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Crossroads Motel checks out for last time as the bulldozers move in

By Toby Neal | Birmingham | Features | Published:

For years Walford College, near Baschurch, had an alter ego which gives it a place in television history – playing the part of The Crossroads Motel in the legendary Midlands soap which gripped millions of viewers.

This picture used in the Shropshire Magazine of April 1971 was captioned: "A pause between filming for Diane Lawton, who plays Sue Hanson, and Sandy Richardson (in real life, Roger Tonge) in a scene from the popular TV programme Crossroads."

Alas, the motel has now checked out forever. Ten years ago the old teaching block which was once used for exterior shots for the show was demolished, but the building used for shots of the motel's main entrance survived.

Now that has gone too.

"Unfortunately the building and entrance no longer exists," said Alex Evans, faculty administrator of Walford Campus.

The Crossroads motel main entrance as seen on the programme in the 1960s and 1970s.

"It was demolished last year as part of college-wide improvements. At the time I believe we had a visit from the head of the Crossroads fan club who came to look at it before it went."

At its peak Crossroads, set at the fictional Crossroads Motel at the equally fictional village of Kings Oak, near Birmingham, attracted 18 million viewers.

Famously featuring Noele Gordon playing the part of motel owner Meg Richardson, it was a daily 25-minute ATV soap which ran from 1964 to 1988, with a short-lived revival from 2001 to 2003.

Part of Crossroads lore is that the sets wobbled, although the Crossroads Appreciation Society, which has its own website, points out that after the first five months industry-standard sets were made which didn't wobble any more than those in Coronation Street or Emergency Ward 10.

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Demolition in 2010 of one of the blocks at Walford used in Crossroads – although the one used in the title sequence survived until last year

Shropshire's role in the show was blown in an article in the Shropshire Magazine of April 1971.

The reporter wrote: "Mr Reg Watson let out a well-kept secret when he told me that the outside of Crossroads Motel is in fact modelled on the Shropshire Farm Institute at Walford 'Yet people round here don't always realise it, even though we've been filming at Baschurch on several occasions.'"

Shropshire Farm Institute later became Walford College – the site is now part of North Shropshire College.

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Reg Watson, who was the television producer who created Crossroads, went on to reveal that Kings Oak was Walford, adding "and in fact we have a farm here too in the village where we are allowed to shoot interior scenes for Crossroads."

Walford College of Agriculture in 1989.

The magazine article said Walford had been chosen as a setting because Reg had known the institute from the days when he was the producer of Midland Farming.

"The team is always pleased to come to Walford," Reg was quoted as saying.

"The farm institute make us so welcome and Mr Park, the principal, whom I've known for a long time, is most understanding about the eccentric world of television and the madcap things we do."

During the visit the ATV team stayed in Shrewsbury overnight but took their meals at Walford Manor, bringing in a firm of caterers from Shrewsbury to cook for them.

Noele Gordon played motel boss Meg Richardson.

The magazine said that in the three days the team were there, they shot over 30 scenes in colour for future episodes. It added that the ATV visits were made as far as possible to coincide with the vacations of the students.

In the soap the Georgian Walford Hall next to the institute was used as the Richardson family home and together they played the part of the main buildings of the Crossroads Motel for exterior shots from 1965 to 1981, when in the storyline the motel foyer burned down, ending the show's connection with Walford.

According to the Crossroads Appreciation Society's website this was done by taking the set to Halfpenny Green airport, near Bridgnorth, putting it on a disused runway, and setting fire to it.

Benny rushes to the rescue when Darby collapses outside the Crossroads Motel following a row with boss Nicola Freeman in an episode from September, 1986

It says the airport was also used to build a fake graveyard where the fake funeral of Meg Mortimer (as Meg Richardson had become) was filmed, to mislead the press who wanted to know how Noele Gordon's character was leaving the series.

And the Crossroads Motel even had its own runway – a role played by the long-disappeared Pendeford airfield in Wolverhampton.

Other real-life locations revealed by the society include the House of Robin Leisure Centre in Quarry Bank, Dudley, which appeared as the Crossroads Leisure Centre in 1985, while it says production notes suggest that the Heathbury General Hospital in the show was a building at Walford college.

The cast of Crossroads pictured in 1988

While the original setting for Kings Oak was Baschurch, the website says that Tamworth-in-Arden became the longest running regular village used for the Kings Oak shoots.

Toby Neal

By Toby Neal
Feature Writer

A journalist in Shropshire for 40 years, mainly writes features and columns, especially about aspects of Shropshire history. Lives in Telford and is based at the Ketley headquarters.

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