The Making of the Bargee: With Harry H. Corbett and Ronnie Barker

An Eye Witness Account

By Alan French

The following was first submitted on a forum for the Britmovie website. Subsequently, it was then forwarded for onward publication within my blogspot (Alan’s Blog) for the Hemel Hempstead Movie Makers website.

The Bargee

I heard that there was a film being made with some big stars on the local Grand Union Canal. I remember after work, I went with a friend to where Rose’s Lime Juice used to be. Right next to a pub called The Whip And Collar, where there was a barge. Two men were being filmed with a parcel. One was Ronnie Barker and the other Harry H. Corbett. I recall seeing some lights on the opposite bank and at least Eric Sykes.

I also heard that there was to be a filming session at what was then John Dickinson’s Apsley Mills. (Their most famous product being Basildon Bond.) I went along on the Saturday morning to see what was happening. I crossed the field opposite my house. When I arrived at the canal bank the Book Department’s factory, on different levels, had young women at the windows. I do not know how many were actresses or extras. They had to shout and wave at the barge going by that stretch of the canal. I found it interesting that the best wavers were placed more centrally.

Ronnie Barker was the only star required that day and it was the last day of location filming. Before shooting started, I recall Ronnie Barker walking past before he boarded the barge.

I had with me my first cine camera. A Kodak Brownie standard 8. I took some brief film. I thought that there might be objections to this. But surprisingly, the film crew came up to me and showed interest in my primitive camera. We also had a brief chat about the film.

The session was very long and after a while became tedious; particularly when occupants of a barge had to collect a spanner, further along the canal bank.

I cannot recall if I was on my own or not. But sooner or later, I popped home for dinner. The filming session was still on.

When I saw the film at the local Hemel Hempstead Odeon, the scene was on and off the screen very quick.

Today, Rose’s Lime Juice is B&Q. The Whip and Collar is an Indian restaurant called K2. The field is now built on plus a marina called Apsley Lock. The cine film, I intend to get transferred but I do not know when. It is inconvenient at the moment. When a few years later I joined the Hemel Hempstead Cine Society, now Hemel Hempstead Movie Makers, someone recognised me from that day, and stated that they wished they had a cine camera at that time. As for Ronnie Barker, I remember when I went home for my dinner, there was a comedy show on radio, and he was in it. I thought to myself, “I have just seen him.”

I hope that this has not bored you all.

Useless Information:
The member who recognised me was David Harrington.

This item also appears on the britmovie website.

This page was added on 19/11/2010.

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  • Lived in Tring while growing up. I remember my Dad taking me (age 6) and my sister (age 4) up to Bulbourne, next to The Grand Junction Arms where they were filming. We had an old photo of me and my sister sitting either side of Harry H. Corbett on a lock gate during a break in filming. I believe the picture appeared in the local newspaper but my memory is a bit fuzzy on that.

    By Michael Gurney (28/04/2020)
  • Since submitting this article, Hemel Hempstead Movie Makers have had cause to start a new website :-

    By Alan French (29/07/2016)
  • Hi, Just seen your comments. I wish that I had been an extra in the film. You might be interested to know that I have only just submitted another article, containing further information regarding this film. Regards, Alan French. August 2013.

    By Alan French (04/08/2013)
  • As a 10 year old I was a Film extra in the film, The scene was the bridge when the Lock keeper was going to blow up the locks, It was a small bridge near the lock keepers house. I remember it as if it was yesterday

    By Terry Marison (05/01/2013)