The Woodentops is a children's television series first shown on BBC Television in 1955 Created by Freda Lingstrom and Maria Bird, it featured on the Friday edition of Watch with Mother and regularly repeated until 1973. The main characters are the members of a middle-class family living on a farm. The aim of the programme was to teach pre-school children about family life.

Puppet characters

  • Daddy Woodentop
  • Mummy Woodentop
  • Jenny Woodentop
  • Willy Woodentop
  • Baby Woodentop
  • Spotty Dog ("the very biggest spotty dog you ever did see")

The children, Jenny and Willy, were twins. They spoke, walked and did many things together.

Other characters included:

  • Mrs Scrubbitt (who comes to "help" Mrs Woodentop)
  • Sam Scrubbitt (who helps Daddy Woodentop with the animals)
  • Buttercup the Cow


Scripts and music: Maria Bird
Puppeteers: Audrey Atterbury, Molly Gibson and Gordon Murray
Voices: Eileen Browne, Josephina Ray, Peter Hawkins
Designs: Barbara Jones


1. Introduction (9 September 1955)
2. Boats and Pigs
3. Horse
4. Spotty’s Paw
5. Spotty’s Sheep
6. Spotty’s Joke
7. Dog Washing
8. Injured Bird
9. Bird Set Free
10. Twins’ Holiday
11. Soap Box
12. Baby’s Bath
13. Surprises
14. Show
15. Party
16. Buttercup
17. Belling the Cow
18. Hayfield
19. Horse Shoe (14 March 1958)
20. Steam Roller
21. Geese
22. Ducks
23. Pram
24. Dinner Bell
25. Sacks
26. Paper Hats


The Woodentops was filmed in a tin shed at the BBC's Lime Grove Studios. The narrator/storyteller for all episodes, who also provided the dialogue for Mummy Woodentop, was Maria Bird who, typical of BBC presenters of the time, spoke with Received Pronunciation. Daddy Woodentop, being a farmer, spoke with a noticeable West Country accent.

Although set on a farm, at an unspecified location, each episode began with the whole family being introduced as they sat in front of a tall curtain, apparently on a stage. Episodes closed with the family grouped in the same pose, with the word "GOODBYE" superimposed above.

The music at the beginning and end of each story is taken from the 22nd piece ("So lokka me over den myra") of the set of 25 Norwegian folk songs and dances for piano, Opus 17 by Edvard Grieg. This music, which is quite short in duration, is called "Kulokk", which translates to "Cattle-Call". It is divided into two sections, the first of which is used for the introduction and the second part for the end of each story. It occasionally appears as a leitmotif in the stories, hummed by Mummy Woodentop from time to time.

In 1983 the original puppets were stolen from the BBC. They were spotted a year later in an auction room in London and returned. The puppets are now in the Museum of London's permanent collection.

The Official BBC Children in Need Medley

In 2009 the Woodentops appeared in The Official BBC Children in Need Medley music video which reached No.1 in the UK singles chart. Daddy and Mummy Woodentop appeared in the video; Jenny appears on the front cover of the CD and DVD but not in the music video.


External links

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