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Heartbeat - the TV series

What is Heartbeat?

Cutting about the new series of Heartbeat from Woman magazine

Heartbeat was a long-running and highly popular TV series produced originally by Yorkshire Television, and subsequently by ITV, in the UK: since its first screening on Friday 10th April 1992, the show ran to over 350 hour-long episodes, in 18 series, of which the last was broadcast on Sunday 12th September 2010. Its enduring popularity was demonstrated yet again by a recent poll in the Dalesman magazine. Readers were asked to vote for their favourite programme made or set in Yorkshire. More than 3,000 votes were cast. Rhoda Walker (Mrs Nicholas Rhea) reports on the result, published in the August 2018 issue: "Unsurprisingly, All Creatures Great and Small came first; Last of the Summer Wine second; and, much to our delight, Heartbeat came third.

According to the cutting from from Woman magazine, sent to Nicholas Rhea by a fan, Heartbeat is "a national treasure"; in December 2009, viewing figures reported by the Times Online placed it in the top ten most watched programmes of the decade. And it all began with Nicholas Rhea's books.

Heartbeat's setting, some of the early storylines, and many of the characters, were taken from the Constable novels by Nicholas Rhea. The stories feature an English policeman in a rural village in North Yorkshire during the 1960's, although cast changes and story developments have resulted in group of village characters sharing the attention with the local village bobby. The Heartbeat title refers to an English bobby 'on the beat', the medical stories that are woven into each episode, and the way each programme puts a finger on the pulse of the rural community of Aidensfield.

Heartbeat on stage

The last episode of Heartbeat was broadcast Sunday 12 September 2010, but despite the passage of time the much-loved series is not forgotten - in the UK and around the world. In the summer of 2016 it appeared in a new form - for the first time ever, Heartbeat came to the stage, starring members of the TV cast.

With use of video footage and a clever set, this touring production recreated the atmosphere of the 1960s rural Yorkshire settings. David Stockwell, Gina Ward, PC Geoff Younger and a number of other of the most popular characters starred in the two-hour live stage production with a brand-new script.

The show toured the UK between April and July 2016: see the archived schedule here.

Heartbeat - a Yorkshire Icon

Although there have been no new episode of Heartbeat since September 2010, the show is still much loved, in the UK and around the world - and of course that includes Yorkshire! In April 2014, Nicholas Rhea was delighted to find Heartbeat included in a list of 75 Yorkshire icons compiled by the Dalesman magazine. It came in at no. 65, a few positions above rhubarb! Top of the poll was, of course, Yorkshire pudding.

Heartbeat Special

The Story of Heartbeat - cover

Another book from Nicholas Rhea is something rather different: a lavishly illustrated book about the making of Heartbeat. It includes input from the makers and stars of the show, as well as the author's own unique inside information. It is published by Mortons of Horncastle, and can be ordered from them via its own dedicated web site, now only available in a digital edition, where you can also see some of its many pictures, and read extracts from the text.

Heartbeat on DVD

Heartbeat: the first series - the DVD

For a long time, although we received many enquiries about whether Heartbeat is available on DVD, Nicholas Rhea could only point out that this up to ITV, not him! (He explains that among the things which make Heartbeat so special are the use of original sixties records, and the frequent appearances of guest stars. Both of these factors would involve ITV in obtaining clearances before they could authorise DVDs of the series - something that could not have been foreseen when the original contracts were drawn up, long before DVDs were invented.)

But in September 2010, Network DVD released a boxed set of three DVDs, containing the whole first series - ten episodes of classic Heartbeat. This first series sees Nick and his doctor wife Kate (Niamh Cusack) settling in Aidensfield, having left the bustle of London behind. As villagers' initial suspicion gives way to acceptance, the couple become increasingly involved, both professionally and personally, in the daily life of the rural community. Bill Maynard also stars as the irrepressible Claude Jeremiah Greengrass, with guest appearances from, among others, Philip Glenister, Annette Crosbie, Eleanor Bron, John Duttine and Elizabeth Spriggs.

Once the ice was broken, the party just went on. Sixteen series are now available on DVD, not to mention two series of related hospital drama, The Royal.

Caution: the disks are in Region 2 / PAL format; this means that it may not be compatible with DVD players outside Europe. We know that there are Heartbeat fans all over the world, and hope that this first release will be followed by other formats.

Heartbeat - A nostalgic return to Aidensfield

There is now another way to enjoy the Heartbeat experience on DVD: Heartbeat: A nostalgic return to Aidensfield is a rare opportunity for all fans, to join Derek Fowlds (Oscar Blaketon) in a nostalgic and personal journey back to the village of Aidensfield. Watch him catch up with old friends and revisit film locations used in the series.

This is an independent, limited edition production, but is available for order from Amazon.

Caution: the disks are in Region 2 / PAL format; this means that it may not be compatible with DVD players outside Europe. We know that there are Heartbeat fans all over the world, and hope that this first release will be followed by other formats.

Heartbeat Farewell

Nicholas Rhea writes:

It was very sad to witness the last-ever episode of Heartbeat and I did feel sorrowful when I recalled the dedication and hard work of the writers, cast and crew some of whom had been with the programme from its very beginning. Without them, there would have been no Heartbeat.

It is difficult for me, sitting in my study at home, to appreciate just how wide the appeal of Heartbeat? has been. Only this morning in my daily paper, there is a letter from a viewer in Australia, echoing his sadness at its demise. And in the past couple of weeks, I've had more messages from Canada, Australia, Tasmania, Belgium, Finland, Denmark and Norway, not forgetting, of course, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and England. Truly the programme had world-wide appeal.

But all good things must come to an end. Heartbeat? has successfully concluded its long run of 18 years, and it was inevitable that it must end at some point. I thank everyone who was involved in its production and all who have supported the series, some being keen viewers from Day 1. There will be many repeats, of course, and a DVD is now available and so for some time to come we can continue to indulge in its charm, nostalgia, wonderful characters and spectacular countryside.

Thank you to everyone
from Nicholas Rhea

Rhoda Walker (Mrs Nicholas Rhea) was present when the last episode was filmed, and sent us this description:

As the partner of Nicholas Rhea, I get invited to certain events and last Friday I went with him to a Heartbeat party in Leeds. It was a glittering occasion held in the stunning Corn Exchange building, with over 200 people; Heartbeat actors, scriptwriters, lighting technicians, make-up girls - in fact all the numerous people who have been involved in the making of Heartbeat for the past 17 years. This event was billed as a 'Farewell Party' and I thought it might be a sombre occasion but, on the contrary, everyone looked relaxed and happy in their party frocks and dinner jackets. We were all there to celebrate Heartbeat, say goodbye to friends and colleagues and talk about hopes for the future.

Steven Blakely with Nicholas Rhea
I'm sure we'll soon be seeing many of the actors in new roles. I chatted to Steven Blakely (we are pictured together, above), who joined Heartbeat straight from drama school to play the loveable rookie constable, Geoff Younger. He said how much he'd enjoyed working on the series and later this year expects to be touring Europe with a theatre group putting on Shakespeare plays. Rupert Ward-Lewis (Don Wetherby) is going back to London and William Simons (Alf Ventress) has already moved back there. Some of the production staff are going to work on Emmerdale and others are taking time out for a while. But everyone I spoke to said they were very sad to be leaving and would miss Aidensfield and the North Yorkshire moors.

We watched some nostalgic clips from the series and there were a few misty eyes when the scene came up where a bereft Nick Rowan stood in the moonlight at the door of the police house on the night Kate died (sniff, sniff). Finally, Keith Richardson, head of YTV drama, made a speech, thanking everyone and saying that the Heartbeat team had been like a big extended family.

Nicholas Rhea adds:

For me, personally, it has been a delight to have my stories and characters portrayed in such a successful television series and I have been involved right from the start. Heartbeat filming is finished but the screening will go on, so keep watching and I will keep writing my Constable books.

In a recent article, he told the Yorkshire Post: "Although production of Heartbeat has ended there remain some episodes for screening early next year and there will be many repeats. The name of Heartbeat will live for a long time..."

Behind the scenes of Heartbeat

However, Nicholas Rhea has written a book, lavishly illustrated and with input from the makers and stars of the show, as well as his own unique inside information about the making of Heartbeat. The Yorkshire Post secured a web exclusive, interviewing Nicholas Rhea on the Heartbeat set about the book, and the show in general: watch a short video of the interview on the Yorkshire Post web site. Or visit the book's dedicated web site, where you can see some of its many pictures, read extracts from the text and order a copy direct from the publishers, Mortons of Horncastle.

Heartbeat - The Story behind the Series was launched with a Sixties-themed party in York. Tricia Penrose was there, and so was Nicholas Rhea, who sent us this personal report of the day:
Tricia Penrose visited York for the launch of 'Heartbeat - The Story behind the Series'

'"I enjoyed a wonderful day at WH Smiths bookshop in York to launch Heartbeat - The Story behind the Series. Coney Street was packed with fans as The Summits, a local band, performed 1960s hits. Tricia Penrose, who plays Gina, the genial barmaid in the Aidensfield Arms, attracted a huge crowd as she posed with a classic police motorcycle. The queue of fans waiting to have their books signed stretched right out into street. Several young people from Mortons, the publishers, looked very 'with it' in their mini skirts, whilst the bookshop staff also got into the mood in their 60's gear and Beatles haircuts.

Tricia's fans were much in evidence and I was delighted to see that lots of my own readers there, too. We both signed about 150 books and the atmosphere was great. I'd like to say a big 'thank you' to everyone who made it such a memorable occasion."
The book is produced in conjunction with the series makers and stars, so there are plenty of photos of the scenery and cast. Publishers Mortons of Horncastle have set up a special mini web site about the book, with samples of the pictures, extracts of the text and the book is also now available for download in a digital format. It is on sale at WH Smith's, or you can order your copy direct from the publisher - and as a special concession, it will also be available from the Aidensfield Stores in Goathland!

Heartbeat International

The little village of Aidensfield will be missed way beyond Yorkshire, all round the world. We receive enquiries from fans in Canada and Australia; and we have been toldthat the show is a favourite with the police force of the Pacific island of Vanuatu. Heartbeat is popular throughout Scandinavia: we receive messages from Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland (and even Estonia, where they watch it on Finnish television!).

A page on this site tracks Heartbeat's progress worldwide; it lists the countries in which the series has been shown, and passes on messages with an international flavour!

Read more about Heartbeat round the world »

The characters of Heartbeat

Nicholas Rhea on set at Goathland with Nick BerryNicholas Rhea dreamed up most of the original Heartbeat characters in his Constable books. The series introduced a number of new characters, and adapted some of the books' stories and characters for the benefit of screen serialisation.

More about the key characters in Heartbeat with comments from Rhea and the actors »

Interview with Carol Williams

Ever wondered how it all started, and why Yorkshire Television thought a series about a Yorkshire bobby could be a success?  How do they keep up with the enormous success, and will Greengrass continue to be the local rogue? Carol Williams was been part of the production team from the beginning. Susie Holland interviewed her exclusively for this website.

Read the interview with Carol Williams; »

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