Village pub’s link to Radio 4’s The Archers may save it from closure

The Bull Inn, Rippingale. 867D
The Bull Inn, Rippingale. 867D
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A village pub’s future could be saved after research showed it was one of the inspirations for the world’s longest running radio soap opera.

The Bull at Rippingale – which is up for sale – is thought to be the pub of the same name which features in The Archers and the programme, which is set in the fictional Ambridge, is believed to be based around the local farming community.

Tomorrow (Saturday), The Bull will host a special afternoon of events celebrating the popular Radio Four show and its links with the village.

A sold-out three-course meal for 40 based on meals enjoyed by the characters will be followed by a presentation by villager Jim Latham, who unearthed the show’s connection with Rippingale.

He said: “The village pub has been up for sale for some time and this link with The Archers could be important in saving it.

“We will have to do more of these special days and we already have plans to do another one in the new year.”

The link with Rippingale is believed to date back to 1946 when radio producer Godfrey Baseley visited the village to make an agricultural programme.

He interviewed local farmer Henry Burtt and his son Stephen and when Mr Baseley went on to edit the Archers he is thought to have based the main characters, Dan Archer and son Phil, on the pair.

The BBC organised a meeting for members of the farming community in Birmingham two years later and Mr Burtt spoke out there about the the need for a programme based around ‘a farming Dick Barton’ – the most popular radio show at the time about the dramatic life of a special agent.

The Archers aired for the first time, on what was the BBC Midlands Home Service, in 1950 and continues to attract audiences of more than five million listeners every week.

The village of Inkberrow, in Worcestershire, and The Old Bull pub there has also claimed it was the inspiration for the show.

But Mr Latham has a transcript of the farming programme Mr Baseley made after he visited Rippingale and he says this is proof of the village link with the radio soap.

“When you read the transcript of the interviews with Henry and Stephen Burtt there is absolutely no question that they were the inspiration for Dan and Phil Archer,” he added.

Mine hosts at The Bull, Eben and Sue Atkinson, are retiring and are hoping a buyer will be attracted by the pub’s links to The Archers.

On Saturday, Sue will prepare for the food for the special day, based on a dish ordered by Mr Baseley when he visited the village and a wartime vegetable casserole, with starters and sweets from some of The Archers’ cook books.

She said: “There is obviously lots of interest in it because we sold out all 40 seats a while ago and some people are coming from far afield.

“It’s nice to think that The Bull at Ambridge was based on our pub and the village was based on our farming community.

“Mr Burtt was a very clever bloke who really knew about farming and his great-grandson, Stephen, lives in the village and still farms the same farm as his great-grandfather.”

Archers Day at Rippingale will conclude with Mr Latham’s presentation, which will include video clips of Norman Painting, who played Phil Archer for nearly 60 years, telling fascinating behind-the-scenes stories including about the death of Grace Archer in 1956.

* For more information on tomorrow’s event, or to book, call 01778 440054.