EFAITH - EYCH 2018
Quarries: The Play Pen of British Television
April : Mines and quarries, iron, steel and other metals
The public might best remember the quarry landscape from an old episode of Doctor Who or Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy.
Fans of the series might inform you that gravel landscape was the defining features of Skaro but in the last few years something that was originally used as cheap set design was sold for double its auction price.
So the question is – why do we love our quarries so much?
Well in short – the monotonous area was malleable enough for many writers imagination.
For instance one of the first quarries to be used for BBC’s hit show Dr Who, was John’s Hole Quarry in Kent, 1964. Without much hassle the production company was able to present The Daleks Invasion of Earth for the BBC on a budget.
Various television stations (both in the UK and the US) used quarries throughout the 60s and 70s as the standard alien planet set, because it was cheap for TV production at the time.
It was popular as well; less time was required for set design, instead props, costume and script could be focused throughout the time constraints of production.
The Daleks Invasion (1964) – The success of this series of episodes (6 in all) created a landmark for the series. Other scenes utilised shots of London and the Capital’s infrastructure to compare with the quarries bleak, mechanical feel.
So popular it would seem that quarry series production usages would often cross over with other television series. According to Gareth Thomas, who played Blake in Blake’s Seven, there had been occasions when noises were heard at the other side of the quarry through shooting. It was discovered that Doctor Who was filming at Pebblehill Road, Betchworth, Surrey the same time.
The popularity of the Betchworth Quarry might have been down to the fact that it was close to TV production studios headquarters of the time. It had been used for chalk working and later clay until it came into disuse in the late 1960s. The TV industry did give the quarry new life after its mining career but while being earmarked for a nature reserve a major part of the quarry has been used as landfill, which was completed at the end of 2005.
Since the 1970s, television has changed quite a lot. Shows present slightly genres, to what might have captured the imagination of viewers 50 years ago. Technology and production schedules have dramatically changed the techniques of set design. While shows like Merlin utilise various sites for sets, shows with much larger budgets (alike modern Dr Who) have much more scope when traveling time and space.
Still, that it not to say that quarries are disregarded in the history of British television. In recent years the Doctor returned to a quarry set for the episode ‘Planet of the Ood’ at Trefil Quarry in the Brecon Beacons. The episode itself utilised a large physical set production with a large focus on animatronics and prosthetics.
In 2014, the quarry was later sold for twice its expected auction guide price before it went under the hammer.
It is understood that a businessman from nearby Abergavenny snapped up the quarry for £90,000.
It perhaps this fascination with British Television or the well received nostalgia of recent years that makes people go to the extent of purchasing old quarries. It does however represent the intertwinned cultural heritage that we have in Britain. Things have more than one purpose or memory for people. It effects people in different ways and so it creates lasting depth to our cultural heritage.
More info on April can be found here: http://industrialheritage.eu/EYCH2018/April
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