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Grange Hill

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Grange Hill
2008 titles
Created byPhil Redmond
StarringList of Grange Hill characters
Opening theme"Chicken Man" (1978–1987, 2008)
"Chicken Man" (re-recording) (1988–1989)
"Grange Hill theme" (1990–2007)
Ending themeAs above
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original languageEnglish
No. of series31
No. of episodes601 (including 2 specials) (list of episodes)
Production locations
Camera setupMultiple camera (1978–1998)
Single camera (1999–2008)
Running time25 minutes
Production companies
Original release
Release8 February 1978 (1978-02-08) –
15 September 2008 (2008-09-15)
Tucker's Luck (1983–1985)

Grange Hill is a British children's television drama series, originally produced by the BBC and portraying life in a typical comprehensive school. The show began its run on 8 February 1978 on BBC1, and was one of the longest-running programmes on British television when it ended on 15 September 2008 after 31 series. It was created by Phil Redmond, who is also responsible for the Channel 4 dramas Brookside and Hollyoaks; other notable production team members down the years have included producer Colin Cant and script editor Anthony Minghella.

The show was cancelled in 2008, having run every year for 30 years. It was felt by the BBC that the series had run its course.[1]


The drama was centred on the fictional comprehensive school of Grange Hill in the equally fictitious North London borough of Northam.[2][3][4] As well as dealing with school-related issues such as bullying, learning difficulties, teacher-pupil relationships and conflicts, Grange Hill "broke new ground over the years, with the kind of hard-hitting storylines not usually seen in children's dramas",[3] such as racism, drugs (e.g. Zammo McGuire's heroin addiction, LSD), teenage pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, homosexuality, knife crime, homelessness, rape/sexual assault, mental illness (e.g. bipolar disorder), divorce, cancer (e.g. leukaemia), gun crime, child abuse, alcoholism and death.[5][6] The series was originally to have been called Grange Park, which would go on to be used as the name of the school in another Redmond creation, the Channel 4 soap opera Brookside (1982–2003). Grange Park is an area of St. Helens, Merseyside, where Redmond once lived.

Series history[edit]

Grange Hill was originally conceived by ATV writer Phil Redmond, who first approached various television companies with the idea in 1975, unsuccessfully. In 1976, he managed to sell the idea to the BBC, and the children's drama executive Anna Home commissioned an initial series of nine episodes in a trial run, the first being broadcast on 8 February 1978.[7][8]

From the start, the series sparked controversy over its realistic, gritty portrayal of school life, which differed from the idealised portrayals of earlier school dramas. Redmond has said that he was not fully able to start pushing the boundaries until later series.[9] This led to Redmond being summoned to lunch by BBC bosses and forced to agree that there would be no further series unless he toned certain elements down. Grange Hill's highest-profile period was undoubtedly the mid- to late 1980s. One of the most famous storylines during this time was that of Zammo McGuire (played by Lee MacDonald) and his addiction to heroin. This storyline ran over two series (1986–87) and focused on Zammo's descent into drugs and how it strained his relationship with girlfriend Jackie and friend Kevin. Among the show's other favourite characters during this period were Gonch and Hollo, played by John Holmes (also credited as John McMahon) and Bradley Sheppard. During his time at the school (1985–89) Gonch took part in many moneymaking schemes, most of which were unsuccessful. There was a comedic element to the duo's relationship that worked well with viewers. Script editor Anthony Minghella, who worked on the series for several years during the 1980s, later won an Academy Award for Best Director for the film The English Patient in 1996.

During the 1990s, Grange Hill did not receive the same media attention that it had had just a few years before. The teachers were now equals in the narrative, with their personal lives taking up almost as much time as those of the pupils. In 1994, two characters were introduced with disabilities: Denny Roberts (Lisa Hammond), who had dwarfism, and Rachel Burns (Francesca Martinez), who had cerebral palsy. Both characters were presented as "one of the gang" and hated being accorded any special treatment because of their circumstances. This prompted the BFI's 2002 publication The Hill And Beyond to comment that Grange Hill had perhaps become politically correct.[10]

Beginning on 4 April 1993, in celebration of the programme's 15th anniversary, the first fifteen series of Grange Hill were repeated during Children's BBC's Sunday (and later, Saturday) morning slots on BBC1 and BBC2. The repeats ended with Series 16 in 1999. In the 1990s Grange Hill was repeated in full on digital satellite and cable channel UK Gold, which broadcast the late 1970s and early 80s episodes of the show. In 1998, it reappeared on sister channel UK Gold Classics, which was a digital-only channel showing programmes previously aired on UK Gold, and Grange Hill was part of its schedule. The channel lasted only six months, however, before becoming UK Gold 2 in April 1999. Interest in Grange Hill was renewed in the late 1990s and the series celebrated its 20th anniversary with the introduction of sinister Scottish bully Sean Pearce (Iain Robertson), who carried a knife and slashed the face of a classmate. Cast member Laura Sadler, who was heavily involved in this storyline, died after falling out of a building in June 2003; four years earlier her Grange Hill character Judi Jeffreys had been killed after slipping and falling out of the window of a burning storeroom in the school.

By 2001, the series was almost entirely issue-led and the decision to tackle the subject of rape upset some parents. But when Phil Redmond took over production of Grange Hill in 2003, his plan was to get the show back to its roots and the issues were toned down as Redmond skewed the show towards a younger audience.

Grange Hill returned on 14 April 2008 with its final series, including a return of the original theme music. Series 31 returned to BBC1 after the 2007 series was shown exclusively on the CBBC Channel.[1]

In 2019, Redmond spoke about possibly reviving the show and dealing with current social issues.[11]


In early 2006, it was announced that a film of Grange Hill was to be released in late 2007 focusing on the lives of former pupils.[12] There was silence on the project for 15 years, until it was announced in January 2022 that Redmond had written the script and was looking to start casting.[13]

Production history[edit]

For its first 25 years Grange Hill was produced in-house by the BBC, then the show was made independently for the corporation by Mersey TV, the production house founded by Redmond (and later renamed as Lime Pictures), hence the reason for the production move.

Television Centre years: 1978–1985[edit]

Location external and some interior scenes in Grange Hill were originally filmed at real schools in London. The first of these was Kingsbury High School in North West London, which was used as the Grange Hill setting for the first two series. For series 3 (1980) exterior filming moved to Willesden High School (now Capital City Academy) in Willesden Green, which was similar in looks to Kingsbury, and was also situated in a residential area of the capital. In 1981, Grange Hill moved to Holborn College (now Fulham Preparatory School) in Greyhound Road, Hammersmith. This school looked very different from the two that had been used previously, and it was also in a built-up area of London. Holborn College was the longest serving of the "real schools", remaining on screen until 1985. Up to and including 1985, interior scenes were shot at the BBC Television Centre in London.

Elstree years: 1985–2002[edit]

In 1985, production shifted to the former ATV studios in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire. The BBC had purchased the studio complex the previous year.[14] The studios, now known as BBC Elstree Centre, were the location for some exterior filming from Series 8 on the closed Elstree set. A 1960s office block, Neptune House in the facility now doubled as Hill's "lower school".

The change was explained on screen with an elaborate storyline whereby Grange Hill merged with rival schools Brookdale and Rodney Bennett to form a new school, Grange Hill. In Series 8 the merger had taken place and Grange Hill operated as a split-site school; the former Rodney Bennett building (Neptune House) being the lower school and the original Grange Hill building (still Holborn College) the upper school.

In series 9, the Upper School building was condemned after a fire, allowing production of Grange Hill to fully move to Elstree including studio work. Grange Hill was, at this time, made as an outside broadcast in the same way as its stablemate, EastEnders. New producer Diana Kyle switched filming to a single camera format from 1999 onwards.

In 1990, Neptune House was replaced with a different building on the same site. This building remained in use until 2002, with cosmetic modifications along the way.[15] However, as the 1990s progressed more use was made of real schools including the Nicholas Hawksmoor School and Bushey Meads School, and St Audrey's School in Hatfield.

Liverpool years: 2003–2008[edit]

Early in 2002, it was announced that Grange Hill creator Phil Redmond had signed a deal for his production company Mersey TV to produce the next three series of the programme. Production moved to Mersey TV's studios in Childwall, Liverpool from Series 26 onwards and for the first time in some years the appearance of Grange Hill School itself would change radically. On screen an explosion ripped through the school at the end of Series 25; during Series 26 tarpaulins covered most of the new "school" to mask the "fire damage".[16][17]

Phil Redmond originally wanted children from all over the country to participate in the relaunched Grange Hill, having a variety of regional accents in the series as opposed to just the London area voices which had become associated with the programme; however, almost all new characters were exclusively cast from the north-west of England due to the logistics of the child employment laws.

Real schools in the locality were also used including Croxteth Comprehensive, Holly Lodge Girls' School and St Hilda's C of E High School in Liverpool.[18] In 2005, the former Brookside Parade set at Mersey TV was redeveloped to benefit Grange Hill and the new "Creative Learning Centre" subsequently became an integral part of the show. After Grange Hill ended in 2008, the CLC exterior set has now been turned into a skateboard park set for Hollyoaks while the former Grange Hill school frontage has become a permanent exterior for Hollyoaks High.

"The Grange"[edit]

In 2007, BBC Children's ordered major changes to Grange Hill so that it fitted in with the new requirement that all programmes under the CBBC banner must appeal to an audience age 12 and under – younger than the traditional age group for Grange Hill, which was the same as or slightly younger than the secondary school characters. Under a deal signed in 2005, Lime Pictures was contracted to produce Grange Hill until 2008, so changes began to be made.

For series 31, Lime Pictures creative director Tony Wood set about the task of meeting CBBC's new requirements. He shifted much of the action away from general school life to "The Grange", the school's multimedia learning centre, which was given a radical makeover and became as much a "hang out" as a learning resource. The emphasis was now on younger characters with a group of Year 6 pupils regularly coming to use The Grange from primary school; storylines were much lighter and fantasy sequences were introduced. One episode, "Boarderman", saw a Year 7 pupil become a masked skateboarding superhero campaigning for an end to the school's ban on skateboarding. In another, "Veggin' out", a girl and her classmates smuggled animals from a local petting farm into school, believing they were destined for slaughter.

The Observer reported on 13 January 2008 that the BBC's intention was to shift the action away from Grange Hill School and into The Grange completely.[19] Phil Redmond responded in the same article by calling for Grange Hill to be scrapped, saying the programme had been "robbed of its original purpose". Redmond had been planning a hard-hitting storyline to return Grange Hill to its gritty origins in series 31, and although he signed off the changes he believed it wasn't his show any more.


On 6 February 2008, the BBC announced Grange Hill was to be axed after exactly 30 years. The announcement was made by CBBC controller Anne Gilchrist just two days before the show's official 30th birthday.[20] Grange Hill ended on Monday 15 September 2008.

In 2006, the BBC had announced big plans for the show's 30th birthday including special programming on BBC2, possible repeats and a lavish reunion of former stars during 2008.[21] But in the event, none of these celebrations happened aside from a special BBC Radio 4 programme Grange Hill: Soap Pioneer, hosted by fan and comedian Robin Ince, broadcast on 4 September 2008.[22] The last episode of Grange Hill was watched by 500,000 viewers.

Seven months later, Ashes to Ashes paid homage to the series in its episode 2.1 (airing 20 April 2009). In that episode, the time-travelling protagonist, DI Alex Drake, sees her daughter Molly incorporated into an episode of Grange Hill on the evening of 3 or 5 April 1982 [calendar indicates 3 April; the news report was from 5 April]. Molly (in new footage) tells headmistress Bridget McClusky (appearing as archival footage and Gwyneth Powell's newly recorded audio) that she and Tucker got into a fight when Tucker said her mother Alex was dead.

Spin-offs and merchandise[edit]

The show spawned a spin-off called Tucker's Luck (1983–1985), which ran for three series starring Todd Carty. The three series saw the two lead characters (Tucker and Alan) finding work. The 1986 cast released Grange Hill: The Album, with two singles: "Just Say No" (tying in with a character's heroin addiction) and "You Know the Teacher (Smash Head)". The album was re-released on CD on 12 November 2007, as part of the BBC's 30th Anniversary celebrations.

On New Year's Day 1988, a documentary titled Behind The Scenes...At Grange Hill aired, presented by Lee MacDonald. The documentary featured: auditions, rehearsals and filming for series 11, the child actors opinions on being tutored and chaperoned and what impact being in Grange Hill had on their schooling, as well as dealing with fame.

In 1989, a musical play titled Tucker's Return based on the series was staged at Queen's Theatre, Hornchurch.[23] Starring Todd Carty who, as Tucker, now returned to Grange Hill as a PE teacher, it also featured several stars of the show both from Tucker's original run, and of the then-current series circa 1989.

In 2005, Justin Lee Collins reunited some of the cast members from the 1980s in the documentary Bring Back...Grange Hill.

Title sequence and theme music[edit]

From the start of the series to 1989, the title sequence was in a comic book style and used "Chicken Man" by Alan Hawkshaw as the theme tune.[24] Grange Hill was the first programme to use it as a theme followed by the popular quiz show Give Us a Clue, whose makers used it from 1979 to 1982, despite it already being played on Grange Hill. Give Us a Clue used a less dynamic custom arrangement more in keeping with the style of light entertainment programming.

A new title sequence was introduced in 1988, along with an updated recording of Chicken Man.

In 1990 a new title sequence was introduced which showed pupils and staff travelling into school in a slightly grainy CCTV style.[25] This was accompanied by a new, more contemporary-sounding theme written for the series by Peter Moss. Moss had previously written some special hip-hop music for a storyline in Series 11 of Grange Hill.

In 1994 new titles were introduced showing pupils taking part various school subjects such as music, chemistry, PE and Food Technology,[26] and the end theme was re-edited and re-recorded to reduce its length to just 35 seconds, the first edit in 4 years of the theme. This removed some of the various background elements and sharpened the end notes considerably. However, during this period in particular (1995–2000) several versions were used, with a variety of slightly longer edits creating different lead outs depending on the mood and theme of the episode.

In 2001 a more colourful sequence was introduced, this was due to Grange Hill being broadcast in widescreen for the first time, the opening theme had been cut slightly shorter for the first time since 1990.

In 2003 the titles once again changed, this was to reflect on the move to Liverpool as the previous titles featured shots of the old school building (based In Elstree), once again the titles & the theme tune had been shortened down.

In 2004 the titles changed once again. These were in the style of a video game, and the Moss theme tune had been edited down to around 12 seconds by this point. This was the first time since 1989 that live action footage was not used.

For the 30th anniversary, and what turned out to be the final series, an abbreviated edit of the original version of "Chicken Man" was reinstated as the main theme, and, for the final time, the titles had changed once again.

The last four notes of the original theme song were heard when Brookside, one of Phil Redmond's other TV series, aired its final episode in November 2003.

Head teachers[edit]

Character Actor/Actress Duration
Mr E. Starling
Mr Llewellyn
Mrs Bridget McClusky
1981–1984, 1986–1991
Mr C. J. Humphries
Dennis Edwards
Mrs Angela Keele
Jenny Howe
Mr Alistair H. McNab
Never seen
Mr Peter Robson
Mrs S. Bassinger
Miss Gayle

Mr Starling appeared only once during Series One, and his initial, E., was shown underneath the name of the school in the first episode: the authority figure most regularly seen during this time was the Head of First Year, Mrs Monroe (Dorothea Philips). Mr Llewellyn did not appear on screen during the 1980 series: the day-to-day running of the school was left to the highly competent but much put-upon deputy head Mr Keating (Robert Hartley), who was also deputy head under Mrs McClusky up to and including Series 7 in 1984. Similarly, Mr McNab was never seen at all during the mid-1990s; the most senior authority figure being Mr Robson who at this point was deputy head. Mr Robson himself did not appear on screen during Series 27, even though he was still headmaster for the early part of the series. Mrs McClusky, perhaps Grange Hill's best known head teacher, was demoted to deputy head temporarily in 1985 having had to reapply, unsuccessfully, for her post following the merger of Grange Hill with Brookdale and Rodney Bennett. When the new head, Mr Humphries, was killed in a road accident the following year, Mrs McClusky was again acting head and her permanent headship was later confirmed.

The final headmistress of Grange Hill was Miss Gayle, introduced as deputy head in the 2007 series although she did not appear in Series 31.



During the 1980s, when Grange Hill merchandising was at its height and the series arguably at its most popular, a number of annuals and novels were published.

Eight annuals were published from 1981 to 1988.[27]

Comic strip adventures appeared in the short-lived BEEB magazine, which portrayed new stories, and the longer running Fast forward magazine which loosely followed the early 90s series, drawn by Nigel Parkinson.[28] Additional comic strips occurred in School Fun and in the Radio Times. Grange Hill had its own dedicated magazine, but this only lasted two issues and a holiday special.

There were 14 short story books and novels, some of which were written or co-written by series creator Phil Redmond, but which also involved authors such as Robert Leeson and Jan Needle. Below is a full list of Grange Hill short story books and novels:

  1. Grange Hill Stories, by Phil Redmond. First published by the BBC in 1979. Short stories.
  2. Grange Hill Rules OK?, by Robert Leeson. Published by Fontana Lions in 1980. The first Grange Hill novel.
  3. Grange Hill Goes Wild, by Robert Leeson. Published by Fontana Lions in 1980. Novel
  4. Grange Hill for Sale by Robert Leeson. Published by Fontana Lions in 1981. Novel
  5. Tucker and Co., by Phil Redmond. Published by Fontana Lions in 1982. Novel
  6. Grange Hill Home and Away by Robert Leeson. Published by Fontana Lions in 1982. Novel
  7. Great Days at Grange Hill, by Jan Needle. Published by Fontana Lions in 1984. Short stories that form a sort of prequel to Grange Hill Stories.
  8. Grange Hill After Hours, by Phil Redmond. Published by Magnet in 1986. Novel
  9. Grange Hill Graffiti, by Phil Redmond. Published by Magnet in 1986. Novel
  10. Grange Hill on the Run, by Phil Redmond. Published by Magnet in 1986. Novel
  11. Grange Hill Heroes, by Phil Redmond and David Angus. Published by Magnet in 1987. Novel
  12. Grange Hill Rebels, by Phil Redmond and David Angus. Published by Magnet in 1987. Novel
  13. Grange Hill Partners, by Phil Redmond and David Angus. Published by Magnet in 1988. Novel
  14. Ziggy's Working Holiday, by Phil Redmond and Margaret Simpson. Published by Magnet in 1988. Novel

Not in Front of the Children, by Andy Martin, published by DNA in 2015, is an academic study of Grange Hill from Series 1 to the end of Series 16, including the 2 Christmas episodes. It also includes a brief study of the history of children's TV series and serials from 1960 to 1990.

Video game[edit]

In 1987 a video game was released for the Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, and Amstrad CPC.[29]

A text adventure based on the series was written in 1985 for the BBC Micro and several other systems,. It was mentioned as "upcoming' in several home computer magazines of the time, was not released.[citation needed]

Home media[edit]

Highlights of the first and second series were released on VHS and laserdisc in the early 1980s. Both series were edited to remove some storylines and thereby shorten running times, given the duration of early videocassettes & Laserdiscs. The cover art for series 1 features a cast photograph (and small photos of specific individual characters) from series 3, as some characters pictured therein do not feature in that series. The cover art for series 2 features a similarly styled front cover, but with a cast photo from the correct year.

These abridged versions of the first two series of the show were also released on Betamax and Video 2000 around the same time.

To commemorate the 30th Anniversary of Grange Hill, 2 Entertain released two DVD box sets covering the first four series which were released on 12 November 2007. They were both rated PG by the British Board of film classification. There are no subtitles, episodes are in 4:3 (the original format) and both box sets come with a booklet detailing each episode. Some episodes have been edited to remove pop music tracks that could not be cleared for DVD release, and studio scenes originally shot on video have been filmized.[30]

In 2018 the DVD rights were acquired by Eureka Entertainment. Series five and six were released on DVD on 19 November 2018. Series seven and eight including the 1981 Christmas Special were released on DVD on 11 November 2019. Series nine and ten including the 1985 Christmas Special where released on 19 October 2020. In 2021 Eureka Entertainment confirmed there will be no further series of Grange Hill released on DVD.

In January 2021, Britbox announced that the first four series of Grange Hill will be available to stream. Series 5-6 were added in July, series 7 in August, Series 8 in November 2021, Series 9 in January 2022 & Series 10 & 11 in July. Series 12 & 13 of the series were added to BritBox & ITVX in January 2023, Series 14 was added in July 2023, Series 15-23 were added in December 2023.

The 1985 Christmas Special was added to BritBox in November 2022.

DVD Title Year No. of Discs Special features No. of Episodes Release Dates DVD Distributors
Region 2 Region 4
Complete Series 12 1978–1979 5 27 12 November 2007[31] 3 December 2008 BBC
Complete Series 34 1980–1981 6 34 12 November 2007[32] 3 December 2008 BBC
Complete Series 56 1982–1983 6 36 19 November 2018[33] Eureka Entertainment (UK Release)
Complete Series 78 1984–1985 6 1981 Christmas Special 36 11 November 2019[34] Eureka Entertainment (UK Release)
Complete Series 910 1986–1987 8 1985 Christmas Special 49 19 October 2020[35] Eureka Entertainment (UK Release)


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  2. ^ "Life after Grange Hill: Where are they now". Metro. 15 September 2008. Archived from the original on 1 July 2018. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
  3. ^ a b Conlan, Tara (6 February 2008). "BBC expels Grange Hill". Guardian. Archived from the original on 6 October 2014. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
  4. ^ "Grange Hill makes Mersey debut". BBC. 28 January 2003. Archived from the original on 28 June 2022. Retrieved 18 July 2018.
  5. ^ Friedlander, Noam (9 September 2008). "The end of Grange Hill". Telegraph. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 22 July 2018.
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  9. ^ Nattrass, JJ (2 February 2018). "Grange Hill is 40 today and people are freaking out over where their childhood went". Metro. Retrieved 21 March 2024.
  10. ^ Alistair D. McGown and Mark J. Docherty The Hill And Beyond, 2002, p.115
  11. ^ "Grange Hill creator Phil Redmond says BBC show could be revived". Radio Times. Archived from the original on 7 January 2022. Retrieved 7 January 2022.
  12. ^ "'Grange Hill: The Movie' – News – Film – Time Out London". Archived from the original on 8 June 2008.
  13. ^ "Grange Hill is coming back as a movie from show's creator". Digital Spy. 5 January 2022. Archived from the original on 6 January 2022. Retrieved 6 January 2022.
  14. ^ "Chronomedia: 1984" Archived 14 February 2016 at the Wayback Machine, terramedia.co.uk
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  18. ^ "grangehillfans.co.uk". www.grangehillfans.co.uk. Archived from the original on 31 July 2009.
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  21. ^ "BBC plans 30th birthday party for Grange Hill". the Guardian. 10 February 2006. Archived from the original on 8 January 2022. Retrieved 7 January 2022.
  22. ^ "Grange Hill: Soap Pioneer". BBC Radio 4. 4 September 2008. Archived from the original on 2 August 2017. Retrieved 26 December 2020.
  23. ^ "Tucker's Return". Geoff's Grange Hill Fan Page. Archived from the original on 27 April 2019. Retrieved 7 March 2019.
  24. ^ YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J8QXjdYSrfs Archived 11 May 2019 at the Wayback Machine
  25. ^ YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBz-u7TCbwE Archived 20 March 2021 at the Wayback Machine
  26. ^ YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fjA2CqGC-PY Archived 22 September 2020 at the Wayback Machine
  27. ^ "grangehillfans.co.uk". www.grangehillfans.co.uk. Archived from the original on 20 February 2006.
  28. ^ Np (14 November 2010). "Back to School". Nigel Parkinson CARTOONS. Archived from the original on 22 November 2023. Retrieved 22 November 2023.
  29. ^ "Grange Hill for the Commodore 64, XGD.com". Archived from the original on 28 September 2011.
  30. ^ "Finally... Grange Hill season sets". zetaminor.com/roobarb – discussion of edits and picture quality. 2007. Archived from the original on 17 October 2015. Retrieved 1 July 2014.
  31. ^ "Grange Hill : Complete BBC Series 1 & 2 Box Set". amazon.co.uk. Archived from the original on 24 October 2007. Retrieved 8 September 2019.
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External links[edit]