An old pack of British Woodbine cigarettes, photographed at the Musée Somme 1916 of Albert (Somme), France
|Country||England, United Kingdom|
|Markets||United Kingdom, Ireland|
|Previous owners||W.D. & H.O. Wills|
Woodbine was launched in 1888 by W.D. & H.O. Wills. Noted for its strong unfiltered cigarettes, the brand was cheap and popular in the early 20th century with the working-class, as well as with army men during the First and Second World War. In the Great War, the British Army chaplain Geoffrey Studdert Kennedy MC was affectionately nicknamed "Woodbine Willie" by troops on the Western Front to whom he handed out cigarettes along with Bibles and spiritual comfort. In the 1890s, Woodbine cigarettes were offered at a margin of 19%, with a possible maximum discount of 10%. In the United Kingdom, the brand was sold at very low advertising costs and total expenditure on sales promotion for all cigarettes and tobacco brands in 1925 was only £12,500 per pound of tobacco sold.
The intricate nineteenth century packet design remained current until the mid 1960s. When Wills changed the packaging, the public hated the new look and Woodbine sales continued to drop. Those in the trade knew this rebranding as "the rape of the Woodbine pack".
A filtered version was launched in the United Kingdom in 1948, but was discontinued in 1988. Woodbines came in three different packs, 5 cigarettes, 10 cigarettes and 20 cigarettes.
In the 1960s, a few television ads were made in which Gordon Rollings played a man who did various things (such as waiting for the bus or setting up a beach chair) which would always end in misery. He then would grab a packet of Woodbines from his pocket and light one up, followed by a happy tune and a man reading the line "Light up life with a Woodbine! It's Britain's best-selling cigarette!". at the end. The ads were never played on TV however, as all television commercials for cigarettes were banned on 1 August 1965. A jingle was also made to promote Woodbine in the late 1950s or early 1960s.
In popular culture
- Woodbines were the oft-mentioned cigarette of choice for Tristan Farnon (Brian Sinclair (veterinary surgeon)), the younger of the two veterinary brothers in James Herriot's semi-autobiographical All Creatures Great and Small (franchise) series.
- Legendary North East England comedian Bobby Thompson always smoked Woodbines on stage and also mentioned them frequently in his act.
- Jennifer Paterson, celebrity chef of the "Two Fat Ladies", was known to smoke Woodbine and is seen doing so in several episodes of the show. Between them, the Two Fat Ladies caused a culinary and cultural revolution, attracting 70 million viewers worldwide with their TV show, which Clarissa used to boast was the Queen Mother’s favourite viewing. 
- Van Morrison, a Northern Irish singer-songwriter, mentions buying Woodbines in the song Cleaning Windows ("Bought five Woodbines at the shop on the corner // And went straight back to work") as a pictorial description of the main character of the song, who is a simple working man.
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