Television's First Robin Hood

Last week I posted an article about the very earliest television version of Robin Hood. It starred the late British actor Patrick Troughton (1920-1987) and only one episode, The Abbot of St Mary’s, survived from those early pioneering days. Neil has now pointed me in the direction of a wonderful website which covers the early days of the BBC when it was broadcast from Alexander Palace. The period covered is post-war from 1952 to 1963 and is constructed from the personal recollections and memoirs of Arthur Dungate. In addition there are some experiences of Lime Grove and Riverside Studios in the mid-1950s. His web site is worth a visit.

I hope Arthur doesn’t mind me copying part of his fascinating recollections of finding part of a Robin Hood  episode from the very first series:

"Until the late 1970s the BBC was not an archiving organisation and thus had no requirement to keep material for posterity. While at Alexandra Palace in the early 1950s, I had a key to the film vault, and often I would go and see what was to be thrown away. Amongst several things, one item I found was part of an episode of Robin Hood, a serial for children shown in March 1953.

This was a half-hour programme eminating from Studio G (I think) at Lime Grove. No film location material was used, the whole of the action taking place live in the studio.

What I had found was a 16mm reduction print of Episode 2, The Abbot of St Mary's which Kays Labs at Finsbury Park had produced from the 35mm telefilm recording made while the programme was being transmitted.

However, only the beginning two sequences and the end sequence were there. The main story sequence had been removed for some reason, leaving only 8 minutes of the programme. Thus, although the episode is titled The Abbot of St Mary's, we never get to see the Abbot himself!

I spliced the two parts of the print together and since then it had remained in my loft for about 47 years, practically forgotten.

It was not until the autumn of 1999 that I came to realise that this is probably the earliest surviving example of a BBC Television drama series as it predates The Quatermass Experiment shown in July 1953 (of which only the first two episodes were recorded) by 4 months. Thus its historical significance is greater than I had thought, and I believe a Digi-Beta copy is now in the BBC archives."

Arthur Dungate's web site is at


Clement of the Glen said...

Television's First Robin Hood
Patrick Troughton
Arthur Dungate

Neil said...

I remember this 6 part serial quite well. The BBC at that time put on this type of production which was done 'live' and, as has been said, in the studio. However they still had the trees and the bushes and pretty good sets. This was put on shortly after the release of the Disney film - maybe even because of it - and although it doesnt compare it was still good. They were ingenious with the sets because although it was very confined we did get the feel of the forest and its glades. I do seem to remember Wensley Pithey as Friar Tuck and every time I saw him afterwards I always thought of that role.