Sellars
Running time 50 minutes
Original channel BBC One
Original release 8 January 1978 (1978-01-08) – 24 December 1990 (1990-12-24)

All Creatures Great and Small is a British television series, based on the books of the British veterinary surgeon Alf Wight, who wrote under the pseudonym James Herriot. In 1977, the BBC tasked producer Bill Sellars with the creation of a television series from Herriot's first two novels, If Only They Could Talk and It Shouldn't Happen to a Vet, using the title of the 1975 film adaptation All Creatures Great and Small.

The series had two runs: the original (1978 to 1980, based directly on Herriot's books) was for three series; the second (1988 to 1990, filmed with original scripts) for four. Ninety episodes were aired in the six-year period.


  • Cast 1
    • Central characters 1.1
    • Recurring characters 1.2
  • Production 2
    • Locations 2.1
  • Episodes 3
  • Theme tune 4
    • 1978 soundtrack 4.1
      • Side One 4.1.1
      • Side Two 4.1.2
  • Home media 5
  • Skeldale House 6
  • Legacy 7
  • Reunions and interviews 8
  • References 9
  • External links 10


Central characters

The actors' ages at the commencement of filming are given below

The leading role is played by Christopher Timothy. Simon Ward (who had played the part in the 1975 film), John Alderton (who had replaced Ward in the sequel, It Shouldn't Happen to a Vet) and Richard Beckinsale all turned the role down. Bill Sellars had wanted to give the role to Timothy from the outset, but the powers that be wanted to cast the role. Sellars, therefore, asked Timothy if he would accept the role of Tristan Farnon. "I had a wife, I had children, I had a mortgage to pay, and I wasn't working. So I said, 'No. It's Herriot or nothing.'" Timothy put everything on the line. "I got home one night, at about 9 o'clock. My wife was washing up in the kitchen. I walked into the kitchen and she said, without turning round, 'You've got the Herriot part.'" Timothy also stated that, after all of the roles had been cast except that of Herriot, one of the directors said, "Why don't we give [the part] to Christopher Timothy and make him a name?" In 2003, Timothy said that Alf Wight wrote him a letter after the series started, saying "You are the Herriot I wrote about".[1]

The cantankerous and eccentric Siegfried Farnon, based on Wight's real-life partner Donald Sinclair, is played by Robert Hardy. Siegfried took over Skeldale House from another vet, named Grant. "Some writers considered him an explosion, and all they needed to do was light the fuse and — bang — he would lose his temper, which was a great bore," explained the actor. "So I ended up occasionally writing my own scenes. I did make a nuisance of myself, and I'm afraid I made enemies amongst some of the younger writers. But that's necessary. Out of these battles come, if you're lucky, quality. It needs steel and a stone to make a spark."[1] In the 1983 Christmas Special, Siegfried meets an old flame, Caroline, who has returned after living in America. They later marry and have children, as mentioned in the series 7 episode "Hampered".

"He would simply say, 'This is nonsense, I'm not doing it,'" laughed Peter Davison, who plays Siegfried's boyish younger brother, Tristan (affectionately called "Mister Tristan" by housekeeper Mrs Hall), whose character was based on the younger brother of Donald Sinclair, Brian. "I think I lied about every aspect of playing the part," explained Davison. "I said I smoked; I didn't smoke. I said I drank; I didn't drink. I said I knew a bit about animals; didn't know anything about animals." Tristan likes nothing more than slipping out to the Drovers Arms for a pint or two of Best Yorkshire Bitter whenever the opportunity presents itself, one of several "intensely irritating habits" that annoy his brother. Others include his penchant for sleeping late, failing his exams, and spending too much time chasing women. In the episode "The Prodigal Returns", when Siegfried mistakenly thinks "little brother" is impersonating a client on the other end of the telephone line, a few home truths come out: "Mr Biggins, if you've got it into your head that young Mr Farnon is a veterinary surgeon of any quality whatsoever, let me disabuse you of that idea immediately. He is nothing more than a slothful, drunken, incompetent lecher who will soon be seeking employment elsewhere." Tristan's party piece is a rendition of "The Mad Conductor" (Benito Mussolini conducting the Neurasthenic Strings), which he performs in "Out of Practice" and "...The Healing Touch".

Helen Herriot (née Alderson) is played by Carol Drinkwater in the first three series and two specials, then by Lynda Bellingham in the final four series. Mary Hignett plays housekeeper Mrs Hall in the first three series, with Mrs Hubbard (Marjorie Suddell) (1983 Christmas Special), Mrs Greenlaw (Judy Wilson) (1985 special and series 4, episodes 1–5) and Mrs Alton (Jean Heywood) (series 7) inheriting the roles. (A housekeeper by the name of Mary preceded Mrs Hall, who is a widow after the death of her husband, Arthur.)[2]

Recurring characters

Margaretta Scott appears as the recurring aristocratic dog-owner Mrs Pumphrey. Her servant, irked at having to look after Mrs Pumphrey's pampered dog Tricki-Woo, is William Hodgekin (Teddy Turner). He longs for it to "have its chips" and succumb to illness, which is why he grumbles whenever the vets pay a visit.

With the amount of screen time to fill, the series quickly became much more of an ensemble show, developing all the characters considerably. In particular, the role of Tristan was significantly increased. This was partly because Christopher Timothy was injured in a car accident during a fortnight break in late 1977, in the middle of recording the first series. As a result, the Welsh actor was largely restricted to studio scenes, which meant that all the scenes involving location filming be rewritten and include Davison. "I remember Christopher's accident vividly," recalled Robert Hardy. "It was a ghastly shock, and one thought, 'Well, that's the end of that. We shan't be going on.'" Timothy remembers: "The news from the hierarchy was: 'Tragic news about Christopher. Glad he's okay. Send his wife some flowers and re-cast.'"

"One of the plans was to make me James Herriot," said Peter Davison, "and then re-cast Tristan." Bill Sellars refused this option: "I said, 'I'm not doing that. It's an awful waste. We'll find another way around it.' We took the rest of the series apart, scene by scene, and all the scenes that Christopher Timothy was involved in, I extracted and took them down to the hospital, threw them on the hospital bed, and said, 'Learn those.'" This accounts for the three-week break in transmission dates between episodes 11 (19 March 1978) and 12 (7 April 1978) of the first series.

"I was plated and screwed instead of plastered," recalled Timothy, "and I was back at work in nine weeks. Which was insane, in retrospect: I could barely walk, I was terrified, I'd lost a lot of weight and everybody worked round me."

"They would prop him up against a surgery table," said Peter Davison. "Then he'd start having a conversation with me. And then, at some point in the scene, I would have to move my eyes slowly across the room while two people would come in and literally carry him across to the next position."

In series 4, new vet Calum Buchanan (John McGlynn), based on Herriot's real-life assistant Brian Nettleton, is introduced. He and Tristan know each other from veterinary school in Edinburgh. He marries fellow Scot Deirdre McEwan (Andrea Gibb) early in series 6, and the pair emigrate to Nova Scotia.

The Herriot children, Jimmy and Rosie, are played by several different actors in their various stints. Jimmy is portrayed by Harry Brayne in the 1983 special. Oliver Wilson takes over the role from the 1985 special until the end of series 5. Paul Lyon plays him in the final series. Rosie, meanwhile, is played by Rebecca Smith from the 1985 special until the end of series 5. Alison Lewis takes over for the final series.

James' early rival for Helen's affections, the well-off Richard Edmundson, was played by Norman Mann.

Several farmers make recurring appearances throughout the series. Mr Biggins (John Sharp) is a notorious payment-dodger who regularly attempts to procure free service out of the practice, as well as decrying the cost of the vets' visits. In one episode he calls Herriot out to question a bill charge from 18 months earlier. On another occasion, in exchange for Herriot's assistance with a puncture on his car, Biggins agrees to settle his account. Little does Herriot know that Biggins post-dated the cheque. Biggins' first name is revealed to be Ezra in the series 7 episode "If Music Be the Food of Love".

Bill Hartley (Peter Martin, who also plays Arthur Handshaw in series 1 and 2), meanwhile, is a relatively good-natured client, compared to the perpetually disgruntled Ted Grimsdale (Bryan Pringle).

Knackerman Jeff Mallock (Frank Birch from series 1 to 3 and Fred Feast from series 4 to 7) is regularly waiting in the wings to take ailing livestock to his knacker's yard. Whatever the vets' diagnoses, Mallock always thinks the real reason is "stagnation o' t'lung".

Fellow vet Granville Bennett (James Grout), a cat specialist, is often on hand to help out with the more severe feline cases. His enjoyment of alcohol is always of a concern for James, however, who regularly ends up inebriated and making a fool of himself in front of Bennett's wife, Zoe (Pamela Salem).

As evidenced by Peter Martin above, several actors played more than one character throughout the course of the series; none more so than Bill Lund, who played four different people: Mr Sykes in "Fair Means and Fowl", a farmhand in "Pups, Pigs and Pickle", Mr Edgeworth in the 1985 Christmas Special and Mr Bushell in "Hail Caesar!".

Geoffrey Bayldon played three characters: Roland Partridge in "Pride of Possession", Mr Mason in the 1983 Christmas Special and confectioner Geoff Hatfield in "Where Sheep May Safely Graze".

Anna Turner also played three characters: Miss Thompson in "Big Steps and Little 'Uns", a stall holder in the 1983 Christmas Special and Mrs Pettinger in "A Cat in Hull's Chance".

Jack Watson played two cantankerous characters: farmer Isaac Cranford in "Nothing Like Experience" and vet Hilary Mottram in "One of Nature's Little Miracles". He reprised the role of Cranford in the 1990 Christmas Special.

Others who played two characters:

  • George Malpas: Mr Dean in "Dog Days" and Mr Dakin in "The Bull with the Bowler Hat".
  • Joe Belcher: Dan Cooper in "Dog Days" and Mr Thwaites in "Only One Woof".
  • Enid Irvin: Mrs Allen in "Sleeping Partners" and Mrs Wheatley in "For Richer, For Poorer".
  • Pearl Hackney: Mrs Crump in "Calf Love" and Mrs Hird in "Choose a Bright Morning".
  • Avril Angers: Miss Dooley in "Pups, Pigs and Pickle" and Molly Shadwell in "A Friend for Life".
  • Barry Jackson: Ken Billings in "Matters of Life and Death" and Mr Dowson in "Blood and Water".
  • Madeline Smith: Angela Farmer in "Pride of Possession" and Anne Grantley in the 1983 Christmas Special.
  • Katharine Page: Aunt Lucy in "Golden Lads and Girls" and Mollie Minikin in "Only One Woof".
  • Tony Capstick: Fred Allan in "In Whom We Trust" and Clem Hudson in the 1985 Christmas Special.
  • June Ellis: Mrs Bellerby in "Faint Hearts" and Mrs Mason in "The New World".
  • Peter Ivatts: Mr Blackburn in "A Dying Breed" and Tom Maxwell in "The Bull With the Bowler Hat" and "Against the Odds".
  • James Bree: Mr Plenderleith in "Out of Practice" and Humphrey Cobb in "The Bull With the Bowler Hat".
  • Danny O'Dea: Tom in "Faint Hearts" and Rupe in "The Pig Man Cometh".
  • Graham Hamilton: a soldier in "Alarms and Excursions" and Sergeant Bannister in the 1983 Christmas Special.
  • Danny James: Smedley in "Dog Days" and Mr Meynell in "The Jackpot".
  • John Barrett: Kitson in "Breath of Life" and Mr Dent in "Every Dog His Day".

Meanwhile, Ted Moult, who played Harold Carter, was a real farmer in the 1940s but became a radio and television personality in the mid-1960s.

In addition to the aforementioned roles of Helen Herriot, her children and Jeff Mallock, a few characters were played by more than one actor:

  • Hilda Biggins: Kathleen Helme and Margaret Jackman.
  • Phineas Calvert: Johnny Allan and Alan Partington.
  • Eleanor "Nellie" Dimmock: Georgina Eastwood and Jane Clifford.
  • Ewan Ross: Alex McCrindle and David Ashton. The character was based on Frank Bingham, Brian Sinclair's first assistant. Bingham died, "like many good vets, in a cow byre doing a tough job."[3]


The Herriot "novels" were written in an episodic style, with each chapter generally containing a short story within the ongoing narrative of Herriot's life. This format greatly facilitated their adaptation for a television series.

Filming began in the autumn of 1977, and the programme initially ran for three series, with each episode adapting one or two of the Herriot stories—usually a story thread centred on James, and a second centred on Siegfried or Tristan. The continuity of the show followed the general arc of the books: James' arrival at Darrowby in 1937, his growing experience as a vet, his humorous attempts at romance with Helen, and their eventual marriage. The programme ended in 1980 at the stage where the characters were drawn into the Second World War. This completed the adaptation of all the novels which Alf Wight had written up to that point. Two 90-minute Christmas Specials were subsequently made, in 1983 and 1985, set after the war and based on his 1981 book The Lord God Made Them All.

At the end of the filming of the 1985 special, Christopher Timothy and Carol Drinkwater were asked if they thought that was the end of the series. "I'm fairly certain it is, yes," said Timothy. "There's very, very little material left." But surely there is another animal story every day? "It's a case of what James Herriot has written, though," replied Drinkwater. "He will, indeed, only allow us to use what is written. Which, I think, is fair."

Three years later, however, the programme was revived, after Bill Sellars was able to persuade Wight to allow new scripts to be written around the existing characters, but not directly based on the Herriot books, with some story lines repeated from the first run. The revived series was one of the first co-productions of the BBC (a practice that has since become commonplace), made in partnership with A&E and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

The revival, set beginning in 1949, ran for four more series, taking the characters into the early 1950s. Peter Davison was busy with other projects and was seen far less frequently in these newer series, with the character of Tristan leaving for Ireland at one point before returning after several episodes. He left again after that (he is only seen in one episode of the sixth series), before returning for the majority of the final series.

The revived series gradually became more based around the development of the central characters – particularly after the introduction of Calum and Deirdre, with their romance and subsequent marriage – and it mainly focused on the activities inside Skeldale House, rather than being a series about a veterinary practice. For the final series, all of the new characters were dropped (including Calum and Deirdre), and the series returned to its 1970s roots, focusing once more on the animals. The final broadcast was another Christmas Special, in 1990.

In 2007, an unfilmed script by the show's script editor Johnny Byrne was recovered and presented to the BBC as a possible Christmas reunion episode, but the BBC did not commission it. Peter Davison joked, "Maybe they just thought we were too decrepit, I don't know!"[4]

Over 18–20 December 2011, the BBC screened a three-episode prequel, Young James Herriot, about Herriot's time at University, with Iain de Caestecker in the title role. Co-stars included Amy Manson and Tony Curran.[5]


All exterior scenes were filmed in North Yorkshire, including at Bolton Castle and in the village of Askrigg, which doubled for the fictional Darrowby. They were originally to be filmed in Derbyshire, but Robert Hardy took offence to the plan and threatened to walk out of the producer's office.[1] Some indoor scenes (including all those of the interior of Skeldale House) were shot at the BBC's Pebble Mill studios in Birmingham.

For the first three series, up until the two Christmas specials of 1983 and 1985, most interior scenes were recorded on video and edited together with exterior shots filmed on location at some of the Dales' countless farmsteads (the same ones that James Herriot visited in the 1960s and 1970s).[3] This provided hardships in the winter of 1977–78, when the temperatures dropped well below freezing. "The snow was high and the ice was solid," explained Robert Hardy in 2003.[1] "I remember two occasions when we were so cold, from the wind on the tops, that we couldn't speak. We had to stop."[1] Peter Davison recalled: "People would hand me a cup of tea and I would stick my hand in it, rather than drink it, because my fingers were so cold." For the final four series, much of the filming other than at Skeldale House was done wholly on location at the farms.

James Herriot's Yorkshire, written by the vet and published in 1979, mentions several of his favourite locations in "his" Yorkshire, many of which were used in the television series. These include West Witton, West Burton, Muker, Semerwater, Countersett, Coverdale, West Scrafton and Middleham.[3]

When it came to the oft-joked-about insertion of an arm into a cow's rear end, Davison said: "People think we cheated, or something. I tell them that the BBC are not going to pay for a stunt cow that I can put my arm up." Robert Hardy added: "It's enchanting, because once you've got your hand inside you can understand how the interior works."

The Kings Arms Hotel, on Main Street, doubled as the Drovers Arms in the series.

What is now Skeldale Guest House, a bed and breakfast named for obvious reasons,[6] provided the exterior shots of the surgery building. The Kings Arms Hotel, which became the Drovers Arms during filming, features photographs on its interior walls of the cast drinking at the establishment during downtime.[7] (The Drovers was made out to be located behind the church in the early series, as evidenced in the episode "The Name of the Game".) Just up Main Street, past the pub, Lodge Yard was featured in the episode "Against the Odds". The back garden of a nearby house was used as that of Skeldale House in the latter part of the series.

For the 1985 Christmas Special, filming was based in Richmond, North Yorkshire. The gymnasium of the barracks of the Green Howards regiment became Skeldale's surgery. The King's Head Hotel, meanwhile, was the scene of James and Helen's anniversary dinner. Parts of the beginning title sequence – in particular, the car passing through the ford — were shot on an unnamed road between Feetham in Swaledale and Langthwaite in Arkengarthdale.

The exterior of Wensley Holy Trinity Church was used in the wedding of James and Helen.

Other locations used include Coverdale; Ellerton Abbey (Barlby Grange, the home of Mrs Pumphrey); Finghall railway station[8] (which doubled as Rainby Halt); Hawes (Darrowby Cattle Market); Coverham (the bridge over the river in the episode "Advice and Consent"[9] and the gate of Holy Trinity Church in the episode "Mending Fences");[10] Ivelet Bridge[11] (in the episode "Call of the Wild"); Simonstone Hall (Darrowby Show); Thornborough Hall, Leyburn[12] (Ministry of Agriculture building); Great Gill, West Scrafton[13] (in the episodes "A New Chapter" and "Alarms and Excursions"); Village Shop, East Witton[14] (the Altons' cottage in the episode "The Prodigal Returns"); Thornton Steward[15] (in the episode "If Wishes Were Horses"); Langthwaite (J. R. Stubbs' store);[16] Market Place, Leyburn (Darrowby Market);[17] Village Hall, Muker[18] (the venue for the flower show in the episode "Hampered"); The Red Lion, Langthwaite[19] (as the Red Lion, Briston, in the episode "Every Dog Has His Day"); The Bolton Arms, Redmire[20] (in the episode "Beauty of the Beast"); The Green, West Burton[21] (in the episode "Plenty to Grouse About"); Manor House, Middleham[22] (Barraclough home in the episode "Against the Odds"); North Road, Middleham[23] (Geoff Hatfield's confectioners in the episode "Where Sheep May Safely Graze"); Ferndale, Middleham[24] (the Darnley sisters' home in the episode "The Rough and the Smooth"); Constable Burton Hall[25] (home of Major Headingley); Marsett Lane, Countersett[26] (where Calum proposes to Deirdre on the bus in the episode "Two of a Kind"); Hardraw Beck, Hardraw (in the episode "The Course of True Love"); Old Chapel, Thoralby[27] (Hargrove Church in the episode "If Music Be the Food of Love"); Semerwater (in the episode "The Female of the Species"); Braithwaite Lane, East Witton (in the episodes "Salt of the Earth",[28] "A Dying Breed",[29] and the bus stop in "Against the Odds");[30] and Redmire Village Green (Darrowby bus stop in the episodes "Puppy Love" and "Ways and Means").[31]

Other than St Oswald's in Askrigg,[32] several different churches were used during filming: St Mary and St John's Church, Hardraw[33] (Darrowby Church); Wensley Holy Trinity Church[34] (James' and Helen's wedding in the episode "The Last Furlong"); St. Michael and All Angels Church, Hubberholme[35] (Franco and Katharine's wedding in the episode "Promises to Keep"); Holy Trinity Church, Melbecks[36] (in the episode "Golden Lads and Girls"); St Michael's Church, Spennithorne[37] (in the episode "Where Sheep May Safely Graze"); St Andrew's Church, Grinton[38] (in the episode "Brotherly Love"); and St Bartholomew's Church, West Witton (in the episode "Cats and Dogs").[39]


Ninety episodes (including the three Christmas Specials) were broadcast over seven series. Each episode is fifty minutes in length.

Theme tune

What became the eponymous theme tune for All Creatures Great and Small was written as KPM library music in 1968 by Johnny Pearson.[40] Titled "Piano Parchment", it was chosen by producer Bill Sellars, who had earlier selected Pearson's "Sleepy Shores" as the theme for the TV programme Owen MD.[40]

Two versions of the theme were re-recorded for the opening titles: that of the first run was more flute-oriented; meanwhile, the version used for the second was more in line with the piano-based original.

All the incidental music used in the show was written by Pearson and performed by him and his orchestra. New pieces written after the first run of the series appeared in the second run, but these have not been released as a soundtrack.

1978 soundtrack

The LP, entitled All Creatures Great and Small: The Original Music from the TV Series and Other Favourite Themes and released on Rampage Records in 1978, was produced by Larry Page and Adrian Kerridge. "Autumn Reverie" (also known as "Heather"), although featured several times throughout the series, is not on the soundtrack. It was originally featured on Pearson's 1968 Gentle Sounds album.

All tracks written by Johnny Pearson except where stated.

Side One

  1. "All Creatures Great and Small" (2:10)
  2. "First Love" (2:39)
  3. "Love Dream" (2:46)
  4. "Misty Sunset" (3:28)
  5. "Lover's Guitar" (4:36)
  6. "Today I Met My Love" (2:49)

Side Two

  1. "Sleepy Shores" (3:06)
  2. "Over the Hedge Rows" (3:22)
  3. "Sublime Country" (1:52)
  4. "Helena" (2:30)
  5. "Sunshine" (3:18)
  6. "Love Story" (Francis Lai) (4:56)

Home media

All seven series and three Christmas Specials have been released on DVD in Region 1, Region 2 and Region 4. The 1990 Christmas Special (entitled "Brotherly Love") is regarded as being part of Series 7.

DVD Title No. of Discs Year No. of Episodes Region 1 Region 2 Region 4
Series 1 4 1978 13 14 May 2002 N/A 2 January 2013
Series 1, Volume 1 3 1978 6 N/A 7 April 2003 1 September 2003
Series 1, Volume 2 3 1978 7 N/A 5 May 2003 1 September 2003
Series 1 & 2 8 1978 27 N/A N/A 5 October 2010
Series 2 4 1978 14 15 October 2002 N/A 2 January 2013
Series 2, Volume 1 3 1978 7 N/A 7 July 2003 5 May 2005
Series 2, Volume 2 3 1978 7 N/A 15 September 2003 5 May 2005
Series 3 4 1979–1980 14 16 September 2003 23 October 2006 4 May 2006
Series 4 3 1988 10 14 September 2004 26 December 2006 11 April 2007
Series 5 4 1988 12 19 July 2005 3 March 2008 2 April 2008
Series 6 4 1989 12 25 July 2006 18 August 2008 2 April 2009
Series 7 4 1990 13 14 August 2007 26 December 2008 18 May 2010
Christmas Specials 2 1983 and 1985 2 16 September 2003 20 October 2008 2 April 2008
Complete Collection 33 1978–1990 90 15 January 2008 9 November 2009 N/A

Skeldale House

Skeldale House, pictured in July 2011, when the building was up for sale. It is now a bed and breakfast, named Skeldale Guest House.

Although he has not always stayed there, instead living with Caroline later in the series, Siegfried owns Skeldale House, and while he is happy — within reason — to pay for its upkeep and renovation, he is rarely seen getting his hands dirty outside the surgery. Tristan, on the other hand, takes over the household duties from Mrs Hall in "Hair of the Dog" and "Home and Away", and James has to pick up the slack when Helen is out of action, on account of a slipped disc, in the first few episodes of series five.

The Pebble Mill set was laid out to match Skeldale House as it appeared in exterior shots. A door at the side of the building, for example, was used as the entrance to the waiting room. On a couple of occasions, the cast had to go inside the Askrigg building to accommodate exterior shots on its windows. For example, in the Series 3 finalé "Big Steps and Little 'Uns", Helen waves James off to war from an opened second-floor window. Mrs Hall, meanwhile, exits the front door to see him leave.

On the ground floor there are four rooms (clockwise from front to back): unused dining room (see below), the sitting room (the front half being the sitting area; the rear half being the dining area), the kitchen, and the surgery. Aside from the back door, another door in the kitchen leads to the surgery's waiting room. The house's only phone is in the hallway, in a nook by the stairs which also contains a grandfather clock. A coat rack originally appeared here, but was moved to just inside the front door later in the series. The window above the front door announces that you are at "Skeldale House", a feature that remains today.

The dispensary section of the Skeldale House surgery on permanent display at the James Herriot Museum in Thirsk.

The first floor contains the bedrooms, while the second floor contains a small suite which Siegfried offers to James and Helen in the first episode of series two. When the couple move to Rowangarth, Calum takes over the suite.

Coal and wine are kept in the basement.

In "Merry Gentlemen", the final episode of the second series, we see behind the door immediately on the left as one enters the front door of Skeldale. The original, now-unused dining room, Siegfried uses it as overflow for storage of his reserve wine collection. Covered in dust, the room is brought back to life by Helen and Mrs Hall. The fire is lit, and the Christmas tree is put up in one of the corners.

In the early series, the back door opens into a narrow alley; later, the back garden becomes an expansive area of grass, shrubbery and stone walls. An aviary is seen in the episodes "Fair Means and Fowl" and, twelve years later, "A Cat in Hull's Chance".

The original set of the interior of the Skeldale House surgery is now located at the Richmondshire Museum in Richmond and is open to the public. Other extensive parts, including the living room and the dispensary, are on display at The World of James Herriot museum in Thirsk, which is also open to the public.


The series occupied a slot in the TV week that helped solidify it as Sunday-evening fare. In the BBC documentary on the series, David Butcher of the Radio Times said: "At the end of the weekend you don't want anything too taxing, you want some kind of escapist, gentle, heartwarming, cozy kind of drama. A cup of cocoa drama. It's warm and simple and nice and lovely, and it's not going to frighten the horses." Robert Hardy remarked that: "It hit the right moment. There was a feeling still in the towns that the country was a glorious place inhabited by amazing people." TV historian Chris Diamond commented, "It's the perfect post-dinner, pre-bath time slot. You're going to be either hanging about in the living room trying to avoid dishes, or waiting to have a bath."

Robert Hardy was concerned that the series would be a brief affair. His worry was that it would "bore the townspeople and irritate the countryfolk". He put its success down to the fact that it featured "real people". Christopher Timothy, on the other hand, thought it had an excellent chance due to the popularity of Wight's books.[1]

The cast became household names around the world. "I've had letters from vets, both male and female, who say they became vets because of the series," said Robert Hardy.[1]

Christopher Timothy became the most famous vet on the planet, which became a mixed blessing. "After I did All Creatures, it was eight years before I acted on television again," he recalled. "I remember once going to see my agent and, going up the stairs to his office, hearing him screaming down the phone: 'He's not a vet, he's a bloody actor!'"[1]

Reunions and interviews

Christopher Timothy and Robert Hardy attended a service of thanksgiving for Alf Wight at York Minster on 20 October 1995, eight months after the author's passing.

In 2003, Timothy, Hardy, Carol Drinkwater and Lynda Bellingham appeared together on Stars Reunited. Also briefly joining them, and host Dale Winton, on the couch was Jack Watkinson, MRCVS, the Yorkshire vet with whom Timothy spent a week in 1977 prior to the filming of the series. Timothy has stated that, for him, it was the best week of the whole series.[1] "I did seriously feel, with all humility," explained Timothy, "that when I turned up to start filming: 'I'm sort of equipped for this.'"

Watkinson died in May 2013 after suffering a stroke. He was 84.[41] Watkinson was the on-location technical advisor; Eddie Straiton, meanwhile, was his studio-based counterpart. Along with Donald and Brian Sinclair, Alf Wight dedicated his book All Creatures Great and Small (1972) to Straiton.

Due to having other commitments, Peter Davison could not be present.

As the 1983 Christmas Special had done, the interview included a tribute to Mary Hignett (Mrs Hall), who died shortly after the series' first run: "She was the warmest-hearted, most genial, most enchanting companion," said Hardy. "She was a total dear; I absolutely adored her, and it was tragic that she died far too soon and left us bereft." Timothy added: "A fabulous lady, and greatly, greatly missed."[1]

Timothy, Hardy and Drinkwater reunited again in 2006 at The World of James Herriot museum in Thirsk.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Stars Reunited All Creatures cast reunion, July 2003
  2. ^ As mentioned in the episode "Big Steps and Little 'Uns"
  3. ^ a b c d James Herriot's Yorkshire (1979), James Herriot, St. Martin's
  4. ^ Rawson-Jones, Ben (9 January 2009). "Davison: 'BBC rejected 'All Creatures' return", Digital Spy. Retrieved 10 January 2009.
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Skeldale House from 'All Creatures Great and Small' fame brought back to life" - The Northern Echo, 24 March 2013
  7. ^ The Drovers Arms – The Kings Arms website
  8. ^ "Finghall Railway Station, N Yorks, UK – All Creatures Great & Small, The Playing Field (1988)" -
  9. ^ "Bridge, Coverham, N Yorks, UK _ All Creatures Great & Small, Advice & Consent (1978)" -
  10. ^ "Coverham Church, Coverham, N Yorks, UK – All Creatures Great & Small. Mending Fences (1989)" -
  11. ^ "Ivelet Bridge, Ivelet, N Yorks, UK – All Creatures Great & Small, The Call Of The Wild (1989)" -
  12. ^ "Thornborough Hall, Leyburn, N Yorks, UK – All Creatures Great & Small, The New World (1989)" -
  13. ^ "Great Gill, West Scrafton, N Yorks, UK – All Creatures Great & Small, A New Chapter (1988)" -
  14. ^ "Village Shop, East Witton, N Yorks, UK – All Creatures Great & Small, The Prodigal Returns (1990)" -
  15. ^ "Thornton Steward, N Yorks, UK – All Creatures Great & Small, If Wishes Were Horses (1980)" -
  16. ^ "Bridge & Shop, Langthwaite, N Yorks, UK – All Creatures Great & Small (1989)" -
  17. ^ "Market Place, Leyburn, N Yorks, UK – All Creatures Great & Small, Blood & Water (1989)" -
  18. ^ "Village Hall, Muker, N Yorks, UK – All Creatures Great & Small, Hampered (1990)" -
  19. ^ "Red Lion, Langthwaite, N Yorks, UK – All Creatures Great & Small, Every Dog His Day (1980)" -
  20. ^ "Bolton Arms, Redmire, N Yorks, UK – All Creatures Great & Small, The Beauty Of The Beast (1978)" -
  21. ^ "The Green, West Burton, N Yorks, UK – All Creatures Great & Small, Plenty To Grouse About (1979)" -
  22. ^ "Manor House, West End, Middleham, N Yorks, UK – All Creatures Great & Small, Against The Odds (1988)" -
  23. ^ "North Rd, Middleham, N Yorks, UK – All Creatures Great & Small, Where Sheep May Safely Graze (1989)" -
  24. ^ "Ferndale, Middleham. N Yorks, UK – All Creatures Great & Small, The Rough & The Smooth (1989)" -
  25. ^ "Constable Burton Hall, Constable Burton, N Yorks – All Creatures Great & Small, Be Prepared (1980)" -
  26. ^ "Marsett Lane, Countersett, N Yorks, UK – All Creatures Great & Small, Two Of A Kind (1988)" -
  27. ^ "Old Chapel, Thoralby, N Yorkshire, UK – All Creatures Great & Small, If Music be the Food of Love (1990)" -
  28. ^ "40 Braithwaite Lane, East Witton, N Yorks, UK – All Creatures Great & Small, The Salt Of The Earth (1988)" -
  29. ^ "48 Braithwaite Lane, East Witton, N Yorks, UK – All Creatures Great & Small, A Dying Breed (1980)" -
  30. ^ "Braithwaite Lane, East Whitton, N Yorks, UK – All Creatures Great & Small, Against The Odds (1988)" -
  31. ^ "The Green, Redmire, N Yorks, UK – All Creatures Great & Small, Puppy Love (1978)" -
  32. ^ "St Oswald’s Church, Askrigg, N Yorks, UK – All Creatures Great & Small, Out of Practice (1978)" -
  33. ^ "St Mary & St John’s Church, Hardraw, N Yorkshire, UK – All Creatures Great & Small (1978-1990)" -
  34. ^ "Holy Trinity Church, Wensley, N Yorks, UK – All Creatures Great & Small, The Last Furlong (1978)" -
  35. ^ "St Michael’s & All Angels Church, Hubberholme, N Yorks, UK – All Creatures Great & Small, Promises To Keep (1990)" -
  36. ^ "Holy Trinity Church, Melbecks, N Yorks, UK – All Creatures Great & Small, Golden Lads & Girls (1978)" -
  37. ^ "St Michael’s Church Spennithorne, N Yorks, UK – All Creatures Great & Small, Where Sheep May Safely Graze (1989)" -
  38. ^ "St Andrew’s Church, Grinton, N Yorks, UK – All Creatures Great & Small, Brotherly Love (1990)" -
  39. ^ "St Bartholomew’s Church, West Witton, N Yorks, UK" -
  40. ^ a b Johnny Pearson obituary in The Independent, viewed 26 July 2013
  41. ^ "JACK WATKINSON MRCVS" - Hollin Rigg Vets website
  1. Official James Herriot Website
  2. All Creatures Great and Small (TV series 1978–1990) at the Internet Movie Database

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