Cavaliers and Roundheads BBC drama



Plenty of action by the looks of this Television drama.

The Splendid Spur


ABOVE: Patrick Troughton in a scene from  ‘The Splendid Spur’ – that is a very young looking Michael Balfour at top of the stairs – top right.


A wealth of television swashbuckling adventures were produced by BBC Television, based on ‘classic’ works, and presented usually in six weekly  episodes, and more often than not  transmitted live.

A good example was  Robin Hood (BBC, 1953), with Patrick Troughton as Robin then he was also  in Clementina (BBC, 1954), about the stirring 18th century adventurer Charles Wogan, and again in The Splendid Spur (BBC, 1960); set during the English Civil War.


I do remember him playing Chevalier Wogan in Clementina – and in one of the episodes he captured a rival as the potential killer tried to enter the top window of a hostelry where a number of visitors had disappeared and the pub / dwelling did not have a name.   Chevalier intercepted the intruder as this man climbed up emerged the outer wall, and stabbed his fingers to the pub sign and he said – that’s  name for the pub ‘The Mark of the Five Red Fingers’ – I thought that the episode was called that but it seems not, so I am not at all sure of  which episode it appeared in.

Another one was Lorna Doone which came later

Three of the greatest storytellers of historical adventure – Sir Walter Scott, Alexandre Dumas and Robert Louis Stevenson – were the most handsomely produced  by the BBC. Scott’s 18th century north of the border adventures, Redgauntlet (BBC, 1959) and Rob Roy (BBC, 1961), captured perfectly the essence of the outlaw hero. The development of the (literary) swashbuckler structure set by Scott was further enhanced by the works of Alexandre Dumas (père), beginning with adaptations of The Three Musketeers (BBC, 1954; 1966-67) and Further Adventures of the Musketeers (BBC, 1967), supplemented by The Black Tulip (BBC, 1956) and The Count of Monte Cristo (BBC, 1964).

I do also remember a good version of ‘Heidi’ with small and effective mountain sets in the Studio.

Inevitably, it was the prolific swashbuckling romances of Robert Louis Stevenson that received the most BBC attention. These adventures ranged from the pirates of Treasure Island (BBC, 1951) and the Wars of the Roses with The Black Arrow (BBC, 1951; 1958) to the Jacobean Rebellion background of Kidnapped BBC, 1952  Patrick Troughton played Alan Breck here and again in 1956,  and The Master of Ballantrae (BBC, 1962).

For its time, the swashbuckler was a colourful addition to the early evening TV schedules.

Patrick Troughton also had a role in ‘The Black Knight’ in 1954 with Alan Ladd and Patricia Medina – made in England


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