The Trumpton Fire Brigade

A children’s programme first shown on BBC TV in 1967 was known for the antics of its Fire Brigade, which never put out a fire.

Trumpton was the second series in the Trumptonshire Trilogy, which included Camberwick Green, Trumpton, and Chigley. Narrated by the actor and presenter Brian Cant, it was scripted by Alison Prince and animated using stop motion (also known as stop frame). This is a technique dating back to 1897 in which objects are moved in small increments between individually photographed frames, creating the illusion of movement when played as a continuous sequence.

The imaginary town of Trumpton in the county of Trumptonshire had a town hall with a clock tower and a fine market square in the middle of which stood a statue of Queen Victoria. There was also a rather nice park with a bandstand on which the Trumpton Fire Brigade would play at the end of the programme.

Each episode began with a shot of Trumpton Town Hall Clock: “Telling the time, steadily, sensibly; never too quickly, never too slowly.” The townsfolk then went about their daily business: the Mayor, Mr Troop the Town Clerk, Chippy Minton the carpenter and his apprentice son Nibbs, Mrs Cobbit the florist, Miss Lovelace the milliner and her trio of Pekingese dogs (Mitzi, Daphne and Lulu), and Mr Platt the clockmaker.

Trumpton(1)The Trumpton Fire Brigade was always ready for action, but here lay a source of confusion. Were its members Hugh, Pugh, Barney, McGrew, Cutherbert, Dibble and Grub – seven in all? No, it seems that Captain Flack’s roll-call, recited in all but one episode, was Pugh, Pugh, Barney McGrew, Cuthbert, Dibble, and Grub – only numbering six. Pugh and Pugh are twins, Barney McGrew is one person, and Captain Flack counts for nought.

The firemen’s names were thought up by scriptwriter Alison Prince. Her original list had just one Pugh, but composer and guitarist Freddie Phillips, who wrote the music for the Trumpton Trilogy, suggested adding a second Pugh to improve the rhythm.

Trumpton(2)The Trumpton Fire Brigade was regularly called out to attend some emergency or other (mostly fairly trivial matters), but to Captain Flack’s annoyance never an actual fire. The sole reason for this was the impossibility of animating fire, water and smoke in stop motion. However, after “Right men, action stations!”, that didn’t prevent the Fire Brigade from absent-mindedly getting out the fire hose and being summarily rebuked by Captain Flack. “No, not the hose!”

In 2012 the Trumpton Trilogy was digitally restored following discovery of reels buried deep in its creator’s attic. The reels were taken to BBC studios and post-production where the footage, frame by frame, was meticulously cleaned, scanned, and digitally restored.

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One comment on “The Trumpton Fire Brigade

  1. Randy says:

    This reminds me of the Maritime fire department (I think it was in Halifax), where the fire hall burned down on Christmas eve. The fire started and they couldn’t get the fire engines out to fight the fire!

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