Emmerdale, known as Emmerdale Farm until 1989, is a British soap opera that has aired on ITV since 1972. Set in the fictional village of Emmerdale (known as Beckindale until 1994) in West Yorkshire, England, the show was created by Kevin Laffan, with Keith Richardson serving as Executive Producer since 1986 and Anita Turner as Series Producer from January 2008. Her first produced episode aired on Monday March 3, 2008.

Emmerdale is the third most popular soap opera on British television, behind Coronation Street and EastEnders. The series is produced by Yorkshire Television and broadcast on the ITV network, and was first aired on 16 October 1972. It was originally conceived and broadcast as a daytime programme in an afternoon slot, moving to its current position as an early evening programme in 1978 in most ITV regions. Anglia and Thames followed suit in the 1980s. Emmerdale is shown from Monday to Friday at 19:00 on ITV. Every episode lasts 30 minutes, except the Tuesday edition, which lasts one hour. Repeat episodes and the omnibus of the show can be seen on ITV2.

October 2007 saw Emmerdale celebrate its 35th anniversary in dramatic style with a huge explosion ripping through Annie's Cottage caused by Victoria Sugden pouring petrol over the furniture after demanding to know who had killed her mother Sarah Sugden, seven years previously. In June 2008, Emmerdale celebrated its 5000th episode with the marriage of Eric Pollard and Val Lambert.


The basic premise of Emmerdale Farm was very similar to the BBC radio soap opera The Archers - focusing on a family, a farm, and characters in a nearby village.

The farmyard filming techniques of Emmerdale Farm were originally modelled on the revolutionary soap-opera The Riordans, made by RTÉ, Ireland's broadcaster, from the mid-1960s to the end of the 70s. The Riordans broke new ground for soap operas by being filmed largely out of doors (on a farm owned, in the storyline, by Tom and Mary Riordan), rather than, as was the norm in British and American soap operas, being almost totally shot in studios (even 'outdoor' scenes were sometimes filmed indoors). The Riordans pioneered farmyard location shooting, with real farm animals, and actors driving tractors. In the 1960s and 1970s, outdoor filming of television programmes using OBUs (Outdoor Broadcast Units) was in its infancy, due to the far higher costs involved, and the reliance on things like the weather that were out of the control of the programme makers.

The success of The Riordans showed that a soap opera could be filmed largely out of doors. Yorkshire Television sent people to The Riordans set in County Meath, Ireland to see the making of the programme at first hand.

Series background

The Miffield estate was the biggest employer in the village of Beckindale - situated from Bradford and from Leeds. Lord Miffield gave the lease of Emmerdale Farm, on the edge of the village, to the Sugden family in the 1850s out of gratitude, after Josh Sugden had sacrificed his life for the Earl's son in the Crimean War.

Josh's grandson Joseph married Margaret and they had a son Jacob. In the 1930s, Jacob Sugden supposedly purchased Emmerdale Farm for his family. In 1945 he married Annie Pearson - daughter of farm labourer Sam Pearson.

Jacob had run the farm into the ground, as he had drunk away most of the profits, leaving it in a sorry state. It was badly maintained, and the future of the farm looked bleak at the time of Jacob's death on the October 10 1972.

Jacob left a wife Annie and three grown children, two sons, Jack (the eldest) and Joe (the youngest of the three), and daughter Peggy. These characters would form the basis of the series Emmerdale Farm.

The first episode

The first episode of Emmerdale Farm opened with the funeral of Jacob Sugden on the October 16 1972.

Jacob had upset the family by leaving the farm to his eldest son, Jack, who had not been seen since 1964 when, at the age of 18, he left his family, heritage and Beckindale - for London.

Jack Sugden returned to the farm in this opening episode, although he chose to stay away from the funeral - making his presence known only after the service, when the Sugdens returned to their home, Emmerdale Farm - where they found him waiting for them.

The first lines uttered in this first episode were spoken by Peggy Skilbeck:

"Matt, who's she?"

Peggy was referring to Marian Wilks who was watching the funeral cortege whilst out riding.

The Wilks' proved to be new to the village; Marion's father Henry Wilks was a wealthy businessman.

In subsequent months, Jack sold a share of the Farm to Annie, Joe, Peggy and his grandfather Sam Pearson. Emmerdale Farm Ltd was formed after Henry Wilks bought Sam's share of the estate.

The first episode was repeated on Granada Plus on January 1 2000.

Subsequent earlier episodes from the 1970s and 1980's have been aired on Granada Plus, and Sky Soap.



Initially the show focused on the farm, and the Sugden family who lived on and ran it. As time went on, the show's focus moved to the nearby village of Beckindale. To reflect this change, the show's name was changed in November 1989 to Emmerdale, and later the name of the village changed from Beckindale to Emmerdale in 1994 after the infamous plane crash. Coinciding with the soap's name change was the introduction of the Tates, who would emerge as the soap's leading family in the 1990s, overshadowing the Sugdens. In turn, the Tate family has since been supplanted, with the Dingle and King families taking centre stage in the early to mid 2000s.

Emmerdale Online Channel

On May 21 2007 the Emmerdale online channel announced it would be continuing past the Who Killed Tom King? storyline.

Village businesses

Despite being a small village, Emmerdale is a bustling place for business. The current businesses are:

Major storylines

Until 1993, Emmerdale was largely ignored by press and viewers alike, in the face of much more well-known soaps such as Coronation Street, EastEnders and Brookside. This, however, was changed when Emmerdale's plane crash storyline brought Emmerdale into the public eye, giving Emmerdale its highest ever viewing figures of 18 million, and consequently keeping the show as one of the most watched soap operas on British television.

As well as the plane crash storyline, there have been several other major storylines, including the famous storm of 2003, the Kings River explosion of 2006, the Tom King kidnapping of 2006, and the murder of Tom King on Christmas Day, 2006.


Emmerdale is extremely well known for the number of disasters and dramatic stunts it has featured over the years. The most notable disasters are listed below.

  • 1993 - Plane crash in Emmerdale
  • 1994 - Shirley Turner is shot dead in the aftermath of the post office raid by Viv Hope's ex-husband Reg Dawson.
  • 1995 - Luke McAllister died after his car crashed into a tree and exploded into flames.
  • 1996 - Dave Glover died in a fire after attending Biff and Linda's wedding.
  • 1997 - At Steve Marchant and Kim Tate's engagement party, Alex Oakwell took Linda Fowler for a late-night drive and crashed while trying to snort cocaine. He removed Linda from the passenger seat as she was starting to wake up moved her to the drivers seat , fled the scene of the accident, leaving Linda there to die.
  • 2000 - A van and minibus collide in the village. Van driver Pete Collins dies at the scene; minibus passenger Butch Dingle dies in hospital from his injuries the next day.
  • 2000 - Long-running character Sarah Sugden died in a barn fire.
  • 2001 - Miss Jean Strickland, the headmistress, was struck and killed by a stolen car driven by student Marc Reynolds on his way home from a night out with friends.
  • 2002 - The church was burnt down by schizophrenic Zoe Tate.
  • 2003 - A large storm hit Emmerdale, leaving parts of the village in ruins, with collapsed power lines and trees, The Woolpack was damaged by its chimney collapsing through the roof into the bar area, and also out the front, crushing Tricia Dingle and resulting in her dying in hospital a few days later; characters such as Ashley Thomas and Louise Appleton became stuck on the road as a result of the terrible weather. The disaster took place on the tenth anniversary of the plane crash.
  • 2005 - Shelly Williams fell off a boat in Scotland, and was never found.
  • 2005 - Zoe Tate and Callum Rennie destroyed Home Farm in a gas explosion for revenge on the King's before leaving Emmerdale.
  • 2005 - Max King died instantly when the Land Rover he was in went off the road and through a brick wall and exploded, although driver Andy Sugden escaped the car unharmed and gave a false story about the accident to avoid being arrested; and the police believed his version of events, as there were no witnesses to contradict his story.
  • 2006 - The vicarage burnt down after a stray spark ignited spilt vodka, with Debbie Dingle trapped inside.
  • 2006 - Kings River showhome collapsed after several explosions caused by a gas leak. The collapse claimed threes lives: Noreen Bell and estate agent David Brown were killed in the explosion, and Dawn Woods later died in hospital from internal injuries.
  • 2006 - Tom King was murdered on Christmas Day when son Carl hit him over the head with a horse statue and pushed him out of a window.
  • 2007 - A tampered van driven by Billy Hopwood crashed into a lake and sank with him and Victoria Sugden inside, but they both survived.
  • 2007- DCI Grace Barraclough was killed instantly when she was run over by a lorry, while on the way to the police station to report Carl for killing his dad, Tom King.
  • 2007 - Victoria Sugden threatened Jack and Andy in their home that if they didn't confess to who killed her mum Sarah, then she would light up her lighter and would set the house on fire with the petrol around that she poured out all over the living room and kitchen. After they calmed her down, the fumes ignited with boiler and set the house on fire.Everyone got out safely, but after Billy saved Jack he was held back and notices a bin which Jack used in the bathroom left in Victoria's bedroom, full of flammable aerosols. The flames consumed the whole of Victoria's room while Billy was still inside.
  • 2008- Val's Interiors, owned and run by Eric Pollard, is burnt down by Sam Dingle and Eli Dingle, after Sam mistakes Eric for wanting the factory to be burnt down for the insurance money, as Eric had previously confided in Sam that he was in serious debt.
  • 2008 - Donna Windsor-Dingle crashes her car whilst chasing Freddie Yorke, seriously injuring herself and Ross Kirk.

Memorable Exits

Emmerdale is famous for its hugely dramatic exit storylines. These characters have made some of the most memorable exits from Emmerdale while still breathing. (For characters who left through death, see List of births, marriages and deaths in Emmerdale).

  • Kim Tate - Kim and her husband Steve Marchant stole a horse, intent on selling it, as they were experiencing a cash flow problem. As they were driving away from the scene, Steve ran over Kathy Glover. While in hospital, Kim managed to make Kathy believe that Steve had not stopped his vehicle when he had hit her, in order to make her husband seem to be the sole villain of the piece - even though she had helped to plan the thievery of the horse. On the day of trial in January 1999, with the lawyers questioning Kathy's validity as a witness for Steve's hit-and-run crime, Kathy herself came to question how true Kim's words had been. For this, and numerous other crooked tricks, the police were soon on her trail. She confronted Chris Tate to try to get hold of money as a means of escape, and knocked him out savagely with a paperweight when he would not comply. She left with her son James in a helicopter, never to be seen again. The pilot asked her if she was Kim Marchant, and with her final words on the soap she replied, "No, it's Kim Tate".
  • Charity Tate - After Sadie King tricked Tom King into believing that Charity was having an affair with Cain Dingle, Tom called off the wedding to Charity. Despite later realising the lie, Tom was unable to convince Charity to reconcile with him, as all Charity wanted was revenge. She managed to get Jimmy King into bed after making him realise what Sadie was all about, and filmed them in bed together, and got him to confess that Sadie set her up. She took this tape to Tom and showed it to him in front of his whole family. Charity punched Sadie a, had an emotional goodbye with her daughter Debbie Dingle, and left the soap, despite an emotional plea from Tom King.
  • Zoe Tate - Zoe was facing a court case for the attempted murder of Scott Windsor. After being blackmailed into selling Home Farm to Sadie King, she took revenge by blowing up the building; in her final scene, she waited in a car in front of the building waiting for the explosion, then drove off and out of the soap.
  • Cain Dingle and Sadie King - The couple kidnapped Tom King, with Sadie pretending to have been double-crossed by Cain. The story took a number of twists and turns, with Cain's car going over into a quarry, although it was later discovered to be empty, and Cain shooting Sadie, although it was later discovered that this was also faked. As they prepared to make their escape by plane, Cain betrayed Sadie, leaving her at the airfield, and he flew off over the village. Both Cain and Sadie left the soap.
  • Steph Forsythe - Steph finally did the right thing, even though it could have been in better circumstances when she pleaded guilty to the murder of brother Terence. This was to serve her dues for the death of Shelly Williams. Steph was then sentenced to life imprisonment, although it was in fact her estranged husband Adam who did the deed.

Filming locations

Location shooting originally occurred in the village of Arncliffe in Littondale, one of the less frequented valleys of the Yorkshire Dales. In exterior shots, the village's hotel, The Falcon, was used to represent the fictional Woolpack Inn. Eventually the location of the shooting location became publicly known, which is perhaps what prompted the move to the village of Esholt in 1976, where it stayed for the next 22 years. This location also became a tourist attraction and the village pub has retained the adopted name of The Woolpack Inn.

The original Emmerdale Farm buildings are near the village of Leathley. Creskeld Hall (Home Farm) is one of the few original filming locations used in the entire run of the series and has been involved in many storylines.

From 1998 a purpose-built set on the Harewood estate is used, building on the Harewood estate started in 1996. The first scenes shot in the purpose-built set on the Harewood Estate were broadcast on February 17 1998, from the front of the Woolpack (although some scenes were shot there from 1997).

The houses in the new village at Harewood are timber framed structures covered in stone cladding. The village is built on green belt land so all the buildings are classed as "temporary structures" and must be demolished within ten years unless new planning permission is given. There is no plan to demolish the set and new planning has now been drawn up. Although no church was built on the Harewood set, there is a churchyard full of gravestones, some of them for the characters who have died in the serial.

Butlers Farm is really Brookland Farm, a working farm, located in the nearby village of Eccup. Brookland Farm is where all the external, farmyard and buildings shots are filmed with the internal house shots being filmed in the studio.

Location footage of the fictional market town of Hotten is shot in Otley. The Benton Park School in Rawdon and the primary school in Farnley are also used as shooting locations. Indoor scenes are mostly filmed in the Emmerdale production centre in Leeds (located next to the main YTV building).

Filming in Belfast has been scheduled for early 2009, it remains to be seen if this has any links to new Northern Irish Barmaid 'Betsy' played by cult actress Katrina Rafferty


When Emmerdale was first broadcast in 1972, it was twice a week in an afternoon slot. It later moved to a 19:00 slot and the number of episodes has steadily increased, with there now being four half-hour episodes and one hour long episode each week. Emmerdale is filmed roughly 6 weeks in advance and all snow scenes are filmed using fake snow.


The show is now ranked high in the British popularity stakes, being outdone regularly only by the two major mainstream soaps, Coronation Street and EastEnders.

  • On 30 December 1993 Emmerdale attracted its highest ever viewing figures of 18.6 million when a plane crashed into the village killing four villagers.
  • On 4 October 2001 Emmerdale attracted 11.37 million viewers when Nicola Blackstock found out that her fiance Carlos Diaz had been having an affair with her half sister Bernice for the past year, and then famously jilted him at the altar.
  • On Christmas Day 2002 Emmerdale attracted 6.8 million viewers when Louise Appleton killed her fiance Ray Mullen after discovering he was the one who had been stalking her for months.
  • On 1 January 2004 Emmerdale attracted 14.3 million viewers when the village was hit by a freak storm, which lead to the collapse of the Woolpack roof after it was struck by lightning, which then colapsed onto Tricia Dingle, who died from her injuries in hospital. One of the soap's most famous storylines, it gave the show a huge rastings boost and the storyline went down in Emmerdale history. The year to come would see the show gain an even higher profile.
  • On 22 September 2005 Emmerdale attracted 8.3 million viewers in an episode which saw the departure of long standing, popular character Zoe Tate, who make a dramatic exit which saw her blow up her former home Home Farm, which she been conned into selling to the King family.
  • On Christmas Day 2005 Emmerdale attracted 7.9 million viewers, when the villagers searched for Daz Eden and Belle Dingle who fell down a mine shaft.
  • On Monday April 24 2006, 8.2 million viewers watched as Sam Dingle and Alice Wilson got married.
  • One of Emmerdale's most famous storylines which occurred in September 2006, and which ran for a week's worth of episodes, was watched by around 6 million viewers for the first three days, bun then increased to over 8 million in the final episodes. The storyline saw millionaire Tom King and his daughter in law Sadie King, get kidnapped and held hostage by popular badboy character Cain Dingle, who demanded a ransom to the King family for £2 million in return for their safety. The storyline resulted in popular character Cain Dingle exiting from the soap, in the final episode which was watched by around 8.7 million viewers. The storyline also saw the exit of soap bitch Sadie King. The storyline gave Emmerdale an even more of a ratings boost, and it also went down in Emmerdale history.
  • On Christmas Day 2006, over 9 million viewers watched as Tom King got pushed out of a window and fell to his death on his wedding day to Rosemary Sinclair.
  • On Thursday September 13 2007, Emmerdale attracted 7.2 million viewers when Perdita Hyde-Sinclair found out that her mother in law Rosemary King had been tricking her and poisoning her for months, to try and convince her she was going insane so as to make her split up from her husband Grayson Sinclair, Rosemary's son. Emmerdale gained twice as many viewers than EastEnders in an hour long episode.

Many other hour long episodes that have clashed with Eastenders have won in the battle for viewing figures. Over the past couple of years the Yorkshire soap has gone head to head with the London soap on many occasions and emerged on top.

  • May 18 2004, when long running character Jack Sugden was shot by his adopted son Andy Sugden who mistook him for being his arch enemy, and adopted brother, Robert Sugden. Emmerdale attracted over 10 million viewers, whilst Eastenders could only manage 6 million.
  • June 6 2005, when 15 year old Debbie Dingle went into labour after having a secret affair with local farmer Andy Sugden. Emmerdale won in the ratings battle here, attracting 7.9 million viewers, with Eastenders gaining 6.7 million viewers.
  • The Kings River house collapse (13 July, 2006): Emmerdale won in the ratings battle here. Eastenders could only manage 3.9 million, its lowest ever.
  • Billy Hopwood, with Victoria Sugden, crashed his truck into a lake (1 February 2007): Emmerdale won here too, surprisingly since the EastEnders episode involved an important storyline involving two of its most high profile characters, Martin and Sonia Fowler, leaving. Emmerdale attracted 8 million viewers with EastEnders gaining 6.5 million viewers.
  • The Who Killed Tom King? plot came to a close on Thursday May 17, 2007, when the murderer was revealed. Emmerdale gained an average 10.6 million viewers, which peaked to 11.1 million viewers when Tom's son Carl confessed to the murder, between 19:00 and 20:00. EastEnders could manage only 4 million between 19.30 and 20:00.
  • The Sugdens house fire on 16th October 2007, which saw a massive explosion ripping through Annie's Cottage caused by Victoria Sugden, attracted 8.4 million viewers, with Eastenders gaining 7 million viewers.



Emmerdale reaches viewers in the Republic of Ireland via both the widely available UTV from Northern Ireland and the TV3 Television Network in the Republic of Ireland. UTV and TV3 screen Emmerdale simultaneously in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.


Emmerdale has been shown in Sweden since the 1970s – originally on TV2 and since 1994 on commercial channel TV4. Under the title Hem till gården ("Home to the Farm"), the programme is broadcast twice a day (as of May 2008, previously only once a day) on Monday to Friday. The episodes currently being screened (September 2008) date from October 2005.


The programme is shown in Finland on commercial channel MTV3, where it goes out at 18.00 Mondays to Fridays with a repeat of each episode at 10.40 on the following weekday.

New Zealand

TV One and TV 2 in New Zealand shows the programme each weekday at 16.00 and early morning 05.05 respectively.


Emmerdale was shown in Australia for the first time in July 2006 when cable television provider Foxtel began screening episodes from 2006 on its UK.TV channel.


On February 2 2007 it was announced that Emmerdale would be broadcast on the Romanian free-to-air channel Pro TV. The station has bought 50 episodes of the soap dating back to 2000.


Opening and Closing credits

The original titles were on film and featured a slow panning shot of the Yorkshire dales, before slowly zooming in on Beckindale village/Arncliffe and then the farmhouse. The title caption zoomed out to the camera. The closing credits were on captions and the film underneath was the view from a helicopter of the Dales passing by Arncliffe. The theme, written by Tony Hatch, was performed on the cor anglais with piano and strings accompaniment. The opening titles changed for the 1974 episodes to an aerial panning shot of Arncliffe and a different view of the farmhouse and the font was changed to a bold yellow one. The end credits remained the same but with the different font.

The farmhouse in sunset credits lasted the longest and were introduced in 1976, coinciding with the move to Esholt and the use of videotape for external scenes, and continued to be used until November 1989 when the programme's title was shortened to Emmerdale. This was replaced with a montage of images, shot around Esholt, of various activities such as someone hang-gliding, a Land Rover fording a stream, an oil tanker going over a bridge and someone out horse-riding at Home Farm, the credits rolled over a static shot of the farmhouse. This lasted until 1992 when the theme tune was changed. The credits used from 1992 until December 1993 were similar but used superimposed images the credits rolled over a static shot of some Yorkshire scenery. The opening titles changed again from the plane crash episode in 1993 to one without superimposed images and was in use until November 1994 when some of the scenes were changed and swapped about. From January 1994 until December 1998, the credits rolled over a static shot of Esholt/Emmerdale. The exception to this was during the plane crash when the credits rolled over the destruction of the village.

In December 1998, the opening titles were replaced by another montage, this time of helicopter shots of the Yorkshire moors and farming areas. Superimposed were short scenes of actors (which were not members of the case) performing the various emotions seen in a soap. The closing credits rolled over a continuous shot of Emmerdale, filmed from a helicopter flying away from the village. At the same time, in 1998, a new version of the theme tune was introduced. A grand orchestral theme was introduced over the titles, credits and break bumpers. From September 2004, a different version of the theme, played mainly on the piano, was used for the break bumpers only.

In September 2005, the opening titles were replaced with another helicopter montage, this time marginally slower and without the actors. The closing credits were generic ITV Network style credits over a continuous shot of the village, again from a helicopter, but filmed from a different angle.


  • All of the main characters in Bottom were avid fans of Emmerdale. When Emmerdale Farm changed its name to Emmerdale, the characters mused that this might be because it shortened the time needed for the audience to read its name, providing the writers with more screen time to fill with story arcs.
  • In the episode broadcast on July 24 2006, Val Lambert visits Noreen Bell's house for the first time since Noreen was killed in the blast. She picks up a television magazine turned to the day of the disaster. While most of the schedule is as would normally be expected on a Thursday night, the 7pm slot on ITV shows a programme called Castle Bridge rather than Emmerdale. The magazine also schedules The Bill at 8pm, where it would normally be broadcast, however, for this week only, it was actually replaced with PokerFace.
  • Creskeld Hall (Home Farm) is one of the few original filming locations used in the entire run of the series and has been involved in many storylines.
  • One of the characters was referred to in a skit on the comedy show The Catherine Tate Show. The skit involved the character Joannie Nan Taylor, talking to her grandson Jamie about one of her favourite shows on television.

DVD Releases

Network DVD announced three special DVD Releases were released on October 15 2007 the releases are below.

  • The first twenty-six episodes of "Emmerdale Farm Volume 1" from 1972-73 on a four disc set.
  • "The Best of Emmerdale" twelve of the best episodes taken from 1993-2006 on a two disc set, starting with two episodes covering the plane crash.

The full list for the 'Best of Emmerdale' DVD:

  • Episode 1829 – Plane Crash - Part 1
  • Episode 1830 – Plane Crash - Part 2
  • Episode 1870 – Jack & Sarah's wedding
  • Episode 1875 – Post Office Robbers Caught
  • Episode 2473 – Kim Flees Emmerdale
  • Episode 2668 – Bus Crash
  • Episode 3018 – Nicola Jilts Carlos
  • Episode 3215 – Zoe Gets Sectioned
  • Episode 3339 – Louise Kills Ray
  • Episode 3623/3624 – The Storm
  • Episode 4159 – Home Farm is Blown Up
  • Episode 4425 – Alice Dingle's Euthanasia Pact

  • "Emmerdale 35th Anniversary Edition" is the other two releases together in a box set.

Controversially, for a 35th anniversary set, the years 1974-1993 were totally omitted.

Series producers



External links

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