The latest TV adaptation of All Creatures Great and Small, filmed in Yorkshire, won rave reviews, brought joy at a time we most needed it and showcased the beauty and character of God’s Own County. Now it’s our turn to lend a hand and help make sure the much-awaited second series is the best it can be.
BAFTA and Golden Globe-winning production company Playground, which made the first series and a Christmas special for Channel 5, is appealing to readers of The Yorkshire Post for help in sourcing much-needed props as it prepares to film the next chapters of James Herriot’s life, set in the 1930s. Due to lockdown restrictions, production designer Jacqueline Smith and set decorator James Gray are struggling to find everything from homeware to farming implements made before 1938.
Jacqueline and James usually scour Yorkshire’s vintage shops, charity shops and auction sale rooms in person but many of their favourite hunting grounds are now closed. They have searched on Facebook Marketplace and eBay but are still short of what they need for room sets and farmstead scenes.
Holly Cowan, the show’s publicist, says: “Finding props for a period drama always requires a lot of hunting and research. It’s tough at the best of times; lockdown is adding another level of challenge to the job. That’s why we wondered if the local community in Yorkshire might have any vintage treasures tucked away in a barn or attic or gently rusting in a field. We are looking for props that would have been made before 1938 and would be in general use in the 1930s.”
Filming for the second, six-part series of All Creatures Great and Small and the 2021 Christmas special will commence later this year. The TV adaptation is based on the best-selling books by James Herriot, the pen name of Alf Wight who wrote about his experiences as a young Thirsk-based vet.
Many of the scenes are set in the glorious Yorkshire Dales with Grassington playing the starring role as Darrowby where Siegfried Farnon’s fictional veterinary practice is based.
Among the items on the production team’s shopping list are 1930s bicycles for the rack outside the bicycle shop in Darrowby.
Jacqueline and James are also looking for baskets, kitchenalia, oil lamps, knobs and knockers, cleaning products, umbrellas, light switches, brown furniture, sofas and armchairs, farm carts, milk carts, farming tools or machinery, rakes, threshers, barrels, milk churns, barrows, horse tack, livery, coils of old rope, tarpaulins and garden equipment.
James Gray says: “We can find crockery and cutlery easily enough for the house interiors, it’s the things that people tend to throw away because they think they have no value that we struggle with, like potato mashers, whisks, towels, curtains and rugs. Sofas and armchairs from the interwar period are also hard to find as many shops are not allowed to sell them due to fire regulations and they have been seen as frumpy and uncomfortable so have been skipped.”
He is also making a special plea for items commonly found in a 1930s pantry. Mrs Hall, who is housekeeper at Skeldale House, the vets practice and home of Siegfried Farnon, his brother Tristan and James Herriot, is to get her very own pantry for the second series.
“We filmed the pantry as a closed door in the last series but we are now building Mrs Hall a fully-stocked pantry and it’s going to be a thing of beauty because she is a real homemaker,” says James. “We need anything you would find in a 1930s pantry, including bottles, tins, food, boxes, bags, packaging and pickling and preserving jars. We can’t use new Kilner jars because the shape has changed and they now have a glass lid. The old ones are straighter with metal lids and being authentic is really important.”
Even the smallest deviation from historical detail is called out by eagle-eyed viewers both in the UK and in America, where the first series was also a big hit.
“Viewers got in touch to tell us that Mrs Hall didn’t always use a tea strainer when pouring the tea, which suggested she used tea bags, which weren’t in use back then,” says James. “They also spotted that we used a parasol instead of an umbrella in one scene. We thought it would be ok as it looked similar when down but then it started raining and went up. So we need 1930s black umbrellas.”
Jacqueline and James prefer to buy props rather than hire them. He says: “We try to buy as much as we can because we are looking at filming multiple series of All Creatures Great and Small.”
If you can help provide props available for sale, please get in touch with the production company. Photographs showing the item or items in full, ideally from different angles, are needed and pictures must be in sharp focus. Email details and pictures to [email protected]
Please support The Yorkshire Post and become a subscriber today. Your subscription will help us to continue to bring quality news to the people of Yorkshire. In return, you'll see fewer ads on site, get free access to our app and receive exclusive members-only offers. Click here to subscribe