The Flaxton Boys DVD boxset, series 1-4 – Review
By Karl Hornsey
It’s easy to say these days that ‘they don’t make them like they used to’ and hark back to a simpler time in TV, through nostalgic rose-tinted glasses at series that bear little resemblance now to our memories of then. But that’s certainly the case with this release of children’s drama The Flaxton Boys, which was first aired on ITV in 1969, running for four series before ending in 1973. It’s certainly something that falls under the category of ‘forgotten gem’, and was somewhat innovative in setting each of the four series in a different decade (between the 1850s and the 1940s) with common threads, characters and actors running through the series.
The Flaxton Boys is also of greater interest due to it being set in the West Riding of Yorkshire, with principal filming taking place at Ripley Castle, just north of Harrogate, and the series was such a success that the location became inundated with tourists wishing to see ‘Flaxton Hall’ in the flesh. Each of the series takes its central character from the Flaxton clan, focusing on one of the children on the cusp of their early teens, essentially making them tales of ‘derring do’ as they get up to all manner of adventures in the Yorkshire countryside, which also explains why the series occupied the popular Sunday late afternoon/early evening slot in the schedules.
As for the cast, there’s the usual mixed bag of familiar names and faces that leave you sitting there, pointing at the screen saying “ah it’s him out of that thing we watched”, and so on. The first series features Bradford-born Peter Firth of Equus and Spook fame, David ‘Dai’ Bradley from Barnsley, who starred so memorably in Kes is one of the leads in the second series, while Gorden Kaye and Murray Melvin, who died only recently, are other notable faces to appear in smaller roles later on.
But perhaps the most fascinating thing about The Flaxton Boys, that brings us back to the point that ‘they don’t make them like they used to’, is how the series even got to air. It really was simply a case of ITV’s director of programming Donald Baverstock asking a young and upcoming writer and producer in the pub one day to come up with a script for a historical children’s drama that he’d boasted existed. And the name of that writer and producer? Well, that would be one Sid Waddell, who went on to achieve iconic fame as a darts commentator and writer of another much-cherished children’s favourite, Jossie’s Giants. After that chance meeting the rest, as they say, is history.
‘The Flaxton Boys’ DVD box set is out now