In the ‘let’s tear things down that have a history attached to it and build something that will make a lot more money’ era that we all seem to live in, it was bound to happen, unfortunately. Following on the heels of the recent closure of BBC Television Centre, Teddington Studios, the home for years to Thames Television and where much of the magic happened during Britain’s Golden Age of comedy and drama seen by generations of television viewers, is set for demolition in the not-too-distant future. When Granville locks up for the last time during filming of Still Open All Hours, “the end of comedy history” will be upon us when the studios close forever. All you have to do is walk past the front of the building to understand its’ place in the world of Britain’s comedy history and see it covered with blue plaques commemorating the comedy legends who worked there, including comedians Morecambe and Wise, Benny Hill, Tommy Cooper and Only Fools And Horses writer John Sullivan. More recent generations of comedy lovers will see it as the place that Ricky Gervais filmed The Office.
The studios got their start as a film studio when stockbroker Henry Chinnery, owner of Weir House, Teddington, allowed filmmakers to use his greenhouse as a studio. Since then, Teddington Studios has had both a storied and checkered past that goes far beyond the world of British comedy. Errol Flynn began his film career as an extra at Teddington. The studios were rebuilt after a V1 flying bomb caused serious damage in July 1944, killing three staff. They were reopened in 1948 by Danny Kaye. One of Teddington’s first big variety shows was Sammy Davis Jr Meets The British in 1960 while probably the biggest night of all occurred in February 1964, fresh from a frenzied appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in America, the Beatles arrived by river for a Big Night Out show with Mike and Bernie Winters.
In 1992, following the departure of Thames, Teddington went independent and has been, most recently, run by Michael Grade’s Pinewood-Shepperton group, making shows for ITV, the BBC and Channel 4. Sadly, Pinewood’s lease ran out this year and once Granville closes Arkwright’s for the last time, it will get to know the wrecking ball up close and personal when it steps aside for a 213-flat development. Great. Just what we need….