What Children watched on TV

I have covered TV before but this time I’m looking purely at the children’s programmes I, my brother and sister watched in the very first few years of family TV. I was ten years old when we first got a television, in 1961. For several years we only had one channel – BBC1. Many people my age remember Muffin the Mule but he is not covered here simply because I never watched the programme. I have looked it up and it ran from 1946 to 1955 which was well before we had TV.

The first ones listed are the programmes made for children and shown in the slot which covered after school until the 6.00pm news or, in the case of Watch With Mother, just after lunch. The dates show the years they were shown on British TV.

Noggin the Nog  1959 – 65  Peter Firmin was inspired to create the characters by a set of 12th century Norse chess pieces – discovered on the Isle of Lewis – that he saw in the British Museum. The cartoon was written and produced by Oliver Postgate, who was also a narrator. Firmin and Postgate produced many children’s programmes for the BBC, including Pogles’ Wood, Ivor the Engine, Bagpuss and the Clangers.

Give me Ivor the Engine over any of today's TV tat - Telegraph

Captain Pugwash 1957 – 66  This was a delightful cartoon about a Pirate ship called the Black Pig and the pirates who sailed in it. They had plenty of adventures, none of which I remember now, but the theme tune and the cartoon characters I recall with great pleasure.

Captain Pugwash - Himself

Watch With Mother  1952 – 75 This was broadcast at 1:30 pm each day and comprised:

  • Picture Book – Mondays, from 1955
  • Andy Pandy – Tuesdays, from 1950
  • Flower Pot Men – Wednesdays, from 1952
  • Rag, Tag and Bobtail – Thursdays, from 1953
  • The Woodentops – Fridays, from 1955

"Flower Pot Men".jpg TheWoodentops.jpg Image

It was aimed at pre-school children but I remember it so well and how much we loved it – even though we had no TV until I was ten. I think we must have watched it in the school holidays or if we were ever home from school poorly. TV didn’t start until 4 pm when the children’s programmes started. Watch With Mother was the only daytime TV back then so it was a novelty!

Crackerjack  1956 – 84  Looking this up, I was amazed to see that it ran for nearly thirty years. I remember it being a ot of fun and that the children who were guests on it seemed to win a lot of prizes. I also remember that if they got a question wrong they got a cabbage instead.

Crackerjack! (TV series) - Wikipedia

Sketch Club  1958 – 61 We loved this programme! It was hosted by a man called Adrian Hill and he gave tips and hints on how to draw and paint. I have looked him up and found that he served in the Army in WW1 and was the first artist commissioned by the Imperial War Museum to record the conflict on the Western Front. After WW1 he worked with returning soldiers encouraging them to draw as part of their recovery. He also helped set up a scheme whereby works of art were loaned to hospitals across the country. He believed that art activities and art appreciation greatly assisted the recovery of those injured and traumatised by the war. He is credited with coining the term ‘art therapy’. I knew none of this when I watched his programme but I loved Sketch Club.

Adrian Hill

Tales of the Riverbank  1960 – 63  Everyone my age growing up in Britain in the 1950s and 60s remembers this programme, the voice of Johnny Morris and the beautiful theme tune – which I now know is Andante in C by Guiliani.

Tales of the Riverbank - 1960's BBC TV show we watched on Sundays ...

Zoo Quest  1954 – 63   This was Sir David Attenborough’s first TV programme. I remember loving it and thinking he was wonderful – he still is! I loved seeing all the different animals and I seem to remember they were often in Madagascar which I hadn’t heard of until watching Zoo Quest. Doing my research for this post I have learned that the programme was all about a team from London Zoo on a mission to find and capture animals to bring back to the zoo. Wildlife programmes are very different now with the emphasis more on observing and preserving than capturing!

Zoo Quest BBC Archive David Attenborough Zoo Quest for a Dragon David

I was going to list some of the early evening programmes we enjoyed (such as Dixon of Dock Green) but the post would be too long so I’ll cover them in a separate one.

As always, if anyone objects to the use of any of my photographs, sourced from the Internet, please contact me so that I can remove it.

7 thoughts on “What Children watched on TV

  1. Remember watch with Mother and tales of the Riverbank,also when I was a bit older a program called ( I think) the Buccaneers,anyone else remember that program 🤔

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi. I accidentally pressed publish instead of preview while I was still editing so you will have seen a few typos! I remember hearing about the Buccaneers but have no memory of it. I’ve just looked it up and it was the same era but was on ITV – which took many years to work its way into the hills of mid-Wales! Shame, as it looks like one I would have enjoyed at that age. Thanks for commenting!

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  2. A completely different set of children’s TV shows from those in the US. I enjoyed comparing similarities and differences. I got a kick out of the booby prize for getting an answer wrong on Cracker Jack: a cabbage!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was aware as I was writing it that many of my regular readers would not have heard of these programmes! I’m drafting another post now covering the early evening programmes of the sixties which we watched as slightly older children. You will definitely remember some of them which originated in the States. We got them here several years after they finished running in the US, I see now from my research. The Lone Ranger, for example, was a huge family favourite!

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  3. Enjoying the life’educations’..from the early programming..either side of The Pond. Here..i was without a tv..so was found in the barn hayloft..with my almost forbidden comics (wonder woman/Shania of the jungle)..as the anti commie political fireworks..were in..full swing. (WOMEN..in skanty costumes..fighting crime and winning???!! If not in the barn..then up a huge old walnut tree..with my chalks, or my books. My lassiesgirl..curled up..down at the foot of..the reading tree. I do remember our near neighbors..would invite us over to watch a western of some kind..but no idea now..what it was. Guessing I would have loved the informations and educations..a lot! ina

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    • Children have always been able to escape into fantasy worlds whether through traditional tales and fables, books, comics, radio, cinema or TV. Whether watching TV or reading comics in a barn, we all had other worlds to escape into. Thanks for contributing. I love reading your memories! Meryl

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