As fans of BBC Radio Four’s ‘The Archers’ fear for the show’s gentle, bucolic nature becoming “darker and bigger”, a set of ten scripts coming up for sale act as a reminder of the early days.
Cuttlestones will offer the scripts - including episode one - at their Wolverhampton saleroom as part of the Specialist Collectors' Sale on September 7 and, with such items rarely coming to auction rarely, the firm hopes for a significant sum.
Five of the typeset working copies from the world's longest-running soap opera relate to the first few episodes following the January 1951 launch. As of July 2012, over 16,780 episodes have aired. The other five scripts are thought to be from the pilot series.
News of the sale comes hot on the heels of remarks by John Yorke, controller of BBC drama production and acting editor of The Archers - who also oversees the rather harder-hitting EastEnders - that there should be shocking storylines and cliffhangers, so old-school fans will be intrigued by the 1951 vintage.
These scripts were addressed for the attention of Harry Oakes, who played Dan Archer, patriarch of the middle-class farming family at the centre of the show. They include corrections and amendments in black and red pencil showing how the actors were involved with character development.
The lot includes a photo card signed by cast members, shown below.
Cuttlestones auctioneer and valuer Dan Eglington said: "These scripts are a piece of true broadcasting history and what I feel makes them especially interesting are the annotations - there are even phonetic notes in the margin to ensure that actors used the local vernacular, like switching 'yes' for 'aye'."
The last time a script for episode one came up for auction, at Sotheby's in July last year, it fetched £5500 (estimate £2500-3500). It was used by Gwen Berryman (Doris Archer).
Cuttlestones say the fact that Gwen is only billed as Doris on some of the scripts they are selling from the first series, while the others bear the name of a Marriott Watson in the role, suggests the latter are from the pilot series. Gwen filled the role from 1951-1980. She was born in Wolverhampton, making the location of the September sale somewhat apt.
Other material includes a book, Doris Archer's Diary, signed by the complete cast and crew - a unique item that was presented to Jeremy Witticase, grandson of author/scriptwriter Edward J. Mason. He was aged three and was the youngest actor to have been in the series.