The original village used as Kings Oak was Baschurch in Shropshire.
Production notes reveal extensive locations were to be spread across this area including village lanes, shop fronts, garages and a car hire yard, which will have been seen in the programme as the Night and Day Car Hire firm co-owned by Dick Jarvis and Charlie Forward.
Other villages near Birmingham City Centre were occasionally used for location shoots, such as Bournville, Yardley, Sutton Coldfield, Handsworth and Alvechurch. Of the circa 250 episodes made a year just under half would feature some outside recording inserts. Often weeks worth of outside scenes were recorded in a single day’s shoot. Tanworth-in-Arden became the longest-running regular village used as Kings Oak. From 1970 to 1988 the Warwickshire village was transformed by TV designers into the fictional setting of the Crossroads Motel. It is noted the final-ever scene in the series takes place on the village green.
Bristol Road in Selly Oak was also used as part of Kings Oak; it was – due to the buildings being similar to the ones at Tanworth-in-Arden – used as the main shopping street. They also used parts of Cannock for surrounding areas of the village – including the canal at Cannock.
The Crossroads Motel The idea for Crossroads came from a sign advertising one of the first UK motels – ‘The Open Country Motel’ at North Gorley, Fordingbridge – which was noticed by Peter Ling when travelling. Walford Hall, a Georgian house in Walford village near Baschurch in Shropshire, was used as the Richardson family home. Attached to the house was, and still is, the Shropshire Farming Institute – now known as Walford and North Shropshire College.
The college was discovered by Reg Watson some years earlier when he was producing a documentary series, Midland Farming. These 1960s structures became known as the main buildings of the Crossroads Motel from 1965 to 1981. The college estate was also used for several other locations including a large one-time stately home nearby, Walford Manor (no longer owned by the college), was seen as the manor next door to the motel. In the storyline notably once the home of Tom and Gloria Sinclair.
The Shropshire college also housed a couple of agricultural establishments. Including an arable farm, a dairy farm and a small-holding. Farm buildings used by Crossroads include for shots of Mrs Ash’s farm where Sandy Richardson trained to become a farmer before his motor accident. The road directly outside the college was also used at the main Kings Oak village to Heathbury town route.
In 1981 the Crossroads Motel burned down in the storyline and the 16-year association with Walford Hall came to an end. In 1982 the Golden Valley Hotel in Cheltenham was used for outdoor shots. Producer Jack Barton and his design team searched the Midlands for a suitable model. Anxious to base the new set on a real hotel or motel they went to enormous lengths to find it.
Many places seemed at first to provide the answer but there was always a snag – noise from nearby motorway, proximity to an airport, a view of gasworks – until the Golden Valley was discovered. In the recent past, it became a Thistle Hotel and is currently a Jury’s Inn. Filming at the Cheltenham Golden Valley wasn’t to last long however when, in 1984, the Penns Hall Hotel in Sutton Coldfield was secured as the new main motel location. The TV crew actually used the fire exit of the hall as the fictional main entrance in order to avoid disruption to the real hotel reception, which was to the right of the more famous television entrance.
In 2006 the canopy was “revamped” and now looks more like something out of the 2003 series of Crossroads. Penns Hall was also used in 1984 as the ‘Heathbury Manor Hotel’ – for this location, the real entrance to the building (with an entirely different style canopy) was used for that exterior.
The Crossroads Motel boasted the fact it had its own runway, with the character of Meg Richardson seen teaching Diane Lawton how to fly small air crafts from this setting in the early 1970s. (Noele Gordon had a pilots license and could actually legally fly planes.) The Crossroads private runway was the long-demolished Penderford airfield in Wolverhampton.
When the motel foyer was burned down in 1981 the set was taken to the Half Penny Green Airport (Now Wolverhampton Airport) and placed on a disused runway, where it was ignited. This airport was also used to build a fake graveyard, where Meg Mortimer’s fake funeral was filmed – all in order to mislead the newspapers that wanted to know how Noele Gordon’s character was leaving the series.
The motel swimming pool was seen a couple of times in the 1960s and early 1970s. The outdoor pool was filmed at the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre.
The Crossroads Garage was mainly studio-based, but the actual garage floor was in the 1980s filmed at a real car repair service centre – L.M. Motors next to the Northfield Shopping Centre on Bristol Road South, Northfield. The outside of the garage had in the 1980s two locations, before 1985 it was the Shell owned Bridge Garage Services on Stratford Road in Alcester and after 1985 the location switched to an Esso Garage, now the Whynot Service Station on Reddicap Heath Road in Sutton Coldfield near the Penns Hall Hotel.
The L.M. Motors petrol station also appeared in one scene as a different Kings Oak garage when a car was stolen. The Crossroads Leisure Centre appeared in 1985; The House Of Robin Leisure Centre in Quarry Bank, Dudley, doubled as this setting. It became part of Top Notch Leisure, who in the 1990s knocked down 50% of the original building including the pool and lounge area where most of the filming took place for Crossroads. The centre is currently the Fitness4less centre on Thorns Road, Quarry Bank, Brierley Hill in Dudley.
The housing estate near the motel in which several characters lived was in the latter end of the 1980s filmed on Fowler Road, Sutton Coldfield, a few streets away from the Esso Garage used as the motel garage. Hospitals and Schools The Heathbury General Hospital, going from production notes from the 1960s, appears to have also been a building in the estate of Walford and North Shropshire College. Kings Oak Junior School was Baschurch Village School. Kings Oak Secondary School was Moseley Modern Secondary School in Birmingham in the 1960s and 70s and The Dame Elizabeth Cadbury School in Bournville was used as Kings Oak Secondary in the late 1980s.
Baschurch Church was used as the main village church in the 1960s. The first of three weddings recorded there was that of milkman Ralph Palmer to Christine Fuller in 1965. The 1966 wedding of Brian Jarvis and Janice Gifford was recorded at the Holy Trinity Church Smethwick overseen by Jane Rossington’s older brother the Reverend John Rossington.
St Laurence’s in Kings Oak was actually The Parish Church of St Laurence, Alvechurch, Worcestershire. This was used for the wedding in 1980 of Kevin Banks to Glenda Brownlow, the funeral of Arthur Brownlow in 1982 and in 1983 the blessing of Jill Harvey’s marriage to Adam Chance. The other main Kings Oak church was St Mary’s this church is St Mary Magdalene in Tanworth In Arden, first seen in the programme in 1970. The interior of this church was also used – previously, the majority of internal church scenes were recorded with a studio set.
The majority of Christmas episodes in the 1970s featured scenes at St Mary Magdalene. Whenever a wedding took place that wasn’t a church affair the Birmingham Registry Office was more often than not used, it was first featured in 1965 for the wedding of Tom Yorke and Ruth Bailey in the series and then appeared many times after including for Diane and Vince Parker’s ceremony and of course Meg and Hugh Mortimer’s too. The office closed down in 2006.
Scenes recorded for the christening of Sarah Jane Harvey took place at Four Oaks’ All Saints Church. The 1975 Christmas service was recorded at the church of St. Mary and St. Bartholomew in Hampton-in-Arden. In 1985 the funeral of character Pete Maguire, who died of a heroin overdose, took place at St Leonards Church of England, Church Hill in Frankley.
Birmingham City Centre rarely featured, although in 1975 the City’s Cathedral played host to one of the biggest rating episodes – when Meg and Hugh’s marriage was blessed there. St Philips is the smallest Cathedral in the UK. Work to build it took place between 1705 and 1725. It became a Cathedral in the early 1900s. The stained glass windows are world-famous, designed by Edward Burne-Jones. The cathedral and city centre also featured in several scenes when Amy Turtle became homeless following her breakdown due to the death of her son.
Other hospitality establishments included the Fairlawns Hotel. It was spoken of during the entire run of the series as the rival hotel near Crossroads. It had a bigger role in the early years, but during the course of the 1970s and 1980s, it was simply spoken of as a place to send guests if the motel was fully booked. Also in the 1980s Valerie Pollard often “escaped” from Crossroads to stay at Fairlawns to avoid her husband – motel part-owner – J. Henry. But back in the early 1960s, the hotel was part of a number of major storylines, including the management trying to close Crossroads down.
The building that was used as Fairlawns is now the “Liberty” club on Hagley Road, Birmingham. Liberty is listed by ‘Carling.com’ as being one of the most upmarket venues for an affluent mainstream crowd. Within this large venue, there is a piano bar, a gourmet restaurant and a disco. Fairlawns was supposed to be on the same road as Crossroads, leading to the town of Heathbury.
The Droitwich Hotel featured a number of times in the programme; famously when Hugh gave Meg an engagement ring there in 1973 and of course they held their wedding reception in the hotel two years later. This location is still open and remains practically unchanged from the days when Crossroads used the building. Although it looks like its set in miles and miles of countryside the real-life Droitwich Hotel is the Chateau Impney Hotel – just a few miles south of Birmingham City Centre. The ‘Impney’, completed in 1875, is styled in the classic French Chateau architecture of the period. Commissioned by Staffordshire businessman John Corbett – who made a fortune by running a salt works that produced 160,000 tonnes of salt per annum – the ‘Impney’ was built as a present to his French governess wife who was fond of the French Chateaux in the Loire Valley.
The fictional River Slotter runs through the village of Kings Oak. In the 1960s and 70s the River Severn, which runs near to Baschurch village, became the Slotter riverbanks. A lake near Walford Hall, again near Baschurch, also doubled for the motel lake. In the 1980s the Crossroads Motel lake became a more frequent feature. It was previously known as ‘Mill Pond’ and is more well known today as the Penns Hall Lake. This carp fishery is directly behind the Penns Hall Hotel.
The Kings Oak Canal was the Worcester-Birmingham Canal which runs through the City Centre of Birmingham – the section used in the programme was directly behind the rear of the former ATV studios. The canal-side home of the Harvey family was located here, as was Sam ‘Carney’ Carne’s cottage. Further up the canal was a regular setting in the 1970s – the longboat. Originally owned by Jill and Stan Harvey, it became home to many popular characters including Diane Parker, Vera Downend, Martin Bell and Jane Smith. It was moored up near the Old Turn Junction.
Sutton Park, Sutton Coldfield, featured a number of times in the series. Episode 496, one of the earliest surviving editions, opens with shots of the park. It also appears in episode 1500, with shots of Carl Wayne wandering around it – singing the Crossroads theme tune! These sequences also show Vince Parker and Diane Lawton walking loving around the lakeside a day before their wedding. Earlier in Episode 402 sees Marilyn Gates and Jamil Ashruf on a date in Stratford-Upon-Avon, however, it ends in disaster when Marilyn falls into a parkside lake.
Crossroads filmed several sequences in 1965 in Paris, France. Sandy Richardson was seen enjoying the sights including the Eiffel Tower and The Moulin Rouge. Shots of Sandy on a ferry heading to the country were also recorded. A scene of Sandy arriving at a bus station also features co-creator Hazel Adair greeting him.
The next Crossroads holiday was in 1966 as Carlos returned to Spain to visit his family and show his friends his home town. Sequences were shot in Torremolinos, Spain. Other characters featured include Marilyn Gates and Meg Richardson. 1967 saw Crossroads visit London as Diane Lawton and her brother Terry along with Bruce Richardson (Meg’s adopted son) headed to the capital on a train. Shots on a locomotive feature Warren Clarke as a train officer. Terry and Bruce are seen wandering around near the Houses of Parliament.
The same year saw Crossroads venture further abroad with filming in Tunisia. The storyline saw the Crossroads Motel wrecked by a bomb, so the main staff headed to the country to help Hugh Mortimer open his latest venture – the Desert Coral Hotel. 1972 following a car crash a number of scenes were recorded in Coventry, including outside and inside the cathedral. 1973 saw Diane lose her son Nicky when father Frank Adams snatched him and took the youngster to America. Diane headed off to Oxford to hideaway. Several sequences were recorded here, including her suicide attempt on a bridge.
1983 was the last time Crossroads wandered far, far away from the West Midlands as Jill and Adam Chance headed to Venice, Italy, for their honeymoon.
Other Locations The Kings Oak Public Library was Ward End Library in Birmingham. The Speedway Track in Wolverhampton featured in a storyline in the late 1960s. Endwood Court was used as the home of one of David Hunter’s mistresses in 1985. (Interesting to note this block of flats is directly opposite Noele Gordon’s house on Handsworth Wood Road.) Hagley Hall was the setting for the wedding reception of Jill and Adam in 1983 for a TV Times special (not seen on screen).
In the mid-1980s the Birmingham Evening Mail and Post offices at Colmore Circus in the city centre doubled in the series as the home of the fictional regionwide Midland Gazette newspaper. The 1960s building was demolished in 2006.
External scenes of Isacc Harvey’s house (Brother of Wilf) were recorded at Beecher House, Station Street, Cradley Heath. The building is now home to Howell Dunn & Co Accountants. Nearby Chester Street was also used for scenes concerning Isacc, however, this has radically changed since the early 1970s recordings.
Episodes 2000 and 2001 had scenes recorded at the Queen Elizabeth Maternity Hospital in Birmingham, the Harvey’s front room set was taken to a hall at the hospital in order for ATV to record Sheila giving birth on the living room floor with Meg acting as mid-wife and using a newborn – Karen Fruze – as the on-screen baby.
In 1973 St Anne’s Road in Cradley Heath, and a long-demolished house, were a major part of a storyline, as was the adjoining foundry as Wilf Harvey wandered back to his youth. The many sequences also featured Jill, Stan and Sheila Harvey.
The terraced Anglesey Street and Graham Street, in Lozells, featured in a 1985 storyline when motel boss Nicola Freeman returned to her childhood home. Also in the same year, The Flapper pub near Birmingham canal featured in a scene with Pete Maguire.
Scenes recorded at Castle Donington had to be scrapped when Radio Trent announced on air that Crossroads was filming in the area. 5000 turned up to watch proceedings between Jill Harvey and daughter Sarah-Jane.
|Information researched by John Drury and Mike Garrett.
With thanks to The Shropshire Star, Tom Johannsen, Tony Durnell, Central Press Office, Pete Ellis, Jonathon L Fox, Scott Curtis, Survivor, Elizabeth Bowman, MoJoMan54, Tom Redgrave and Alan Coleman for information and photographs.