Edited version first published in the Survivors
The Six Horseman: Reunion 10
A report of 'The Six Horseman': a 25th anniversary tour of shooting locations for The Fourth Horseman, Friday 14 April — Sunday 16 April 2000.
On the twenty-fifth anniversary weekend of the first transmission of The Fourth Horseman, a group of fans gathered in the heart of Survivors' country eager to seek out new locations from the series' opening episode and revisit regular series one haunts. For the first time that we're aware of, fans of the show visited Fourth Horseman locations in Cheltenham; discovered Lincoln's house from Gone to the Angels; and enjoyed the most extensive tour yet of Peter Grant's 'school' and its grounds.
For an 'advance party' of three the weekend began on Friday 14 April, when numerous sites from Gone Away, Starvation, Something of Value and A Beginning were visited in an ad-hoc tour that began at lunchtime at Hampton Court and unfolded at our leisure across the remainder of a fascinating afternoon. The 'Fourth Horseman Anniversary Tour' began in earnest on a drizzly Saturday morning on the outskirts of Cheltenham. With our numbers swelled to six, and armed with new location 'intelligence', we headed for the town centre determined to track down the exact spot director Pennant Roberts chose to stage his chilling night-time 'London' scene in The Fourth Horseman — the sequence where Jenny narrowly escapes the clutches of the marauding gang of adolescent male looters on her way out of the city.
The row of shops used for the shoot can be found in the Pitville Circus area of central Cheltenham. Consulting 'screen-shot' printouts of the original scene (an indispensable location visit aid) in the welcome cover of a bus-shelter the exact location of the sequence was agreed, with a Jaeger shop front at one end, and much filming and photography commenced. Within a couple of minutes, our activity had attracted the attention of a nervous shop-manageress from Goldsmiths Jewellers, anxious to discover if we were a (very indiscreet and somewhat over-staffed) photo-reconnaissance unit for a robbery gang which had chosen a busy Saturday morning to 'case the joint' for a future raid. In her defence, it must be said that it's pretty unlikely that that particular Cheltenham promenade has been so earnestly scrutinised by a 'film crew' (amidst much discussion, consulting of folders and pointing) since the original BBC scouts first checked out the location back in 1975.
Pleased by so straight-forward a 'new find', we departed Cheltenham for Elmley Castle, site of the main street of the Grant's village and the churchyard where a desolate Abby pleads not to be 'the only one'. Alone at the Church we were able not only to photograph and video extensively, but also to 're-inact' Abby's gruesome discovery of the row of dead parishioners slumped in their pews — without disturbing a soul. After the purchase of many postcards and pausing only for another series of group shots in the Church doorway, we escaped the rain to enjoy a pint in the local village pub, where we discovered that the current landlord had — somewhat hazy — recollections of the 1975 shoot. His insistence that the BBC crew were on site in the village 'for several weeks' though interesting, must surely — given the tight production schedule for each episode — be implausible. We shouldn't forget, however, that we're asking people to drag up memories from a quarter of a century ago of events that probably weren't that significant to them at the time!
As the weather began to clear, we arrived in Little Comberton, location of the Grant family house, tennis court and "Vaccine Road", where Abby consents to a home visit from Doctor Gordon, as she and Mrs Transon head off to the train station. Our next stop was another location 'first' — this time from Gone to the Angels. Following directions supplied by another fan 'scout', it took us only one false start before we tracked down 'Lincoln's house' in nearby Ripple. Though much altered by renovation and extension work, the house retains much of its look from the episode. The accommodating owners were happy to let us wander and photograph at will, intrigued to have TV sci-fi fans, rather than rail enthusiasts, knocking at their door. Now established as The Little Island Community Children's Home, the building itself is a converted station house. The trackway and platform (not used in Survivors) are clearly visible from the front of the property. The set-ups and camera points for all the exterior sequences were, pretty comprehensively, nailed amidst much clicking of cameras. Our host kindly provided us with a striking full-colour aerial photograph of the station and its surroundings, which illustrates just how secluded and set back from the road this location is — one we would have certainly struggled to find without a clear 'lead'.
There are now very few outdoor shooting locations from The Fourth Horseman that remain undiscovered, but the key ones still outstanding contain very few clues as their whereabouts. The traffic-jammed road that Jenny crosses en route to the hospital has been identified as part of the Westway in London. But the location of the other scenes from Jenny's night-time wanderings — the roadway where she hides from other travellers, and climbs into an unlocked car to rest — remain a mystery. As with the hillside where Jenny first encounters Tom Price, there are few distinguishing features that might serve as identifying landmarks. The Tourist Information Office in Ross-on-Wye suggested directions to one additional site that staff thought may have been used in Survivors, and this new 'possibility' will be followed up. However, it may yet require further research in the production files housed in the BBC archives before the map references for the last illusive Fourth Horseman locations are revealed.
Our last call of the day was to Great Malvern railway station (redressed as "Brimpsfield" station in the series), used in both The Fourth Horseman and Gone to the Angels. The sight of fans holding aloft a reproduction "Brimpsfield BR" sign at the station entrance, for numerous photo-calls, was enough to attraction the attention of staff serving in the station craft shop. Prompted by the screen shots of Greg, Abby and Jenny in the waiting room, from the opening scene in Angels, one of the shop workers recalled having watched the series back in 1975, but confessed that she had never been aware of its Malvern connections. We were fortunate that the station, its awnings and design essentially unaltered in twenty-five years, was all but deserted, affording us the opportunity for some evocative and atmospheric photography. Not one passenger joined the only train to call at the station during our visit. The Angels waiting room now serves as the station cafe, but rather than the usual plastic-seated BR buffet, this is an independently run traditional tea-room. Again, we were practically its only customers, and the staff were unfazed by our 'unusual' enthusiasm for photographing empty tables in one particular corner of the room.
Sunday April 16, and twenty-five years to the day since The Fourth Horseman was first seen by a TV audience of some 7.07 million, our trip began with a pre-arranged visit to Llanarth Court, used as the location for Peter Grant's boarding school, and twice visited by Abby in the search for her son. Llanarth Court is now a residential psychiatric facility, so our visit, quite naturally, needed to be cleared in advance with hospital management. Our group was met by Duty Manager Marc Chandler, who introduced us to the work of the unit and gave us a guided tour of the 'school' and its grounds. In the interior of the administrative block, we were able to locate the stairwell, landing and central corridor seen during Abby's search for Peter's dormitory, although the bedroom itself eluded us. Consulting with a colleague, Marc was able to confirm with some confidence that the cloakroom area, where a distraught Abby rings the school bell in 'Angels', is located in what is now patient accommodation, and therefore, quite understandably, out of bounds to visitors such as ourselves.
At the close of the Sunday service, hospital chaplain Paddy Nash allowed us access to the 'school' chapel interior, where all the locations seen during Abby's first meeting with John and Lizzie from 'Angels' are instantly recognisable. Paddy generously supplemented our own photographs of the building with the gift of a set of colour postcards, of the chapel and of the Court surroundings, for each of us.
Back in the grounds, we were able to revisit many exterior locations from The Fourth Horseman — the establishing 'pan shot' of Abby's arrival; the point where she parks her car, looks up at the 'school', and sounds the horn; the archway through which Dr Robson's lantern is seen, and several others. In his interview, in Bridgehead Issue 17, Pennant Roberts explained that the sequence where Jenny meets the feverish and dying Kevin Lloyd (his holdall stuffed with fivers) was also shot in the grounds of Llanarth. After some effort and scratching of heads (and one wrong guess) , we are confident that we eventually found the very spot — in a small wooded area part way between the 'school' building and the entrance archway. Jenny enters the scene across a stone bridgeway barely visible in the night-time shot. The two fireside sequences are then filmed from cameras set up just a few feet away from the edge of the lake glimpsed in that first 'pan shot' of the 'school'. Pinpointing the precise tree trunk against which Kevin is slumped proved something of a tall order (what with some twenty five years of woodland growth to contend with) but there was a reasonable consensus about our final choice.
The weekend was rounded off with a return visit to some first series location regulars. By the time we reached the Hole-in-the-Wall bridge in mid-afternoon (scene of Abby's crisis of confidence in Gone Away) we were bathed in warm Spring sunshine. We had just enough time left for a whistlestop tour of a host of nearby sites from Garland's War, including 'Waterhouse' itself (Brockhampton Court), and the lay-by and roadway used in the episode finale, before it was time to head for home. This was a hugely enjoyable, efficiently organised and 'location rich' weekend that combined the excitement of 'new finds' with the pleasures of existing series one favourites — all shared in the relaxed and good-humoured company of fellow Survivors devotees. Hard to think of a more fitting way for fans to mark the 25th anniversary of The Fourth Horseman's original broadcast.
Thanks must go to: Chris Barker and Adrian Hulme for all the hard work that they both put in to the organisation, planning and logistics for the trip; Bob and Guy for additional location information; Jeanette Berry-Young and our hosts at the Little Island Community Children's Home; and Marc Chandler and Paddy Nash at Llanarth Court.
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