Heartbeat still a popular pull for Goathland as 60s police nostalgia show marks 30 years since it was first aired

It was a nostalgic police drama set in a quiet village nestled in the heart of the North York Moors but, at its peak, Heartbeat attracted more than 15m viewers, becoming a Sunday night television staple.

When filming stopped in 2010 it prompted fears that Goathland, which had thrived as the setting for Aidensfield, would “drop off a cliff”. It had run for 18 series, 18 years and 372 episodes.

This weekend sees the 30th anniversary of the airing of that first episode - yet tourists and fans of the show, still being aired in the UK on ITV3 and around the world, flock to the village to catch a glimpse of the Aidensfield Arms, Scripps’ Garage and the police house.

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The characters of Nick and Kate Rowan, Claude Greengrass and Sergeant Blaketon became household names and some people who already were popped up such as David Essex, Charlotte Church, Lulu and Ray Illingworth.

A familiar scene from the show Heartbeat. The parade of shops is largely unchanged now from when the show was aired between 1992 and 2010.

Even to this day, actor David Lonsdale, who played David Stockwell from 1993 to the end of the series, says people stop him in the street to talk about the episode they watched that day.

After Heartbeat he appeared in Emmerdale and Coronation Street, The Full Monty and the film version of Downton Abbey, but says Heartbeat is a “special part” of his life.

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Unusually for film crews and actors, they stayed on location as rural Goathland was isolated. It made for a family like atmosphere, especially as many actors remained in the show for years.

Brian and Susan Taylor ran Goathland Post Office which was featured many times in Heartbeat episodes. They are set to retire this month but will stay in Goathland.

Mr Lonsdale, who lives in Southport, said: “Everybody stayed, it was very special. You had a lot of people who you knew very well to work and play with. I have moments of nostalgia about that job, I certainly do. It will always be a very special part of my life, it was a brilliant time and I enjoyed it so much.”

He puts the show’s success and popularity down to its format, cast and escapism. He added: “Its popularity is extraordinary. A lot of feel good drama over the years has been superseded by gritty stuff which is more challenging.

“The blend of comedy and drama, nostalgia, fashion and music was important. And, each episode is a story in itself for an hour. The actors stayed together for so long and that was quite extraordinary.”

Mr Lonsdale returns to Goathland each year for the Heartbeat car rally, which last year was the busiest day some businesses had had all year.

Some famous cast faces including Derek Fowlds, Nick Berry and Bill Maynard as well as Tricia Penrose.

Brian and Susan Taylor have run Goathland post office for years and feared when filming stopped that tourism and local business would suffer but their fears proved to be unfounded. Goathland PO still sells postcards, fridge magnets, mugs, tea-towels and memorabilia to customers as far afield as Denmark, Sweden Australia and Norway.

Mr Taylor said: “I thought it would drop off a cliff but it didn’t, we even had a recession, but Heartbeat was still selling. It was great for us. It created a lot of employment with holiday cottages and BnBs because the cast wanted accommodation. We have been privileged to be here when they were.”

The real-life owners of the garage in Goathland village which was used as a location for filming.
Heartbeat transformed the rural village of Goathland in the heart of the North York Moors into a tourist destination.