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Grange Hill is a Britishmarker television drama series originally made by the BBC. The show began in 1978 on BBC1 and was one of the longest running programmes on British television. It was created by Phil Redmond, who is also responsible for the Channel 4 dramas Brookside and Hollyoaks; other notable production team members down the years have included producer Colin Cant and script editor Anthony Minghella.

On 6 February 2008, it was announced that Grange Hill would be cancelled after 30 years. The final episode was shown on 15 September 2008.


The drama was centred on the fictional comprehensive school of Grange Hill in the (equally fictitious) borough of North Londonmarker called "Northam" (although when filming moved to Liverpoolmarker in 2003, it ceased to have any specific location), and follows the lives of the students as they progress through school. The series was to have originally been called Grange Park.

Series history

Grange Hill was originally conceived by ATV comedy writer Phil Redmond, who first approached various television companies with the idea in 1975, unsuccessfully. In 1976, he managed to sell the idea to the BBC, and the drama executive Anna Home gave the series a trial run of nine episodes, the first being broadcast on 8 February 1978.

The series caused controversy from the start, showing a more gritty, true-to-life portrayal of school life than the rather cosy school dramas that had gone before it. Even so, creator Phil Redmond has said that it wasn't until series 3 or 4 that he was really able to start pushing the boundaries and doing things that he wanted to. This led to Redmond being summoned to lunch by BBC bosses and forced to agree that unless he toned things down, there would be no further series.

Grange Hill's highest profile period was undoubtedly the mid-late 1980s. One of the most famous storylines during this time was that of Zammo McGuire and his addiction to heroin. This storyline ran over two series (1986-87) and focused on Zammo's descent into drugs and how it strained his relationship with girlfriend Jackie and friend Kevin. The show's other favourite characters during this period were Gonch and Hollo played by John Holmes and Bradley Sheppard. During his time at the school (1985-89) Gonch partook in many money-making schemes, most unsuccessful. There was a comedic element to the duo's relationship that worked well with viewers. Script editor Anthony Minghella, who worked on the series for several years during the 1980s, later won an Academy Award for Best Director for the film The English Patient in 1996.

During the 1990s Grange Hill did not receive the same media attention it did just a few years previously. The teachers were now equals in the narrative with their personal lives taking up almost as much time as those of the pupils. In 1994 two characters were introduced with disabilities, Denny Roberts (Lisa Hammond), who suffered from dwarfism, and Rachel Burns (Francesca Martinez), who had cerebral palsy. Both characters were presented as "one of the gang" and hated any special treatment because of their circumstances. This prompted the BFI's 2002 publication The Hill And Beyond to comment that Grange Hill had perhaps become politically correct.

Beginning on 4 April 1993, to celebrate Grange Hill's 15th anniversary, the first fifteen series of Grange Hill were repeated during CBBC's Sunday, and later Saturday morning slots on BBC1 and BBC2. The repeats ended with Series 16 in 1999.

Interest in Grange Hill renewed in the late 1990s and the series celebrated its 20th anniversary with the introduction of sinister Scottish bully Sean Pearce (Iain Robertson), who carried a knife and slashed the face of a female classmate. Cast member Laura Sadler, who was heavily involved in this storyline, died after falling out of a building in June 2003; four years earlier her Grange Hill character Judi Jeffreys was killed after slipping and falling out of the window of a burning storeroom in the school.

By 2001 the series was almost entirely issue-led and the decision to tackle the subject of rape upset some parents. But when Phil Redmond took over production of Grange Hill in 2003, his plan was to get the show back to its roots and the issues were toned down as Redmond skewed the show towards a younger audience.

In early 2006, it was announced a film of Grange Hill was to be released in late 2007 focusing on the lives of former pupils but has not yet appeared.

Grange Hill returned on 14 April 2008 with its final series, including a return of the original theme music. Series 31 returned to BBC1 after the 2007 series was shown exclusively on the CBBC Channel.

Production history

For its first 25 years Grange Hill was produced in-house by the BBC, then the show was made independently for the corporation by Lime Pictures, the production house founded by Redmond (and formerly known as Mersey Television), hence the reason for the production move.

Television centre years: 1978-85

Originally Grange Hill was filmed at real schools in London. The first of these would be Kingsbury High Schoolmarker, in the north of the capital, which doubled as Grange Hill in the first two series.

For the third series, in 1980, exterior filming moved to Willesden High School in Willesden Green, which was similar in looks to Kingsbury and was also situated in a residential area of the capital.

In 1981, Grange Hill moved to Holborn College (now Fulham Preparatory School) in Greyhound Road, Hammersmith. This school looked very different from the two that had been used previously, and it was also in a built-up area of London. Holborn College was the longest serving of the "real schools", remaining on screen until 1985.

Up to and including 1985, studio scenes were shot at BBC Television Centre in London.

Elstree years: 1985-2002

Popular rumour suggests Grange Hill was forced to move between real schools so often because fans disrupted filming. In 1985, this problem was resolved when the BBC purchased the former ATV studios in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire. The studios would become known as BBC Elstree Centre and from Series 8, some exterior filming was switched to the closed Elstree set. A 1960s office block, Neptune Housemarker, would double as Grange Hill's "lower school".

The change was explained on screen with an elaborate storyline whereby Grange Hill merged with rival schools Brookdale and Rodney Bennett to form a new school, Grange Hill. In Series 8 the merger had taken place and Grange Hill operated as a split-site school; the former Rodney Bennett building (Neptune House) being the lower school and the original Grange Hill building (still Holborn College) the upper school.

In Series 9, the Upper School building was condemned after a fire, allowing production of Grange Hill to fully move to Elstree including studio work. Grange Hill was, at this time, made as an outside broadcast in the same way as its stablemate, EastEnders. New producer Diana Kyle switched filming to a single camera format from 1999, at which time a filmic effect was also added, to the displeasure of some fans.

A new school entrance set was unveiled in 1990 and remained in use until 2002, with cosmetic modifications along the way. However, as the 1990s progressed more use was made of real schools including the Nicholas Hawksmoor School and Bushey Meads Schoolmarker, and St Audrey's School in Hatfield. The headmistress of Bushey Meads School was said to be delighted Grange Hill was moving to Liverpool in 2002.

Liverpool years: 2003-2008

Early in 2002 it was announced that Grange Hill creator Phil Redmond had signed a deal for his production company Mersey TV to produce the next three series of the programme. Production moved to Mersey TV's studios in Childwallmarker, Liverpoolmarker, from Series 26 onwards and for the first time in many years, the appearance of Grange Hill School itself would change radically. On screen, an explosion ripped through the school at the end of Series 25 and during Series 26, tarpaulins covered most of the new "school" to mask the "fire damage".

Phil Redmond originally wanted children from all over the country to participate in the relaunched Grange Hill, having a variety of regional accents in the series as opposed to just the London area voices which had become associated with the programme. In the event new characters were almost exclusively cast from the north west of England due to the logistics of the child employment laws.

Real schools in the locality were also used including Croxtethmarker Comprehensive, Holly Lodge Girls' School and St Hilda's C of E High School in Liverpool. In 2005, the former Brookside Parade set at Mersey TV was redeveloped to benefit Grange Hill and the new "Creative Learning Centre" has been an integral part of the show since. With the cancellation of Grange Hill, the CLC exterior set has now been turned in to skateboard park set for Grange Hill's stablemate show Hollyoaks while the former Grange Hill school frontage has now become a permanent exterior for Hollyoaks High.

Issues covered

The programme has covered many controversial storylines ranging from students throwing benches into the swimming pool (1978; as a result of which, following letters of complaint from teachers and parents, the episode was withdrawn from the repeat season), rape (2001), heroin addiction, Asperger syndrome (2001), and attempted suicide (2005), prompting many complaints from viewers. Grange Hill broke new ground by the inclusion of a gay teacher, Mr Brisley, who was in the cast from 1992 to 1999.

In 2005, the character Holly Parsons was wrongly heralded as Grange Hill's first deaf character. While it is true that the actress who plays her, Rebecca-Anne Withey, is the series' first deaf cast member, Grange Hill first featured a deaf character, Eric Wallace, in 1985.

During the final series in 2008, Grange Hill cut back on the harder hitting issues and concentrated more on the early years of secondary school. The final series, though concentrating mainly on lighter aspects of school life, still dealt with some social issues; a Year 6 pupil battled with dyslexia while it turned out school bully Chloe Moore had to care for a disabled parent.

"The Grange"

In 2007 BBC Children's ordered major changes to Grange Hill so that it fitted in with the new requirement that all programmes under the CBBC banner must appeal to an audience age 12 and under - younger than the traditional age group for Grange Hill, which was the same as to slightly younger than the secondary school characters. Under a deal signed in 2005 Lime Pictures was contracted to produce Grange Hill until 2008, so changes began to be made.

For Series 31, Lime Pictures creative director Tony Wood set about the task of meeting CBBC's new requirements. He shifted much of the action away from general school life to "The Grange", the school's multimedia learning centre which was given a radical makeover and became as much a "hang out" as a learning resource. The emphasis was now on younger characters with a group of Year 6 pupils regularly coming to use The Grange from primary school; storylines were much lighter and fantasy sequences were introduced. One episode, "Boarderman", saw a Year 7 pupil become a masked skateboarding superhero campaigning for an end to the school's ban on skateboarding. In another, "Veggin' out", a girl and her classmates smuggled animals from a local petting farm into school, believing they were destined for slaughter.

The Observer reported on 13 January 2008 that the BBC's intention was to shift the action away from Grange Hill School and into The Grange completely. Phil Redmond responded in the same article by calling for Grange Hill to be scrapped, saying the programme had been "robbed of its original purpose". Redmond had been planning a hard-hitting storyline to return Grange Hill to its gritty origins in Series 31, and although he signed off the changes he believed it wasn't his show any more.


On 6 February 2008, the BBC announced Grange Hill was to be axed after exactly 30 years. The announcement was made by CBBC controller Anne Gilchrist just two days before the show's official 30th birthday.

Grange Hill ended on Monday 15 September 2008 with a further return appearance by Todd Carty, in which Tucker persuaded his nephew Togger Johnson not to give up on school like he did. Other than that there would be no spectacular conclusion; characters simply walked out of the school gates after their end-of-term prom, an almost mirror-image of how pupils walked into the school gates in the very first episode.

In 2006, the BBC had announced big plans for the show's 30th birthday including special programming on BBC2, possible repeats and a lavish reunion of former stars during 2008. But in the event, none of these celebrations happened aside from a special Radio 4 programme Grange Hill: Soap Pioneer broadcast on 4 September 2008. The last Grange Hill was watched by 500,000 viewers.


The show spawned a successful spin-off called Tucker's Luck (1983–1985), and launched the acting career of Todd Carty. Also, the 1986 cast released Grange Hill: The Album, with two singles: "Just Say No" (tying in with a character's heroin addiction) and "You Know the Teacher (Smash Head)". The album was re-released on CD on 12 November 2007, as part of the BBC's 30th Anniversary celebrations.

In 2005, Justin Lee Collins reunited some of the cast members from the 1980s in the documentary Bring Back...Grange Hill.

Theme music

The theme used for the first 12 years, which returned for the final series of Grange Hill was "Chicken Man" by Alan Hawkshaw, a track from the Themes International music library composed one hour before it was recorded during a session in Munichmarker, Germanymarker. Grange Hill was the first programme to use it as a theme followed by the popular quiz show Give Us a Clue, whose makers wanted it despite it already being played on Grange Hill. The version used by Give Us A Clue was a special arrangement that was significantly different from that used by Grange Hill.

The theme was remixed in 1988 and updated along with the opening titles and lasted until 1990, when a brand new theme was specially written for the series by Peter Moss. Moss had previously written some special hip-hop music for a storyline in Series 11 of Grange Hill. His theme tune lasted until 2007, although as the years progressed less and less of it was heard as the opening titles got increasingly shorter.

For the final series, "Chicken Man" was reinstated as the main theme.

The last four notes of the original theme song were heard when Brookside one of Phil Redmond's other TV series, aired its final episode in November 2003.

Head teachers

There have been many head teachers of Grange Hill over the years; the full list is as follows:

Character Actor/Actress Duration
Mr E. Starling Denys Hawthorne 1978
Mr Llewelyn Sean Arnold 1979-1980*
Mrs Bridget McClusky Gwyneth Powell 1981-1984, 1986-1991
Mr C. J. Humphries Dennis Edwards 1985-1986*
Mrs Angela Keele Jenny Howe 1992-1994
Mr Alistair H. McNab (Never seen) 1995-1997
Mr Peter Robson Stuart Organ 1998-2003
Mrs S. Bassinger Jacqueline Boatswain 2004-2007
Miss Gayle Cathy Tyson 2007 - 2008

Mr Llewelyn did not appear on screen during the 1980 series. Similarly, Mr McNab was never seen at all during the mid-1990s; the most senior authority figure being Mr Robson who at this point was deputy head. Mrs McClusky, perhaps Grange Hill's best known head teacher, was demoted to deputy head temporarily in 1985 having unsuccessfully had to reapply for her post following the merger of Grange Hill with Brookdale and Rodney Bennett. When the new head, Mr Humphries, was killed in a road accident the following year, Mrs McClusky was again acting head and her permanent headship was later confirmed.

The final headmistress of Grange Hill was Miss Gayle, introduced as deputy head in the 2007 series although she did not appear in Series 31.



During the 1980s, when Grange Hill merchandising was at its height and the series arguably at its most popular, a number of annuals and novels were published.

Eight annuals were published from 1981 to 1988.

Comic strip adventures appeared in the short-lived BEEB magazine, which portrayed new stories, and the longer running Fast Forward, magazine which loosely followed the early 90's series. Additional comic strips occurred in School Fun and in the Radio Times. Grange Hill had its own dedicated magazine, but this only lasted two issues, although there was a holiday special too.

There were 14 short story books and novels, some of which were written or co-written by series creator Phil Redmond, but which also involved authors such as Robert Leeson and Jan Needle. Below is a full list of Grange Hill short story books and novels:

  1. Grange Hill Stories, by Phil Redmond. First published by the BBC in 1979. Short stories.
  2. Grange Hill Rules O.K.?, by Robert Leeson. Published by Fontana Lions in 1980. The first Grange Hill novel.
  3. Grange Hill Goes Wild, by Robert Leeson. Published by Fontana Lions in 1980. Novel
  4. Grange Hill for Sale by Robert Leeson. Published by Fontana Lions in 1981. Novel
  5. Tucker and Co., by Phil Redmond. Published by Fontana Lions in 1982. Novel
  6. Grange Hill Home and Away by Robert Leeson. Published by Fontana Lions in 1982. Novel
  7. Great Days at Grange Hill, by Jan Needle. Published by Fontana Lions in 1984. Short stories that form a sort of prequel to Grange Hill Stories.
  8. Grange Hill After Hours, by Phil Redmond. Published by Magnet in 1986. Novel
  9. Grange Hill Graffiti, by Phil Redmond. Published by Magnet in 1986. Novel
  10. Grange Hill On the Run, by Phil Redmond. Published by Magnet in 1986. Novel
  11. Grange Hill Heroes, by Phil Redmond and David Angus. Published by Magnet in 1987. Novel
  12. Grange Hill Rebels, by Phil Redmond and David Angus. Published by Magnet in 1987. Novel
  13. Grange Hill Partners, by Phil Redmond and David Angus. Published by Magnet in 1988. Novel
  14. Ziggy's Working Holiday, by Phil Redmond and Margaret Simpson. Published by Magnet in 1988. Novel

Video release

The first and second series were originally released in VHS video format in the early 1980s. Both videos were edited to remove some storylines and thereby shorten running times, given the duration of early videocassettes. The front of the box for the series 1 video features a cast photograph (and small photos of specific individual characters) from series 3, as some characters pictured therein do not feature in that series. The series 2 videocassette box art features a similarly styled front cover, but with a cast photo from the correct year.

These abridged versions of the first two series of the show were also released on Betamax video at around the same time.

DVD release

Two DVD box sets covering the first four series were released on 12 November 2007. There are no subtitles, episodes are in full screen and both box sets come with a booklet detailing each episode. Some episodes have been edited to remove pop music tracks that could not be cleared for DVD release, and a film effect that was not present on the original broadcasts has also been applied. There are currently no known plans to release any further series on DVD.


  1. BBC to shut gates on Grange Hill] BBC News Online
  2. The Hill And Beyond, p115, Alistair D. McGown and Mark J. Docherty, 2002
  3. 'Grange Hill: The Movie' - News - Film - Time Out London
  4. BBC NEWS | Entertainment | BBC to shut gates on Grange Hill
  5. GRANGE HILL ONLINE | Frequently Asked Questions
  6. Correspondence with head of CBBC, Richard Deverell, as published on the former GH Online forum, which ceased operating in October 2007.
  7. Shut down Grange Hill, says its creator The Observer Sunday 13 January 2008
  8. BBC plans 30th birthday party for Grange Hill: Media Guardian, 10 February 2006

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