Memories of Lovejoy, the man who put East Anglia on the map
Loveable antique dealer Lovejoy helped put Suffolk, and the likes of Long Melford and Lavenham in particular, on the map back in the late 1980s and early 1990s.
Rumours that a new series of Lovejoy may be in the offing have delighted our readers and staff. Here are some of your memories of the great man.
I thought they were winding me up
The episode was called Ducking and Diving, and it was aired in October 93.
At the time my ex wife Rachel and I were running the One Bull in Bury St Edmunds, which was owned by Scottish and Newcastle Brewery.
We had a call out of the blue from the BBC I think, asking if they could have a look at the pub as a potential venue.
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To be honest I thought it was a wind-up from my customers, but they turned up and after a while said yes that would be fine.
I think what stays in my mind is the amount of people who turned up and the amount of time it took to film a scene that only lasted maybe a minute or two on screen.
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The actor Warren Mitchell, the famous Alf Garnett, was in the episode, and he was really friendly and chatty, as were most of the cast and crew.
By a strange coincidence The Butt and Oyster near Ipswich was also featured in the same episode as we were.
It was a pub where Rachel used to work, where my son was a chef recently and where my daughter Chloe works now.
Lovejoy links abound!
David Pink, Ipswich
I was an extra
The crew once filmed in the Half Moon, Belchamp St Paul, a location where I happened to be enjoying a cheeky pint and a game of pool one lunchtime. We were asked to be extras in the background, so just carried on our merry way, albeit with slightly smarter hair as we nipped off to the bathroom to give it a quick comb.
Lee Wilding from Soham, pictured recently with his daughter, Charlotte
We were so proud of our buses
My family lives in Bures, next door to the old Chambers Bus company base on the High Street.
The manoeuvres of the double deckers in and out of the garage in Church Square were a daily sight but the occasional image of a red Chambers bus on the screen, travelling through Lovejoy country behind Ian McShane, was something we would always take pleasure in pointing out.
Elliot Furniss, EA Life TV critic
Geography was odd
I particularly remember the first series in about 1985, not just for the scenes shot in my home village of Woolpit, but also the ones in Bury St Edmunds. Ian McShane would be walking out of the Abbey Gardens under the gateway and then, mysteriously, the camera would pan to Moyse’s Hall Museum as if it was a stone’s throw away. The makers also managed to film some scenes on days when the town centre car parks were half-empty!
Mike Cracknell, now of Needham Market
Feeling sick behind the scenes
Peter and I were supporting artistes on Lovejoy. I remember filming in a Chinese restaurant in Great Dunmow. One of the principal actors kept fluffing their lines and had to keep doing re-takes. We were all seated, eating Chinese food, and due to continuity had to keep having our plates replenished exactly as in the first take. By the end of the day, we were heartily sick of the food and feeling extremely bloated!
Another time, we did a fairground scene at Stoke-by-Clare school. Several of us were nominated to go in a big wheel, which was fine until we got stuck at the top. Several of us felt sick again!
Once, at Hintlesham Hall, Tommy the caterer used us as taste testers for his newly-made game soup. Being on set for long hours, food very much becomes the focus of the day so we were always pleased when we heard Tommy was to be main caterer.
Filming in a pub near Ongar, two of us had to keep walking past the entrance while the featured actors chatted. The crew held the traffic up and some of the drivers got quite irate, particularly those who needed to get to work. Generally, though, the public were very keen to see what was going on and, where possible, be part of the action.
We also filmed at Writtle Agricultural College. The extras were supposed to be trainee farmers. It was a really wet day and one of the principals, who was inspecting the pigs, slipped, fell, and ended up covered in something smelly.
When we filmed at the old Black Notley Hospital (long since closed), Peter was a patient in bed, with a plaster cast on his leg. It was fixed on by the costume department, which was OK until they left early and forgot to take it off! A quick trip to real A & E was needed!
We always found Ian McShane and Phyllis Logan very friendly, whereas Dudley Sutton and Chris Jury kept their distance a bit.
Peter and Eve Regelous, from Witham
We were in the know
Great news if Lovejoy comes back. My son and a friend’s daughter were pictured on the front of the paper when filming took place at Pin Mill in 1993, when the Butt and Oyster became The Three Ducks I think for a few days. Stefan and Danielle (right) were pictured with Warren Mitchell who was taking part in that episode. Danielle’s mum Sally (left) was lucky enough to have her picture taken with Ian McShane. My mum lives at Pin Mill so we were always able to get the heads-up about the filming.
Lovejoy was the coolest man
It was on the way to school we saw him. Sitting on the steps of a caravan between takes, he was sipping tea.
Leather jacket on, hair bouncing off his shoulders.
Lovejoy – the Fonz of the antiques world. The coolest man alive.
For the next few days there was talk of little else at my primary school. Classmates came in brandishing signed photos and tales of chats with Eric and Tinker. One boy even said he had been kissed by Lady Jane.
On the third day, I pedal down with my friends to watch the filming of their final scene. A funeral cortege winds its way from the Mill and over cobbled streets. We strain over BMX handlebars to see him.
That night, dad relents; he will take me down to where the cast are staying.
This is it. I’m going to meet Lovejoy. I too will have a signed photo; I too can proffer a cheek to Lady Jane.
I know something’s up when my dad looks over with a serious expression.
“Sorry son, they’ve gone.”
EADT columnist Matt Gaw
Good for business
Good to hear Lovejoy is set to come back to our screens. I live near Gt Dunmow where a number of scenes in the original series were filmed. I was lucky enough to be running my own business at the time in New Street.
Several of the scenes were shot in and around New Street, lock-up garages were in several episodes, and other locations, and I was lucky enough to meet some of the stars.
A restaurant opposite the war memorial that was closed at the time was transformed into the façade of a Chinese restaurant within a few hours and I, along with my daughter, were privileged to watch the scenes being shot and to meet Ian McShane and Caroline Langrishe, who had plenty of time to chat to fans.
I still like to watch it regularly and to spot all the locations in and around the town. It was a good time for the town as it brought lots of cast and crew in to shop. I have been saying for years we wished it would come back as Lovejoy and Son or Daughter, or Son of Lovejoy. Now at long last we may see it happen. I certainly hope so. Great fans of the original will hope they keep it sensible and that it runs for many episodes.
I ended up in the background
For ten years Lovejoy was an integral part of the Suffolk landscape. Ian McShane was Lovejoy. He was the star and the series producer. He ensured that the series was filmed in Suffolk. When he was in Bury St Edmunds, you saw recognisable Bury landmarks in the background. On one occasion that recognisable figure was me, as I unwittingly appeared in a scene in front of the Abbeygate as I walked across the car park on Angel Hill to cover a court case.
Inevitably I had the opportunity to interview Ian McShane on several occasions. I found him to be a real enthusiast. He loved the series and the character he played. In fact he was responsible for ressurecting the series after Michael Grade cancelled it in 1985, after one series, because he deemed it too expensive.
As a young reporter I was fortunate to spend a day on set, watching scenes being filmed at Lovejoy’s cottage in a village outside Bury. In those days it was highly unusual for a drama to be shot on location, like a movie, rather than in a studio.
This filmic approach is now standard for high-end dramas.
In my interviews with McShane, it was clear he regarded Lovejoy as a prestige project. It helped that the location and subject matter of antiques attracted American audiences who had fond memories of East Anglia thanks to the Second World War and the US air bases.
Speaking to the actors during their lunchbreak brought home how slow the filming process can be. Dudley Sutton, who played Tinker Dill, Lovejoy’s barker, said: “We are pleased if we get more than three minutes’ screen time done a day. If we get five minutes in the can we believe we are flying.” A scene at Lovejoy’s doorway with a reverse shot of Eric (Chris Jury) climbing onto his motorbike and sidecar took all morning.
A big change came when Phyllis Logan, who played Lady Jane Felsham, left and was replaced by Caroline Langrishe as auctioneer Charlotte Cavendish. With the series pulling in 18 million viewers every Sunday night, Ian McShane held a series of interviews at The Bull Hotel in Long Melford to assure anxious viewers that, although the cast was changing, Lovejoy would remain the same loveable old rogue. He told me: “One of the things which has helped Lovejoy become such a long-lived series is the fact that it is continually being re-invented.”
McShane was the captain of the ship as well as its figurehead. He always said Lovejoy’s sex life and fraught relationships were just a red herring for what the show was really all about. “The greatest sexual experience that Lovejoy has is when he sees a rare antique. That’s when his heart really misses a beat – without that we wouldn’t have a show.”
EADT arts editor Andrew Clarke
He gave Ipswich fans a name
Some Norwich fans call Ipswich The Binmen, because one of the bin men featured in Lovejoy was a Town fan. They only ever came into Ipswich, I think, when there was something sleazy ? like a bent copper on the take. Of course, Ian McShane played at Portman Road...very briefly in 1979.
He was in a terrible film, Yesterday’s Heroes, playing an alcoholic footballer, and he took several attempts to score a penalty in front of the crowd at Portman Road.
Doesn’t quite make him a Town fan though.
Of course, the Ipswich Town film was Escape to Victory, with Pele, and with players on both sides.
And, of course, Lovejoy author John Gant, who wrote as Jonathan Gash, is from Colchester.
Property editor, David Vincent
We weren’t allowed on set
I remember that the location Green Farm in Elmswell was secure from sight and we were not allowed on set. I would drive round the village with a brief to try to get pictures of anything I could – without trespassing!
I also remember a very early start at a stately-type home somewhere, with loads of photographers – I think it may have been a photocall for his screen wedding, perhaps.
Photographer Andy Abbot