The Rag Trade

Last updated

The Rag Trade
Created by Chesney and Wolfe
Starring Peter Jones
Miriam Karlin

Series 1–3 (BBC):

Unaired Colour Pilot (BBC):

  • Tony Robinson
  • Gaye Brown
  • Mollie Maureen
  • Jumoke Debayo
  • Diane Langton
  • Annabel Leventon
  • Jamila Massey
  • Trixie Scales

Series 4–5 (LWT):

No. of series5
No. of episodes58
Producer(s) Dennis Main Wilson (BBC)
Bryan Izzard (LWT)
Running time30 minutes per episode
Original network BBC
Original releaseFirst run:
6 October 1961 –
30 March 1963
Second run:
11 September 1977 –
20 October 1978

The Rag Trade is a British television sitcom broadcast by the BBC between 1961 and 1963 and by LWT between 1977 and 1978.


The scripts were by Ronald Wolfe and Ronald Chesney, who later wrote Wild, Wild Women , Meet the Wife and On the Buses . Wild, Wild Women was a period variation of The Rag Trade.


The action centred on a fictional small clothing workshop (the title is a reference to the textile industry), Fenner's Fashions in London. Although run by Harold Fenner (Peter Jones) and the foreman and pattern cutter Reg Turner (Reg Varney), the female workers are led by militant shop steward Paddy Fleming (Miriam Karlin), ever ready to strike, with the catchphrase "Everybody out!" Other cast members included Sheila Hancock (as Carole Taylor), Esma Cannon (as Lily Swann), Wanda Ventham (as Shirley) in series 2 and Barbara Windsor (as Gloria, during series 1, who later returned as Judy in series 3) replacing Sheila Hancock.

In 1975, a colour pilot was made, with only Peter Jones reprising his role, this colour pilot featured a young Tony Robinson (replacing Reg Varney), Gaye Brown (briefly replacing Karlin), Jumoke Debayo, Diane Langton, Annabel Leventon, Jamila Massey, Mollie Maureen (replacing Esma Cannon) and Trixie Scales.

The theme tune for this colour pilot was performed by Alex Welsh and his Band, however, this was never transmitted, as the BBC rejected the colour revival of the series.

Two years later, the series was later revived by ITV company LWT, with Jones and Karlin reprising their roles. The 1977–78 version ran for two series, most of the scripts being based on the BBC episodes from the 1960s, and featured Anna Karen (reprising her role as Olive from On the Buses ) and future EastEnders star Gillian Taylforth as factory workers.

The theme tune for the LWT series was written and performed by Lynsey de Paul and released as a track on an album of T.V. themes that also featured another de Paul penned theme Hi Summer. [1]

In 1990 the series was remade as the series Fredrikssons Fabrikk by NRK in Norway, it ran for three seasons (1990–93) (17 half hours and one 45min special) and spawned a film version Fredrikssons Fabrikk – The Movie in 1994 with a script credited to Chesney and Wolfe, and Norwegian series writer Andreas Markusson.




TV episodes

On original transmission many episodes of the original BBC TV series of The Rag Trade were not given titles, so some are from production notes and repeat screenings.

Original BBC TV series

Series 1 (1961)

The Baby6 October 1961Fenner is far from happy when factory girl Brenda (Ann Beach) brings her baby to work.
Getting Married13 October 1961Paddy must find Carole a wedding dress.
Early Start20 October 1961Fenner finds himself up against new factory Parks & SpicerGuest Stars: Frank Thornton and Raymond Glendenning
French Fashions27 October 1961Carol stands for a modelling competitionGuest Star: Peter Gilmore
The Sample3 November 1961Paddy gives Carol a dress to go on a date with, but soon realizes the dress was specially made for a customer
Unhappy Customer10 November 1961Fenner bans food in the workroom when an unhappy customer complains about Fenners FashionGuest Star: Brian Oulton
Episode 717 November 1961Fenners Fashion stands to win a contract with the biggest clothes store in LondonGuest Star: Hugh Paddick
Doctor's Orders24 November 1961Fenners Fashion are hired to design TV costumesGuest Stars: Roy Stephens and Monte Landis
Episode 91 December 1961To win a contract with a female buyer Reg masquerades as Roberto, an Italian designer.
Christmas Box8 December 1961In a bid to make more money for Christmas, Paddy and the girls go behind Fenner's back and start working for another company making GolliwogsGuest Stars: Terry Scott and Colin Douglas

Series 2 (1962)

The Thief6 April 1962There's a thief at Fenners Fashion and Paddy is determined to find out who
The Dog13 April 1962Lily's dog runs riot at Fenners FashionGuest Stars: Patrick Cargill and Betty Huntley-Wright
Locked In20 April 1962Reg gets locked in the workroom just as an inspector arrivesGuest Stars: June Whitfield and Alec Ross
The Flat27 April 1962With Fenner still in Amsterdam, Paddy and Reg are given the task of painting his flat
Episode 54 May 1962Paddy and Carol take the day off but soon find themselves in trouble when Fenner unexpectedly returnsThis episode no longer exists
Guest Star: Norman Mitchell
The Client11 May 1962An important rich client is coming to Fenners Fashion and the girls decide to take him out for the dayGuest Star: Bill Shine
Stay-In Strike18 May 1962Fenner's new assistant forces the staff to go on strikeGuest Stars: Lynda Baron and Barry Linehan
The Fish And Chip Shop25 May 1962Reg and Paddy agree to take over a fish and chip shopThis episode no longer exists
Guest Stars: Charlie Bird, William Kendall and Frank Peters
Safety Precaution1 June 1962Fenner faces money troubles when Reg destroys a load of dressesGuest Star: Dilys Laye
Stainproofer8 June 1962The girls end up ruining Fenners' new coat and have to work fast to replace itGuest Star: Fabia Drake
Doctor15 June 1962The arrival of a handsome doctor causes trouble for Fenner and CarolGuest Stars: Noel Trevarthen and Richard Caldicot
Barber’s Shop22 June 1962When Fenner refuses the girls a raise, they decide to start running a laundry cleaning service from inside Fenner's Fashions, their source of dirty laundry coming from a barber shop owner.Guest Stars: George Roderick and Barbra Keogh
The Bank Manager29 June 1962A bank manager threaten to close Fenners FashionGuest Stars: Ronnie Barker and Hugh Paddick

Christmas Night with the Stars 25 December 1962 – featured a short sketch. (Has been lost)

Series 3 (1963)

The Australian5 January 1963Fenner and Paddy try to find Reg a womanGuest Stars: Aubrey Morris and Philip Grout
Triplets:12 January 1963
Episode 319 January 1963Fenners hires Reg's mother as his new assistantGuest Stars: Irene Handl and Jeremy Lloyd
Mistaken Tax26 January 1963Reg's lies over his tax forms come back to haunt himGuest Star: Hugh Paddick
Baby Dolls2 February 1963Fenner becomes obsessed with horse racingThis episode was rediscovered in 2018
Second Mrs. Fenner9 February 1963Fenners wedding anniversary proves to be eventful
After The Ball16 February 1963Fenner has to pretend Judy is his daughter when they go to represent Fenners Fashion at a ballGuest Star: Jack Smethurst
The Budgie23 February 1963Guest Stars: Irene Handl and Peter Howell
The Engagement Ring:2 March 1963Reg and Judy's engagement party is ruined when the engagement ring is stolenGuest Star: Irene Handl and Pamela Cundell
The Italian Girl9 March 1963Judy accuses Reg of having an affair
Babysitters Unlimited:16 March 1963Fenner finds himself in debt with only the girls to help himGuest Star: Irene Handl
National Productivity Year23 March 1963Paddy's job is on the line when another strike attempt sadly backfiresGuest Star: Irene Handl
The American Buyer30 March 1963Reg and Judy reveal their plans to leave Fenners FashionGuest Star: Irene Handl

Colour Pilot (1975)

Colour PilotUnaired

LWT re-launch series

Series 4 (1977)

Stay-In Strike11 SeptemberA new arrangement in the workroom sparks off confrontation between Fenner and Paddy
The Sample18 SeptemberKathy steals a new dressing gown to impress her new boyfriend
Fixing The Rate25 SeptemberFenner becomes obsessed with Time and Money, giving Paddy an idea of money making
The Lunch Problem2 OctoberWhen Fenner refuses to open a canteen, the girls decide to run their own canteen
The Export Order9 OctoberFenner's Fashion is falling fast and Fenner is determined to make some changes
The Italian Line16 OctoberA handsome Italian threatens to drive everyone out of Fenner's Fashion
Olive’s Baby23 OctoberThe staff go on strike in a bid to help Olive look after her baby son
The Wedding Dress30 OctoberFenner discovers the work force are making their own clothes
The Sideline6 NovemberPaddy gets attacked by a dishonest man and struggles to hold the workforce together
The Guv’nor’s Wife13 NovemberMrs Fenner's dreams of meeting Margaret Thatcher land Fenner's Fashion in trouble
The New Girl20 NovemberFenner's new assistant takes a shine to the girls
The Bet27 NovemberThe workforce decide to make their own money on horse racing
The Accident4 DecemberFenner's Fashion faces closure when an inspector is injured whilst touring the factory
The New Brother11 DecemberA diligent new Indian employee finds himself a victim of the girls' jokes

Christmas special (1977)

Christmas Rush24 DecemberThe workforce are forced to work during the Christmas Holidays. Mrs Fenner returns to Fenner's Fashion

Series 5 (1978)

The Annual Ball8 SeptemberThe creation of a dress for Mrs Fenner causes chaos at Fenner's Fashion
The Leather Line15 SeptemberAnother argument between Paddy and Fenner could cost Fenner's Fashion their best customers
Stress22 SeptemberFenner's attempt to secure a loan results in a heath scare
A Bad Patch29 SeptemberFenner has lost all his customers. The Girls think of a way of making money
Come Back Paddy6 OctoberPaddy leaves Fenner's Fashion for another firm
Self-Defence13 OctoberPaddy attempts of a defence program have disastrous consequences
Fenner’s Folly20 OctoberThe possibility of a large order prompts Fenner to think about his future

Missing episodes

Because of the BBC's wiping policy of that era, of the 36 episodes made only 21 episodes of the original BBC TV version (1961–62) still exist in the BBC archives.

The first series of the original BBC TV version of the show is complete, whilst the second series remains incomplete, as two episodes remain missing. Only one of the 13 episodes of the third (and final) BBC TV series (1963) currently exists - “Baby Dolls”, which was confirmed to have been unearthed by Philip Morris of TIEA and returned to the BBC in 2018.

DVD release

The 8 (out of the 10) existing episodes of the first series (broadcast in 1961) were released on DVD (DD Home Entertainment) in March 2006, followed by the 11 existing episodes of the second series (broadcast in 1962), released on DVD 7 months later in October 2006.

A Box Set consisting all the remaining episodes from the first two series of the show, was later released (through Simply Media DVD) on 23 October 2017.

All the episodes of both colour series 4 and 5 of the (1977–78) LWT version of the series, including the 1977 Christmas special, have been released on DVD by Network.

See also

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  1. "Unknown Artist – T.V. Themes (Vinyl, LP, Album)". Retrieved 22 March 2017.