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You are in: Hampshire > History > Local History > Howards' Way

Howards' Way

Howards' Way was one of the biggest TV hits of the 1980s - every Sunday night, millions would follow the business dramas, family traumas, lives and loves of the South Coast's sailing community - complete with big hair and shoulder pads.

The cast of Howards' Way

The cast of Howards' Way

Dubbed 'Dallas on Sea', Howards' Way was the BBC's answer to the American super-soaps of the 1980s.

The 'gin and Jag' set of the Solent coast were seen as providing perfect material for a Sunday night drama - epitomising the wealth, aspirations and glamour of the Thatcher years.

The show follows the fortunes of Tom Howard (played by Maurice Colbourne) who sinks his redundancy money into fulfilling his dream of designing yachts, and invests in the Mermaid Boatyard run by the heavy-drinking and cigar-smoking Jack Rolfe (Glyn Owen) and his daughter Avril (Susan Gilmore).

Jan and Tom Howard

Jan and Tom Howard

Tom's wife Jan (played by Jan Harvey) eventually enters the world of high fashion with brash powerboating entrepreneur Ken Masters. 

The Howards' marriage falls apart, but their children Leo and Lynne (played by Edward Highmore and Tracey Childs) became the male and female heartthrobs of the series.

Add to that a web of countless entangled affairs, romantic liaisons and cut-throat business skulduggery - courtesy of property tycoon Charles Frere (Tony Anholt) and his father, Sir Edward (Nigel Davenport) - and the emotional traumas of the Urquhart family.

It was soon clear that the producers had a hit on their hands - all played out with the backdrop of the beautiful River Hamble, the Solent and Hampshire coastline.

The setting could be one of the reasons why Jan Harvey says she has never tired of being reminded of her six years in Howard's Way: "Everyone loved it and as an actor its great to be in a success like that.  It was one of those series where everyone got on - it was just lovely."


All the interior scenes were shot in the BBC's Pebble Mill studios in Birmingham, the cast and crew would come to Hampshire to film outdoor locations and on-the-water in the summer months. 

The Elephant Boatyard

The Elephant Boatyard

Bursledon was transformed into Tarrent - the Howards' home village on the River Hamble.

The Mermaid Boatyard was, in reality, the Elephant Boatyard, a yard dating from the 1780s when it was used to build Lord Nelson's flagship at the battle of Copenhagen.

The handcrafted, wooden vessels were in stark contrast to the shiny white motor-cruisers and powerboats at the rival Leisure Cruise Ltd.

The petrol station, the Howards' house, Leisure Cruise, The Jolly Sailor pub, Ken Masters' Chandlery were all 'requisitioned' as locations around Bursledon, Hamble and Warsash.

The Jolly Sailor

The Jolly Sailor

There were also scenes shot in Southampton - the art deco Civic Centre was a court, a Swiss bank and a Rome fashion show venue.

As the show progressed, the locations got more exotic.  Although it was still mostly still shot in Hampshire - a restaurant in Hamble became an Italian honeymoon destination and Warsash miraculously became Rhode Island for Lynne Howard's transatlantic crossing.

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last updated: 23/06/2009 at 08:14
created: 13/01/2009

You are in: Hampshire > History > Local History > Howards' Way

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