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Recalling Lovejoy filming in north Essex
THE creator of BBC television drama Lovejoy sums up David Hasselhoff’s revelation he would like to revive the show.
“David Hasselhoff...well, he is very much...American,” says Dr John Grant, 70, from West Bergholt.
Dr Grant, who wrote the novels under pseudonym Jonathan Gash, chooses his words carefully when discussing the Hoff’s desire to remake the series about the dodgy antiques dealer.
“I think he would be very commendable, but I am not sure he is the right person to play the part,” Dr Grant added.
“You pick up a paper and there always seems to be someone thinking of remaking programmes.
“There is a bit of an epidemic, but I don’t suppose Lovejoy will be remade. Ian McShane is getting on now – he’s 68!”
The prospect of the series returning could be good news for north Essex, as many episodes were filmed in towns and villages, including Coggeshall, Halstead, Castle Hedingham and Thaxted.
Filming of the original series in 1986 caused a stir, and brought coachloads of fans who wanted to visit the locations seen on their favourite television show. It ran until 1994.
Whether Dr Grant would write new episodes is uncertain. The expert in tropical medicine, who has worked in Hong Kong and Libya, published the latest Lovejoy book, Faces in the Pool, just nine months ago.
The grandfather-of-four lives just outside Colchester with his wife, Pam, and although he suffered a stroke last year, he hinted he would still like to continue Lovejoy’s adventures through his novels.
Dr Grant enjoyed the experience of filming, but is not convinced the programme would be remade.
Coggeshall businessman Mark Marchant, who ran an antique clocks business in Market Square, thoroughly enjoyed the experience when BBC crews descended on the village.
With a pile of newspaper cuttings and photographs of the stars, Mr Marchant has many memories of the three weeks the crews spent in Coggeshall in the early 1990s.
“It was fantastic. One day, the crew wanted to film in a shop opposite me. They took out all the antiques and turned it into a mirror shop. That day it poured with rain and everything went wrong.
“But remakes are never as good as the original.”
He laughs as he remembers the time he asked the show’s star, Ian McShane, to take a picture of him and two of the show’s other actors.
“Ian said, ‘what, of me?’. I said no, and he seemed a bit put out. But I already had one of him in his Rolls-Royce.”
Mr Marchant’s dog, Rosy, was even paid £12 as an extra after sitting in a chair outside a shop.
Hazel Picknell-Stride, who has run Norman’s Sweet Shop in Stoneham Road, Coggeshall, with husband Richard for 39 years, had always been a fan of the show before it came to the village.
She revealed she attended the National Youth Theatre in London when Ian McShane had been a senior there.
But Mrs Pickell-Stride says there was no time for reminiscing during filming.
She adds: “He wasn’t my buddy or anything, he was one of the senior ones when I went there when I was 18. He used to help out with the auditions. In between filming he was always in his trailer.”
However, the buzz of a television crew was not enough to impress some people.
Mrs Pickell-Stride, chairman of the Coggeshall Chamber of Trade adds: “The crew used to clear everyone off the street, which raised quite a few objections because people didn’t want to be cleared off!”
As well as Coggeshall, Lovejoy was also filmed in locations including Halstead, at the Townsford Mill, the Fox Inn in Finchingfield, in Great Bardfield, and at Hedingham Castle and mansion house.
The castle’s owner, Jason Lindsay, was at university at the time of filming, but remembers the hustle and bustle and even benefitting from the decor.
He says: “The crew used a room in the mansion house and transformed it into a palace in Prague.
“It was an episode that had Donald Pleasence in it. The room, which we now use for weddings, was filled with antiques and paintings. They decorated the room with heavy purple wallpaper and curtains, which we ended up buying off them.
“It was a big improvement on the unfurnished state of the room at the time. It lasted us 15 years and we have only recently upgraded it to Gainsborough silk on the walls.”
The crew also transformed the basement of the castle into an African bazaar complete with donkeys, traders and carpet sellers.
“It was a wonderful change of use for that episode,” Jason adds.
Jason, now 42, who lives on the castle site with his wife and three children, says after Lovejoy, scenes from Ivanhoe were filmed there, with the castle used as Price John’s castle.