When it comes to vintage comedy, the Two Ronnies, are firm favourites in many households. Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett first broadcast their show fifty years ago in 1971 and continue to make people smile today. From the Four Candles to Piggy Malone, all of us probably have a favourite and in some cases can even recite the lines. But did you know that several of their classic sketches were filmed in and around North Dorset? Even today, locals remember the comedy duo with fondness.
The Phantom Raspberry Blower of Old London Town was partially filmed in the village of Okeford Fitzpaine. One of the oldest residents, Mr Bernard Trowbridge, remembers them: “I watched them from the corner on the church lane. They were making a series of the Raspberry Blower and they had a huge searchlight. A chap stood in the road waving branches and they made a big shadow move across the church tower.” Residents were not allowed to get too close to the filming at the time but recall shadowy figures filming among the gravestones and running around the area. The village hall was transformed into a dressing room and with typical Dorset hospitality, local residents Mr and Mrs Snell, plied the Two Ronnies with tea and cake at the Old Rectory. They had to contend with a long line of children (and adults) looking for autographs.
The film crew and the Two Ronnies used to cycle downhill, through the village to the church. Julie Taylor remembers the crew with bikes. “They had baskets at the front and took grandfer’s as well, thinking it was theirs.”Bernard Trowbridge remembers a scene when Ronnie Barker was riding a large bike. “He wore a black gown and was at the top of the church path with his legs sticking out and came all the way down to the bottom. They filmed the bicycle scene from the church tower.”
A two yokels sketch, leaning over the church lychgate was also filmed in the picturesque village. Okeford Fitzpaine served as the location for scenes in Charley Farley and Piggy Malone around the church and adjoining roads. Ronnie Corbett was filmed running after a van on Shillingstone Lane, almost losing his trousers. Kings Stag was also used for the two yokels sketches with the duo leaning over a gate and chewing straw. Naturally, the pair went on to the Green Man pub- still dressed in their rustic outfits- to enjoy a drink.
Gold Hill is famed for the Ridley Scott Hovis advert made in 1973. Ronnie Barker immortalised the hill in a spoof act in 1978 as he was filmed in Shaftesbury carrying a loaf of bread and looking disgruntled with the climb to the top. The Two Ronnies also stayed at the Grosvenor Hotel in town when filming on location in North Dorset.
Next time you settle down to watch a vintage Two Ronnies special, take a closer look. You may just recognise a small part played by the Blackmore Vale.
By: Rachael Rowe