Camberwick Green was the first series of what turned out to be a trilogy. Gordon Murray left the BBC in 1964 to produce the series himself at his own cost (it was one of the first BBC independently produced commisions). The first episode was shot in black and white and then re-shot in colour as it was thought this would future-proof it - an expensive decison at the time, given that colour television was still only on the distant horizon for most of the population. Consequently, it became the first childrens tv show made in colour.
There are 13 episodes in Camberwick Green which was the standard number for a series in the 1960s (the two subsequent series, Trumpton and Chigley, that were commissioned following its success also comprised 13 episodes each):
Each episode begins with a shot of a musical box which rotates while playing a tune accompanied by the following narration:
"Here is a box, a musical box, wound up and ready to play. But this box can hide a secret inside. Can you guess what is in it today?"
The lid of the box then opens and the puppet character that is central to the episode emerges. After a brief introduction, the background appears and the story begins
The series is set in the small, picturesque (and fictitious) village of Camberwick Green, Trumptonshire, which is inhabited by such characters as Police Constable McGarry (Number 452), Mickey Murphy the baker, Dr Mopp (who makes house calls in his vintage car), and the town gossip, Mrs Honeyman, who is always seen carrying her baby. Just outside the village lives Jonathan Bell, owner of a "modern mechanical farm", who has a friendly rivalry with Windy Miller, owner of a clanking old but nevertheless efficiently functional - windmill and a firm believer in old-fashioned farming methods. Mr Dagenham, a travelling salesman who drives an open-topped convertible occasionally appears, as do the staff and cadets of Pippin Fort, a nearby military academy run by Captain Snort and Sergeant-Major Grout. Almost all the characters have their own theme songs and travelling songs. There is one other character who never appears in the stories: an unnamed clown or pierrot who turns a roller caption to display the show's closing credits.
Each week the villagers undergo such domestic crises as a shortage of flour, a swarm of bees, a water shortage and rumours of an unwanted electrical sub-station being built in the village. At the end of each episode the narrator bids farewell to the puppet character who was seen at the beginning, and the latter disappears back into the musical box.
Camberwick Green has no overt fantasy content apart from the musical box. For the most part it is simply about ordinary people doing everyday things, and perhaps for that reason it has remained popular to this day. Following recovery of the original Master Prints and their re-scanning to HD quality by the BBC, Camberwick Green is available on DVD/Blu-ray. Trumpton and Chigley which have also been scanned will be avaialble in due course.
Various scenes repeat themselves in the Trumptonshire series, though the only "stock scene" in Camberwick Green is the soldiers parading at Pippin Fort (along with the rolling credits and the clown at the begining). This is possibly because this technique, which reduced production costs, yet made the episodes more appealing to children by the process of repetition, had not been fully appreciated and exploited.