Open All Hours

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For the album by The Hamsters, see Open All Hours (album).
Open All Hours
1976 title card. The series title appears over an aerial shot of the corner shop.
Genre Sitcom
Created by Roy Clarke
Directed by Sydney Lotterby
Theme music composer Joseph Ascher
Opening theme "Alice, Where Art Thou?"
Ending theme "Alice, Where Art Thou?"
Composer(s) Max Harris
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of series 4
No. of episodes 26 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s) James Gilbert
(pilot episode)
Producer(s) Sydney Lotterby
(1973, 1976–1985)
Location(s) England
Running time 30 minutes
Original network
  • BBC Two (1973 & 1976)
  • BBC One (1981-1985)
Picture format PAL (576i) (1973–1985)
Audio format Mono
Original release 25 March 1973 (1973-03-25) – 6 October 1985 (1985-10-06)
Followed by Still Open All Hours
Related shows Seven of One
External links
Open All Hours at BBC Comedy

Open All Hours is a BBC television sitcom created and written by Roy Clarke for the BBC. It ran for 26 episodes in four series, which premiered in 1976, 1981, 1982 and 1985. The programme developed from a television pilot broadcast in Ronnie Barker's comedy anthology series, Seven of One (1973). Open All Hours ranked eighth in the 2004 Britain's Best Sitcom poll.[1] A sequel, entitled Still Open All Hours, was created in 2013.


The setting is a small grocer's shop in Balby, a suburb of Doncaster in South Yorkshire. The owner, Arkwright (Ronnie Barker), is a middle-aged miser with a stammer and a knack for selling. His nephew Granville (David Jason) is his put-upon errand boy, who blames his work schedule for his lacklustre social life.

Across the road lives Nurse Gladys Emmanuel (Lynda Baron), occupied by her professional rounds, and her elderly mother. Arkwright longs to marry her, but she resists his persistent pressures. Though short-tempered with Arkwright, she is concerned for his and Granville's welfare.


Main article: Arkwright

Arkwright is a pragmatic, miserly man with old-fashioned values, whose world seems to stop at his shop door, except for his uncontrollable lust for Nurse Gladys Emmanuel, which may prompt him on occasion to wander across the road, usually with a ladder, to gain access to her bedroom window. Arkwright is a devious, and mildly dishonest character, who has many crafty tricks to try to persuade a customer to leave his shop having bought at least one thing, and will avoid spending his own money at all costs. He is also very conservative about his savings, keeping some in his pocket wrapped in a fine gold chain, and some in an old, battered Oxo tin that he hides under the kitchen sink. This includes, or so he claims, coins from before 1922, when they were "solid silver".


Main article: Granville

Granville is the son of Arkwright's sister. She died a single mother when Granville was very young, leaving Arkwright to bring up the boy. Arkwright's jokes imply that his sister was promiscuous; he speculates that Granville's father is Hungarian, and was forbidden to marry Granville's mother because she was English. He is often referred to as a "youth" or "young lad", even though Granville is over 35.

Granville is shy and awkward, but kind. His priorities differ from those of his uncle. He always feels that life is passing him by. Occasionally, people from Granville's past come into the shop. To Granville, who is ever saddled with his shop duties and bearing his uncle's belittling, their lives seem richer and more fulfilling.

When Granville has a fling with the milk woman (played by Barbara Flynn), his uncle is unsupportive.

Theme tune[edit]

The show's theme tune is a song called "Alice, Where Art Thou?", written by Joseph Ascher. It was arranged for brass band and performed by Max Harris, who also wrote the incidental music for the programme.[2][3]

Series development[edit]

The shop is based on a little store called L E Riddiford in Thornbury, South Gloucestershire. Roy Clarke visited this small town whilst travelling around the South West and was said to have fallen in love with the shop layout and its owner, Len Riddiford. This shop is referenced in numerous Open All Hours episodes by Arkwright.

Ronnie Barker proposed that Arkwright should have a stammer, and this was written into the character. Barker also co-created the premise of the dangerous till. In the series, the shop's antiquated till has a drawer that tends to snap shut suddenly. Even though this terrifies Granville and Arkwright, Arkwright leaves it to avoid the cost of buying a replacement, and because he believes it discourages burglars.


At the time of the programme's airing, it was widely known[by whom?] that some viewers objected to the show's reliance on a speech impediment for some of its laughs[citation needed]. Even so, Ronnie Barker's character was so amiable and the humour good-natured enough that most deemed it an unmalicious portrayal. Barker also notes in his autobiography "It's Hello from Him" that he received a letter which began "We are a family of stutterers...", that made his heart sink. However, the writer went on to praise his portrayal and added that the whole family found the character hilarious.

Filming location[edit]

The exterior shots were recorded on Lister Avenue in Balby, a suburb of Doncaster; the shop itself was a hairdresser's salon, which closed for a Summer break each year in order to allow filming by the BBC. It remains a hairdresser's salon. The same location was used for the sequel series Still Open All Hours. The pilot episode (featured in the series Seven of One) used a shop front on the western intersection of Drayton Avenue and Manor Road, Ealing, London for exterior filming.

In the first series, Gladys Emmanuel's street address is 34 Lister Avenue, Balby, Doncaster, South Yorkshire (although the number changes to number 32 in the second series).

The local council considered demolishing the shop used in Open All Hours. A fan created a web site to garner support for preserving it. The shop was to be auctioned in Leeds on 24 November 2008, and was expected to fetch between £120,000 and £130,000; however, all bids fell short of the reserve price.[4][5][6]

Three years earlier, a different sort of auction commemorated the programme. The BBC donated, to the British Stammering Association, two of the false moustaches worn by Ronnie Barker in the series. The BSA auctioned the moustaches at their London conference in September 2005 (shortly before Barker's death).

Recurring characters[edit]

Nurse Gladys Emmanuel, Arkwright and Granville
Character Pilot Series 1 Series 2 Series 3 Series 4
Ronnie Barker
David Jason
Nurse Gladys Emmanuel
Sheila Brennan
Lynda Baron
The Milk Woman
Barbara Flynn
Mrs Delphine Featherstone
Stephanie Cole
Mrs Blewett
Kathy Staff
Maggie Ollerenshaw
Mrs Parslow
Frances Cox
Tom Mennard
Mrs Ellis
Barbara Keogh
Sue Race
Gordon Stackpool
Teddy Turner
Alan Starkey
Helen Cotterill
Mrs Bickerdyke
Sandra Voe
Mrs Scully
Yootha Joyce
Mrs Tattersall
Paula Tilbrook
Bread Man
David Valla
John Challis
Bert Gaunt



Two books related to the progamme have been released in the UK. One was written by Graham McCann and published by BBC Books in October 2014 and the other one, a 'novelisation' based on scripts for the first series, was written by Christine Sparks and was published by BBC Books.

  • Open All Hours

This was published in February 1981 which is based on the original progamme. Sparks, Christine (February 1981). Open All Hours:[Papercover]. BBC Books. ISBN 0563179244. [7]

  • Still Open All Hours: The Story of a Classic Comedy

This was published on October 30, 2014. McCann, Graham (30 October 2014). Still Open All Hours: The Story of a Classic Comedy [Hardcover]. BBC Books. ISBN 1849908869. [8]

DVD releases[edit]

All four series have been released in Regions 2 and 4, both individually and in box sets. Region 1 has released the box set but the series have not been released individually. In Australia, the BBC with Roadshow released "Series One: Episodes 1–3 Comedy Bites" in 2010.

DVD Title Discs Year Ep. No, DVD releases Notes
Region 1 Region 2 Region 4
Complete Series 1 1 1973 and 1976 7 30 September 2002 1 April 2003 Includes the 1973 pilot
Complete Series 2 1 1981 7 29 September 2003 3 December 2003
Complete Series 3 1 1982 6 4 October 2004 2 March 2005
Complete Series 4 1 1985 6 31 October 2005 8 August 2006
Complete Series 14 4 1973–1985 26 9 June 2009 13 November 2006 1 August 2007 Includes the 1973 pilot

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Britain's Best Sitcom:Top Ten, URL accessed 2 December 2006.
  2. ^ "Alice, Where Art Thou?, by J. Ascher (1829–1869)". 
  3. ^ Credits at the Internet Movie Database.
  4. ^ Famous TV shop faces demolition BBC News Online. Retrieved 4 April 2007.
  5. ^ "'Open All Hours' shop to be auctioned". Digital Spy. 
  6. ^ "Open All Hours shop fails to sell". BBC. 25 November 2008. Retrieved 25 November 2008. 
  7. ^ "Open All Hours". Retrieved 2014-06-07. 
  8. ^ "Still Open All Hours: The Story of a Classic Comedy". Retrieved 2014-06-07. 

External links[edit]