Open All Hours

With over 17 million viewers each week, Yorkshire-based sitcom Open All Hours was one of the BBC's most memorable series of the 1970s - largely thanks to its outstanding cast and down-to-earth, gentle humour.

Programme creator Roy Clarke already had one Yorkshire sitcom to his credit - Last of the Summer Wine premiered on BBC1 in January 1973 and bloomed into a long-running series. Having worked in a shop in his youth, he realised the potential of transferring the same genre of comedy into a corner shop environment.

However, it was Ronnie Barker who came up with his character, Arkwright, the miserly Doncaster grocer who was constantly trying to make a fast buck. The pilot programme of Open All Hours was aired on 25th March 1973 as part of a BBC series of pilots under the umbrella title of 'Seven of One'.

The show immediately struck a chord with the British viewing public, who took the characters to their hearts. The regular cast included Arkwright's nephew Granville (David Jason) and Arkwright's unrequited love Gladys (Lynda Baron), the district nurse.

Arkwright gave Barker an opportunity to prove his all-round comic acting abilities, being a physical role too - such as when he attempted to outwit his cash register's vicious spring mechanism.

Clarke revealed Arkwright's shop was based on a local store called LE Riddiford, in the South Gloucestershire town of Thornbury. He had visited the town in the past and loved the shop and its owner, Len Riddiford.

However, Arkwright wasn't based on Riddiford and the character was wholly developed by Barker, who proposed the ongoing gag of the antiquated till with the drawer that snapped shut suddenly. Even though Granville and Arkwright were terrified of losing a finger in the cash register, Arkwright refused to repair or replace it, not only due to the cost but because he believed it deterred burglars.

The old-fashioned, overcrowded grocery store sold everything from ginger cake and tinned pineapple chunks to mops and buckets, all lined up in glorious disarray on the shelves. Other goods were hanging on hooks outside the shop, with the fresh fruit and veg also displayed outside on tables in old-fashioned open boxes.

The exterior filming location was the real-life Beautique hair salon in Balby, South Yorkshire - which used to close to the public while filming took place. Following the pilot show in 1973, Open All Hours ran from 1976 until 1985. The former hair salon owner Helen Ibbotson would see her premises transformed into the old-fashioned grocery store every summer.

The producers would fit a fake shop sign, stack tins in the window to create an overcrowded display, pile vegetables on tables outside and surround them with cooking pots. At the end of each episode, Arkwright would reflect on the day's events as he packed his stock away again.

Coincidentally, before Mrs Ibbotson launched her salon in the 1960s, the premises had been a real-life greengrocer. When she took it over, the cellar was still stacked with lots of old tinned goods, which had to be removed.

The show has spurred two book releases, Open All Hours by Christine Sparks in 1981, followed by Still Open All Hours: The Story of a Classic Comedy by Graham McCann in 2014.

Still Open All Hours

Unlike the shambolic stock displays in Arkwright's grocery store, today's modern display units for fruit, vegetables and other goods are smart, hygienic, convenient and clean. Solent Plastics offers some excellent products for fresh produce storage, including our wood-effect 16-litre stacking crate and our larger 42-litre stacking crate in the same finish. Please contact us for further details of our full range of products.