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30 'BECO BUILDING SITE' FACTS YOU DIDN'T KNOW!

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30 'BECO BUILDING SITE' FACTS YOU DIDN'T KNOW!

Post by Howard Radcliff » Fri Oct 11, 2013 4:34 pm

BECO at Sunrise.jpg
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BECO BUILDING SITE - A 'SITE' TO BE 'SCENE'

The 11th November 2013 marked a very special occasion; at 9pm GMT, Series 1, Episode 1, 'If I Were a Carpenter' hit our screens for the very first time 30 years ago to the day.

Its pivotal focus - the German BECO Building Site - was then to become home of our magnificent 7, Dennis, Neville, Oz, Bomber, Wayne, Barry and Moxey.

As many may know, most of the German BECO Building Site was in fact filmed in the UK on a small 2 acre plot of land on the back lot of Elstree Studios in Borehamwood, currently home of EastEnders 'Albert Square'. For added authenticity, tons of bricks and blocks were imported from Germany before the film set was constructed to emulate many construction features of a real German building site in Hamburg.

The magic of television interweaved long distance incidental construction sequences filmed in Hamburg with close up scenes filmed at Elstree Studios giving the impression the building site was far bigger than it was in reality.

Following a 9 month in-depth study of Britain's most famous construction site, we released one fascinating 'BECO Building Site' fact every day leading up to Auf Wiedersehen Pet's 30th Anniversary plus some trivia and surprises along the way which will provide a fascinating and thought provoking insight into the complex and elaborate film set we've grown to love for three decades!

Let the debate begin!

Yours, Howard 'Hedgehog' Radcliffe.

(Andrew Patrick)
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Re: 30 'BECO BUILDING SITE' FACTS YOU DIDN'T KNOW!

Post by Howard Radcliff » Sun Oct 13, 2013 11:16 am

BECO FACT #1

This black and white aerial photograph (IMAGE 1) was taken circa 1945 and illustrates a magical plot of land bound in red, north of ‘Malden Road’ in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire, UK. This red line accurately identifies the current back lot boundary at Elstree Studios which would become our Series 1 German ‘BECO Building Site’. It was later transformed into the home to one of Britain’s most popular television soap operas, EastEnders. As can be seen, very little development had taken place at this time with only a small residential development to the south (Malden Road), industrial buildings to the east and green belt land to the north and west.

Who’d have known back then, this plot of land would go on to make TV history in more ways than one?
BECO FACT #1.jpg
IMAGE 1
Google Earth photo taken c1945. Elstree, Borehamwood, UK
The red line indicates the ‘BECO Building Site’ boundary before later becoming EastEnders ‘Albert Square ’
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BECO FACT #2

Post by Howard Radcliff » Mon Oct 14, 2013 12:07 pm

BECO FACT #2

So what does the site look like today? Here’s a recent close up aerial photograph (image 2, below) of the same plot of land in 2012 courtesy of bingmaps.com. Again, the red line bounds the BBC Elstree Studio back lot. The industrial buildings to the east constitute BBC Elstree Studios [1] (formally ATV) where entry to the back lot is gained only through gated security.

‘Malden Road’ [2] can be seen to the south whilst ‘Welbeck Close’ [3] in the west and ‘Stratfield Road’ [4] to the north form dense residential development enclosing the site.

Within the site boundary, we can clearly make out the streets and buildings comprising EastEnders outdoor film set. Central and dominant to the image is the fictional ‘Queen Vic’ pub [5]. Directly above is ‘Albert Square’ [6]. Other notable streets include ’Bridge Street’ [7], ‘Turpin Road’ [8], ‘George Street’ [9] and Victoria Square [10]. The allotments [11] and Walford East Tube Station [12] are also visible.

To think many houses on ‘Welbeck Close’, ‘Stratfield Road’ and 'Malden Road adjacent to the back lot would have enjoyed uninterrupted front row views of the Auf Wiedersehen Pet set all those years ago. Imagine that!
Attachments
BECO FACT #2.jpg
IMAGE 2
Bing Maps image Elstree, Borehamwood, UK
The red line bounds the current EastEnders ‘Albert Square' constructed in 1984.
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BECO FACT #3

Post by Howard Radcliff » Tue Oct 15, 2013 11:55 am

BECO FACT #3

Prior to the construction of the ‘BECO Building Site’ film set in 1982, the back lot at Elstree Studios was used as the film set for another ATV drama series called 'Market In Honey Lane' which subsequently became 'Honey Lane'. Almost 100 episodes of this cockney drama TV series’ were made which was broadcast in the late 1960’s. The drama was set in an East London street market and told the lives of traders and customers - essentially a 60's forerunner to today’s EastEnders. Running over two series, almost 100 episodes were produced, however only a few episodes are known to exist of which have only recently been released on DVD (2013).

But how did set designers recreate Auf Wiedersehen Pet’s German Building site here in the UK? How much filming actually took place at Elstree Studios? Is it possible given the limited amount of information available to accurately pin point individual buildings and numerous scenes filmed throughout the set? And what did televisions most famous construction site look like in 1982/83?

Lets dig deeper!
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Re: 30 'BECO BUILDING SITE' FACTS YOU DIDN'T KNOW!

Post by Howard Radcliff » Wed Oct 16, 2013 11:30 am

BECO FACT #4

Only a handful of photographs picturing Elstree’s back lot are currently in circulation prior to the construction of Auf Wiedersehen Pets ‘BECO Building Site’ (see http://www.awpet.com/becoelstree.html). This image below (image 3) taken circa 1982 offers a great insight into how the site looked prior to set contractors moving in.

Looking south, the long row of terrace housing in the distance is the rear elevation and backyards of 'Malden Road', which can also be seen in aerial image 1 above (see BECO fact #1). A new partly constructed three-storey building would be constructed in front of this terrace forming the backdrop to the main set (site building 5) which would block most lines of sight to this typical English residential street.

The gate and high timber post to the left of the image would remain and form one of two ‘BECO Building Site’ entrances. The area in the foreground outlined in yellow would become the recreational ground where the lads would be seen playing football with their German colleagues’ in episode 11, ‘The Lovers’.

The building in the centre of the image would be demolished and replaced with another partly constructed three-storey building (set building 1) used extensively throughout the series. The white building on the right seen in the distance through the branches of the tree forms the rear elevation to ‘Welbeck Close’ which can be clearly seen in the opening sequence of episode 13, ‘When the Boat Goes Out’ as the camera pans to the right.

Finally, the location marked with a red ‘X’ in front of the grassed area would become the position where Wayne introduces himself to Bombers 16 year-old daughter Tracy through a new perimeter site fence as seen in episode 5, ’Home Thoughts from Abroad’.
BECO FACT #4.jpg
IMAGE 3
ATV Elstree Studios back lot prior to the construction of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet's film set circa 1982
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BECO FACT #5

Post by Howard Radcliff » Thu Oct 17, 2013 12:28 pm

BECO FACT #5

Walking a few paces forward whilst looking over your left shoulder you’d see another landmark building situated approximately 300 yards in a north easterly direction (image 4) which appears in the background of many Auf Wiedersehen, Pet, series 1 scenes. An example of this prominent 60’s tower block called ‘Canterbury House’ can be clearly identified in episode 5, ‘Home Thoughts from Abroad’ as Oz offers the lads a ‘Friday afternoon lecture on the deficiency of German workmanship’ (image 5a).

As well as Auf Wiedersehen, Pet, this high-rise building is regularly featured in background footage and storylines of ‘EastEnders’ (where it is referred to as ‘Walford Towers’) in addition to the 1971 British science fiction crime film ‘A Clockwork Orange’.

This building along with several other blocks of flats on ‘Stratfield Road’ have recently undergone significant refurbishment and now appear a little different to how they looked in 1983 (image 5b).
Attachments
Fact 5, Image 4.JPG
IMAGE 4 (below)
View from Elstree back lot in a north easterly direction towards 60's tower block 'Canterbury House'
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Fact 5, Image 5a&5b.jpg
IMAGE 5a (below left)
'Canterbury House' appears in Episode 5, 'Home Thoughts from Abroad'
IMAGE 5b (below right)
'Canterbury House' following recent refurbishment
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BECO FACT #6

Post by Howard Radcliff » Fri Oct 18, 2013 3:04 pm

BECO FACT #6

The significance of Elstree Studios back lot in relation to Auf Wiedersehen, Pet cannot be underestimated. A staggering five hours and 28 minutes of filming took place on the outdoor site amounting to 50.4% of series 1 which included in excess of 135 external scenes. The remaining 49.6% of filming took place on Hamburg building sites in Germany, on location and within the comfort of Central Television Studios - formally ATV.
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BECO FACT #7

Post by Howard Radcliff » Sat Oct 19, 2013 11:58 am

BECO FACT #7

As many will know Auf Wiedersehen, Pet’s ‘BECO Building Site’ film set at Elstree comprised a fully operational crane, several portable trailers, tin sheds, site signs, billboards and a total of 5 large wooden huts of which included the brown 'Turks' hut, green 'Admin' hut and the iconic blue 'Hut B', home of the magnificent 7. German signage was positioned throughout the set which mirrored Hamburg site signage for added authenticity.

But did you know only 5 (yes five) partly constructed buildings were erected on Elstree Studios back lot forming the majority of the external close up scenes and backdrops to series 1?

But what were our famous 7 building? And what did they look like...?
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BECO FACT #8

Post by Howard Radcliff » Sun Oct 20, 2013 2:48 pm

BECO FACT #8

In episode 1, ‘If I Were a Carpenter’, we see Barry arriving on site in search of employment. He is greeted with yellow and white entrance signs providing site contact details replicating a similar sign used on the German Hamburg site. The infamous ‘BECO’ site name can be read along with site location and description of the proposed development as follows:

‘Errichtung von 30 altenwohnungen und 15 Mietwohnungen mit einer Tiefgarage’

Roughly translated the sign reads:

‘Erection of 30 flats for the elderly and 15 apartments with underground parking’

In reality, no ‘underground parking’ was built at Elstree. However, to create the illusion of underground rooms, set designers elevated the ground floor slab of two of the five set buildings whilst creating small openings (windows) in the external walls below.

Image 6 (below) illustrates set building #2 under construction in 1982 at Elstree and identifies one such low level window circled in red. Image 7a illustrates the very same window (again circled in red) as seen in episode 12, ‘Love and Other Four Letter Words’. These openings clearly mimic similar window openings and positions as seen throughout the German Hamburg site; an example of which can be seen in image 7b.

It’s the small details such as these that convince the mind we’re on a German building site many miles from home!
Fact 8, Image 6.jpg
IMAGE 6(above): Set Contractors construct Building #2 courtesy of The Auf Wiedersehen, Pet Story, 'That's Living Alright' by Franc Roddam & Dan Waddell
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Attachments
Fact 8, Image 7a&7b.jpg
Image 7a (above left): Set building #2 illustrating mock basement window in episode 12, 'Love and Other Four Letter Words'
IMAGE 7b (above right)
Basement windows as seen throughout the German Hamburg Site in episode 4, 'Suspicion'
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BECO FACT #9

Post by Howard Radcliff » Mon Oct 21, 2013 11:18 am

BECO FACT #9

So what did those partly constructed set buildings look like? This artist’s impression below (image 8) offers a unique view of set building #1 in its entirety looking in an easterly direction on the back lot at Elstree Studios. This building is used throughout the series and forms the back drop to numerous scenes. It also provides the location for several memorable close-up scenes including:

Position A: Neville accidently kicks a hammer through scaffolding onto an irate German operative below in episode 1, ‘If I were a Carpenter’ (image 9). This position also serves the same location where Dennis and Oz discuss the possibility a nearby Turk may be responsible for a recent theft in episode 4, ‘Suspicion’.

Position B: Barry counts down on his ‘superbly accurate digital watch’ prior to celebrating ‘topping out’ with the lads in episode 13, ‘When the Boat Goes Out’ (image 10).

Position C: Neville walks across the crane sleepers before confirming his decision to join Dennis in a visit to England in episode 6, The Accused (image 11).

Position D: Dennis and Bomber ask the Germans for financial assistance with Neville’s bail also in episode 6, ’The Accused’ (image 12).

Note the brown services cabinet position in the centre foreground of the visual can also be seen in image 6 above (refer to fact #8 above)
Fact 9, Image 8.jpg
IMAGE 8 (below): BECO Building Site 'Set Building #1'. Illustration by Andrew C Patrick
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Auf Pet - BECO Building Site - Set Building 1 - Fact 9, Image 8.jpgFact 9, Image 9-12.jpg
IMAGES 9-12 (below): Selected screen shots filmed on 'Set Building 1' as identified in image 8 (above)
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BECO FACT #10

Post by Howard Radcliff » Tue Oct 22, 2013 8:02 pm

FACT #10 – SET BUILDING #2

Throughout series 1, set building #2 as illustrated below (image 13) was used extensively. In excess of 40 (yes, forty!) scenes were filmed on, around and inside this relatively small partly constructed building on the back lot at Elstree Studios. The careful position of characters together with the calculated position of camera angles convinces the mind our ‘magnificent 7’ are working in very different locations on a much larger German building site.

In addition to numerous incidental filming sequences, the corner of this building also provided the location for several close-up scenes including:

Position E: Oz tries to cement Anglo-German relations in episode 1, ‘If I Were a Carpenter’ (image 14).

Position F: Oz narrowly misses falling scaffolding and a German operative in episode 6, ‘The Accused’: (image 15).

Position G: Dennis, Bomber and Neville discuss Oz’s ulterior motives in episode 10, ‘Last Rites’ (image 16) and the lads watch on as the Turks mock Oz episode 11, ‘The Lovers’ (image 17).

Position H: Wayne has his eye on Christa in episode 12 ‘The Lovers’ (see image 7a above)

Position J: Wayne carves a 'highly original love token' - a skirting board - against the window frame in episode 13, 'When The Boat Goes Out'.

Note also, despite 13 episodes having passed; only a handful of bricks have been laid!!!
Auf Pet - BECO Building Site - Set Building 2 - Fact 10, Image 13.jpg
IMAGE 13 (below): BECO Building Site 'Set Building #2'. Illustration by Andrew C Patrick
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Attachments
Fact 10, Image 14-17.jpg
IMAGES 14-17 (below): Selected screen shots filmed on 'Set Building 2' as identified in image 13 (above)
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Re: 30 'BECO BUILDING SITE' FACTS YOU DIDN'T KNOW!

Post by Howard Radcliff » Wed Oct 23, 2013 12:12 pm

FACT #11

According to Director Roger Bamford, four episodes of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet were filmed at a time. Inevitably, the sequence of filming did not necessarily follow chronological episode order.

One example of this can be seen in episode 1, ‘If I Were a Carpenter’ where Oz and Dennis construct their first wall on ‘set building #2’ (image 18a). However, in episode 10, ‘Last Rites', this wall has not yet been constructed as Dennis walks straight through the gap in the structure (image 18b).

This suggests the scene in episode 10 was one of the earliest to be filmed on the back lot at Elstree Studios before we see the lads laying their very first blocks in episode 1!
Fact 11, Image 18a & 18b.jpg
IMAGE 18a & 18b: Filming up to four episodes at one time resulted in some continuity errors.... but who would know?
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BECO FACT 12

Post by Howard Radcliff » Thu Oct 24, 2013 12:10 pm

FACT #12

The very centre of ‘Set Building #2’ located at the heart of Elstree Studios back lot (see image 13 above) holds a closely guarded secret!

Whether you’re a fan or not, the distinguished facade of the EastEnders ‘Queen Vic’ pub is unmistakable (image 19). If you were standing outside its front doors and were transported back to 1983, you’d be standing in the centre of Auf Wiedersehen, Pet’s ‘Set Building #2’ which served the approximate location where Helmut Fischer first introduces himself to Neville whist he compliments him on his football skills in episode 2, 'Who Won the War Anyway?' (image 20a).

This room also served the same location where we see Oz pin Moxey to the wall in episode 12, 'Love and Other Four Letter Words' (image 20b).
Fact 12, Image 19. Queen Vic.jpg
IMAGE 19 (below): The front doors of EastEnders 'Queen Vic' holds a closely guarded secret. Pictured as it stands today (2013)
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Fact 12, Image 20a & 20b.jpg
IMAGE 20a (below left): Helmut introduces himself to Neville & Wayne in episode 2 'Who Won the War Anyway'.
IMAGE 20b (below right): Oz pins Moxey to the wall after confusion over Christa's name in episode 12, 'Love & Other Four Letter Words'
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BECO FACT #13

Post by Howard Radcliff » Fri Oct 25, 2013 1:23 pm

FACT #13

In episode 1, ‘If I Were a Carpenter’, we clearly see the north-east corner of ‘set building #2’ (more on this later) prior to Oz throwing a brick at Wayne to attract his attention. In the distance, we can see partly constructed ‘set building #3’ as circled in red (image 21a).

However, in the following episode, ‘Who Won the War Anyway?’, this building completely disappears! The location where set ‘building #3’ once stood serves the precise location where Neville recovers his ball from the excavation prior to finding the bomb (image 21b).

We can evaluate therefore several scenes in episode 2 were filmed before the earlier scene in episode 1!

Let’s take a closer look at ‘Set Building #3’...
Attachments
Fact 13, Image 21a & 21b.jpg
IMAGE 21a below left: 'Set Building #3' (circled) first appears in episode 1, If I Were a Carpenter'
IMAGE 21b (below right) 'Set Building #3' disappears in episode 2 'Who Won the War Anyway?'
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BECO FACT #14

Post by Howard Radcliff » Sat Oct 26, 2013 12:36 pm

FACT #14

Image 22 (below) offers a unique never before seen elevated artist’s impression of ‘Set Building #3’ at Elstree Studios back lot.

Visible in the background are the two large bill boards starring our infamous Playboy girl in episode 8, ‘The Fugitive’. As well as becoming an integral part of the scene where Oz falls foul of a tin of red paint, the bill boards also assist to screen our view of the typical English residential terraced housing on ‘Welbeck Close’ throughout the series (position K – see also fact 2, image 1). Interestingly; had you lived on Welbeck Close in 1982/83, your rear windows and back garden would have faced that huge Playboy billboard sign!

In addition to providing the back drop to many incidental scenes, ‘Set Building #3’ provides the location for several memorable close-up scenes including:

Position L: “She loves me, she loves me not”; Oz believes Dennis needs ‘cheering up’ in the opening scene of episode 13, When the Boat Goes Out’ (image 23)

Position M: Colin ‘does a runner’ when he clocks the law in episode 8, ‘The Fugitive’ (image 24). This position also serves the same location where the Turks mock Oz after they ‘save his bacon’ in episode 11, ‘The Lovers’ (image 25).

Position N: German vandals graffiti the rear face of ‘Set Building #3’ as Wayne reviews their handiwork in episode 8, ‘The Fugitive’ (image 26).

Position P: Oz, Barry and Moxey discuss their new porn business venture in episode 10, ‘Last Rites’ (image 27, fact 15, to follow)
Auf Pet - BECO Building Site - Set Building 3 - Fact 14, Image 22.jpg
IMAGE 22 (below): BECO Building Site 'Set Building #3'. Illustration by Andrew C Patrick
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Fact 14, Image 23-26.jpg
Selected screen shots filmed on 'Set Building #3' as identified in image 22 (above)
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