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Six diamond decades - the 1980s

Keri Davies Keri Davies | 16:52 PM, Thursday, 16 December 2010

Borchester street life

The Archers celebrates its 60th anniversary on 1 January 2011. Over the six weeks running up to the anniversary, we are looking back at the main storylines in each of its six decades.

This week: the 1980s, a decade that saw nationalist fervour, with a royal wedding and the Falklands war, civil unrest with the miners' strike and the poll tax riots, the rise of the yuppie and the eventual fall of Margaret Thatcher.

In Ambridge, Two Archer children finally settled down, an eccentric toff added to the gaiety of nations and Pat had an awakening.

Do you remember these storylines or characters? What else do you remember of The Archers in the eighties? Share your memories and thoughts by using the comment box at the bottom of this post.


Ralph Bellamy died, leaving Lilian a wealthy - and actually rather relieved - widow. On a visit from Jersey she scandalised Ambridge by hanging out with Eddie Grundy in the disreputable Cat and Fiddle.

John Tregorran and Jennifer collaborated on a history of Ambridge. John would have liked the collaboration to have gone further, but Jennifer let him down gently.

At last Shula took up with a man her parents could approve of: solicitor Mark Hebden. But magistrate Phil's feathers were ruffled when Mark criticised the Borchester bench as 'amateurs,. Nonetheless, Shula accepted his proposal of marriage.

David returned from agricultural college, helped Phil expand the ewe flock to 300 and started going out with vivacious Jackie Woodstock.

Doris died quietly at home, leaving Glebe Cottage to Shula.


Feeling increasingly suffocated by the her impending wedding, Shula found light relief by flirting with another journalist, Robin Catchpole. She remained faithful to Mark but with only six weeks to go she called the wedding off.

It was a difficult year for Tony. He contracted tetanus and his pigs swine vesicular disease.

Eddie was now going out with Clarrie Larkin, the daughter of Brookfield farm worker Jethro. But his intention to propose was interrupted by a chance to record a demo with local country singing bombshell Jolene Rogers. When it came to nothing, Clarrie made Eddie an offer. She'd pay off his £500 debt if he'd married her. Clarrie got her man.


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Clarrie found that joining the Grundy family was a rocky road. Angry when she spent a few pounds of her wages from The Bull on nursery items for the baby she was expecting, Eddie snaffled a tenner from her savings and went on a bender with brother Alf. He rushed home in shame when Clarrie fell downstairs but fortunately mum and baby were unharmed.

David's ex, Jackie Woodstock, moved in with Mark Hebden. Unhappy at someone sharing the cottage that she'd planned to share with Mark, Shula went out with hippyish Ben Warner, until he was convicted for burglary.

Detective Sergeant Dave Barry unsuccessfully pursued Nelson Gabriel for selling stolen antiques.

Polly Perks was killed in a crash between Pat's car and a milk tanker. Despite her loss, Lucy Perks managed to pass her eleven plus and started at Borchester Grammar School.

Not seriously hurt in the crash, Pat experienced a political awakening, becoming a CND supporter and cancelling Tony's Daily Express for The Guardian.


Unable to buy Haydn Evans out when he retired, Mike Tucker took over the tenancy of Ambridge Farm. Willow Farm was split between Home Farm and Brookfield. Phil let the farmhouse and 50 acres to semi-retired Bill Insley from Derbyshire.

After rescuing Pinky, a pig that she had won at the fete, Neil Carter started a tentative relationship with Susan Horrobin.

With Mark now engaged to the posh Sarah Locke, Shula found an upper crust diversion of her own in gorilla suit-wearing, swimming pool-flogging Nigel Pargetter.

After the death of her mother, Jack Woolley invited his adopted daughter Hazel to Grey Gables. Jack was delighted when she arrived. Everyone else was delighted when she left.


There was plenty of excitement with Nigel on the scene. Staying over after the hunt ball, he blundered into Phil and Jill's bedroom, whispering 'tally-ho', and later managed to drive off in someone's car by mistake.

But Shula's heart was really still with Mark, who was no longer engaged to Sarah. Unfortunately a 12 month work placement to Hong Kong put him well out of reach. Nigel consoled himself with Elizabeth's company until being packed off to Kenya by his parents.

HRH Princess Margaret attended an NSPCC fashion show at Grey Gables. Jack Woolley was beside himself with joy.

Pat became dangerously involved with her Women's Studies lecturer Roger Coombes but Tony cunningly won her back with a proposal that they convert Bridge Farm to organic.

Pregnant after their trip to London, Susan married Neil and gave birth to Emma.

Formidable old Africa hand Marjorie Antrobus moved into Nightingale Farm with her pack of Afghan hounds. Joe Grundy dubbed her 'the dog woman'.


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Caroline Bone and Brian Aldridge had a discreet affair, but she ended it before Jennifer found out.

Impulsively, Shula flew to Hong Kong. Despite it not being the romantic reunion she'd hoped for, Mark soon joined her in Ambridge - to propose. They were married the same year.

Laura Archer died. Despite her stated intention to leave Ambridge Hall to her friend and lodger Freddie Danby, no will could be found. Freddie moved instead to an 'old people's bungalow' in Manorfield Close.

Sid Perks dated Lucy's teacher Kathy Holland, but she seemed more interested in local bobby Dave Barry.


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A farmer to the last, Dan collapsed and died while trying to right a fallen ewe. Phil and Jill became sole owners of Brookfield but were forced by a capital transfer tax bill to put up 85 acres of land for sale.

Elizabeth neglected her studies as she went out with arch-rah Tim Beecham and then with Nigel again, who in the summer was selling ice creams as 'Mr Snowy'. Elizabeth set up as a rival, failed one of her two A levels and ended up selling advertising in the Borchester Echo.

David became engaged to the very non-agricultural would-be designer Sophie Barlow.

After struggling with his small milk round and farm for a while, Mike was forced into bankruptcy in an annus horribilis for the Tucker family. After scratching around, Betty managed to get a job - with a cottage - as a cleaner for the Aldridges. Mike became a milkman for Borchester Dairies

Despite her interest in Detective Sergeant Barry, Sid Perks persisted in wooing Kathy Holland. She eventually agreed to marry him, to the unease of one of her pupils - Sid's daughter Lucy.


Brian Aldridge bought some of Brookfield's land but the other parcel didn't reach its reserve, forcing Phil to sell some barns for conversion to housing.

Jill was uncomfortable when Elizabeth went out with Robin Fairbrother, the half brother of Phil's first wife Grace. When Robin turned out to be married, Elizabeth ended things with a well-aimed glass of wine.

Brookfield worker and Clarrie's dad Jethro Larkin was killed by a falling tree branch. The inquest judged it to be an accident, but that didn't help David's feeling of guilt. Agricultural student Ruth Pritchard arrived to fill Jethro's role.

David's wedding to Sophie Barlow was postponed when she started work for a fashion designer in London. The separation caused them both to reflect and the relationship petered out.

Incomers Robert and especially Lynda Snell started to make their mark on a sometimes unappreciative Ambridge.

Caroline Bone
moved in with GP Matthew Thorogood, to Peggy's disapproval.


Inexperienced Ruth had a steep learning curve at Brookfield. Eventually dubious David started to approve of her. Although at first she repulsed his attempts to move their relationship beyond a purely business one, by the end of the year they were married.

Prodigal Kenton returned, announcing that he'd left the merchant navy. To David's annoyance, Phil gave him a job on the farm, although Kenton soon proved himself no natural farmer. At least David was pleased with at last being made a partner in Brookfield.

Matthew Thorogood turned out to be a sometimes thoughtless partner. Caroline moved back to Grey Gables.

Shula became manager of the Estate, and for a while Mark had a long daily commute to a Birmingham law firm. Despite this, they started trying for a baby.

Having repulsed the unwelcome attentions of Brian Aldridge, Betty Tucker left Home Farm's employment for the village shop, and the tied cottage for Willow Farm. Brian moved on to flame-haired Pony Club leader Mandy Beesborough.


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Brian contracted post-traumatic epilepsy after being charged by a BSE-infected cow. After friction between Jill and Ruth over the role of a farmer's wife, David became Brian's farm manager for a few months as Brian recovered from his injury.

Kenton had a health scare which turned out to be an overactive thyroid. After an ill-advised foray into financial advice, he decided to buy retiring Nelson Gabriel's antiques business. He persuaded his parents to give him £50,000 as his inheritance in advance. Shula persuaded Mark to invest a similar sum.

Vicar Jerry Buckle scandalised half the village by taking in Clive Horrobin and his pregnant girlfriend Sharon Richards. Clive disappeared soon after the birth of baby Kylie.

Shula and Mark's continuing failure to conceive caused tensions in the marriage. Shula was eventually diagnosed with endometriosis.

Keri Davies is an Archers scriptwriter and producer.

  • The picture shows Caroline Bone, Nelson Gabriel, Nigel Pargetter, Jennifer Aldridge and Elizabeth Archer strolling through Borchester (Sara Coward, Jack May, Graham Seed, Angela Piper, Alison Dowling)
  • Relive the decades with The Archers Timeline, complete with archive photos and audio clips.
  • Read the storylines from other decades:
  • 1950s
  • 1960s
  • 1970s
  • 1980s
  • 1990s


  • Comment number 1.

    Great memories! The 1980s was a good decade for The Archers, I think, all the steaminess between Caroline and Brian, not to mention Shula in Ben Warner's tent!

  • Comment number 2.

    I loved the 1980s in Ambridge. A sad time with Walter, Dan and Doris all passing on, but also a vibrant time with so many new and great characters first appearing, like Mrs Antrobus, Lynda and Ruth - not to mention Nigel! Just one thing: your timeline states that Marjorie Antrobus moved into Nightingale Farm in 1984, I have studied the character closely, and can tell you that it was actually 1985. She gave a talk to the Ambridge WI in 1984, and moved to the village the following year. Sorry - I'm being very pedantic! Your time-line has stirred many fond memories. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it!

  • Comment number 3.

    I love the Archers and have been listening since the 1960's, but the 1980's were my favourite decade of all. Ruth brought the Archer family a bit more down to earth, and Lynda Snell was an absolute wonder. It was hard to believe that Carole Boyd had previously played the very working class (as working clas as ME!) Shirley Edwards in Waggoners' Walk! And then there was Nelson's Wine Bar, Shula (perhaps that should be "Shulie"?!) and Nigel, Mrs Antrobus and her "girls" - including dear Portia, and the growing pains of Elizabeth - who seemed to become a bit of a "yuppie puppy" late in the decade.

    It really was a decade of "out with the old, in with the new". I was greatly saddened by the deaths of Doris, Dan, Jethro and Walter. But for all that, I remember the 1980's as ultimately a very happy and innovative decade in Ambridge. It was all most skilfully done.

    Happy birthday to the programme - here's to another fifty years!

  • Comment number 4.

    Another reason to remember the 1980s fondly - 1983 gave us Nigel Pargetter!


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