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This article is about the series. For the main setting of the soap, see Emmerdale (village).
New Emmerdale titles

Emmerdale title caption since 2011.

Emmerdale (known as Emmerdale Farm until 1989) is a popular and critically acclaimed long-running British soap opera that has been broadcast on ITV since 1972. It is set in the fictional village of Emmerdale (known as Beckindale until 1994) in the Yorkshire Dales, England and was originally created by Kevin Laffan but production is now overseen by producers Kate Brooks and Laura Shaw as well as executive producer Jane Hudson.

The series is produced by ITV Studios in Yorkshire and broadcast on the ITV network and was first broadcast on 16th October 1972. It was originally conceived and broadcast as a daytime programme in an afternoon slot, becoming an early-evening programme in 1978 in most ITV regions, but excluding London and Anglia, both of which followed in the mid-1980s. Until 1985, Emmerdale took seasonal breaks; since then it has been broadcast year-round.

Emmerdale is normally shown every weekday at 7:00pm with an extra Thursday episode being aired at 8:00pm (beginning 23rd July 2009). Every episode lasts around 30 minutes (including commercials); without adverts the total time of footage averages to around 22 minutes per episode. Episodes are first broadcast on ITV1 and repeat episodes and the omnibus of the show can be seen on ITV2

Series Overview

Read more: Series Overview & Filming Locations

The idea for Emmerdale Farm was pitched by Kevin Laffan to Granada in 1972. The idea was to have the show surround the Sugden family, who resided and normally worked on Emmerdale Farm. The village of Beckindale (and the show's title) was originally based off the village Ammerdale, but Granada disallowed the show to be named after a real place so Laffan changed the name slightly. The show was filmed in real villages, with interior scenes being filmed on sets in studios in Leeds. David Goddard was brought on as series producer and Peter Holmans was brought on as executive, whilst Kevin wrote the first twelve episodes of the series.

The show originally filmed its exterior scenes in the village of Arncliffe before moving to Esholt in 1976, then onto a purpose-built set on the Harewood estate in 1998. The interior scenes have mostly been filmed inside of The Leeds Studios.

Setting & Characters

Read more: Emmerdale characters & List of fictional locations

Emmerdale has had a large number of characters since it began, with its cast gradually expanding in size. The series has also had changing residences and businesses for its characters.

Emmerdale Sign

The series is set in Emmerdale (known as Beckindale until 1994), a fictional village in the Yorkshire Dales. However, in its early years, the focus of the show was on the Sugden and Skilbeck families who lived at the titular Emmerdale Farm, which was the show's focal point. One of the village's perhaps most recognisable locations is the local pub, The Woolpack which has been an integral part of the show since its inception and is the main meeting place for villagers and visitors alike. Most famously, the pub was run by Amos Brearly and Henry Wilks who stood behind the counter from 1972 to 1991. As the years went on the cast became much larger and the locations expanded.

Home Farm is a sprawling mansion in Emmerdale; it was first introduced on-screen as Miffield Hall in 1973 and was renamed in 1978 when NY Estates set up base there, and has been the home of many of the village's richest families throughout the years.

Cast 1972

The cast of Emmerdale in 1972.

The Sugdens, Skilbecks and Merricks, were at the centre of the show during the series' first two decades but as the years went by, many of their members left or were killed off and by the early 1990s, only the Sugdens still remained in the village, and some do even to this day. The longest-lasting of the original characters of the show was, Jack Sugden who would remain as a regular until 2008. However, the last original character to appear is Annie Sugden who returned briefly in 2009 after 13 years of abstinence. The longest-running character on the show is Eric Pollard who has appeared consistently since 1986.

From the early 1980s the show's focus gradually shifted away from the farm and more onto the village of Beckindale. In 1986, the emphasis on the farm took another slight dip as the Mill was bought back into the show, having been vacant since 1973, and by 1988 locations such as Victoria Cottage, Home Farm, the Woolpack, Mill Cottage, Demdyke Row and the vicarage was central locations in the show, rivalling Emmerdale Farm. The emphasis was drifting further from the farm and more onto the village. This was then amplified by the show dropping the 'Farm' from its name in 1989. With this new change, the wealthy Tate family were introduced as the new wealthy owners of Home Farm, originally consisting of self-made millionaire Frank Tate, his much younger wife Kim, and children Chris and Zoe. This was to give the show a more Dynasty-style feel and was a turning point in the show as the Sugdens were no longer the main family. And a few episodes could be set away from Emmerdale Farm itself. The farmhouse was written out of the series completely in the early 1990s.

Original Tates

The original Tates

The cast continued to expand as other families followed: the Feldmann family in 1990, the middle-class Windsor family arrived in 1993, the Thomas family in 1996 when Ashley Thomas arrived as the new vicar, a position he would hold for 20 years, and the Hope family in 2000. However, 1994 introduced perhaps one of the most famous - or infamous - families to appear in Emmerdale, the Dingle family. The Dingles originally consisted of Zak and Nellie Dingle and their children Butch, Sam and Tina but has grown for every year that followed. By the mid-2000s, the last of the Tates had either died off or left the village. As the Tate family thinned out, The King family arrived, originally consisting of Tom King and his three oldest sons. Although, throughout the coming year the original family were one-by-one killed off, with only Jimmy King remaining.

The late 2000s and 2010s saw the additions of the Wylde/Lamb family, the farming Barton family as they took over Butlers Farm in 2009, the Sharma family, originally consisting of brothers Jai and Nikhil who arrived in the village to set up their sweet factory which employed many of the villagers until its closure in 2019, and the wealthy Macey and White family both of whom had their tenure as the head of Home Farm and came and went in the span of a decade.

Woolpack

To this day, most of the Dingles still remained, having steadily increased their numbers over the years, quickly becoming the largest and fastest-growing family in the show's history. They still have an integral part in the show with their family members taking up a significant amount of the current cast and being in the village centre with The Woolpack currently being run by cousins Chas and Charity Dingle and employing Marlon Dingle as a chef. 

By the late 2010s and early 2020s, the Tates returned to their former glory, starting with the arrival of Chis' son Joe Tate in 2017 and Kim Tate's much-awaited return the following year as Home Fram was once again home of the Tates. Meanwhile, the Bartons, Whites and Macey's had thinned out as this new era was dominated by the Dingles, Sugdens, Sharmas and Tates.

Memorable Moments

Read more: Events in Emmerdale

Emmerdale has had some of the biggest and most memorable events since 1972; a barn fire in October 1977, a mine explosion in March 1978, an armed robbery in May 1978, a huge deadly car accident in August 1986, a house explosion in May 1988, and most memorably of all, the plane crash of December 1993.

Viewing Figures & Schedule

Read more: Viewing Figures & Schedule

The show is one of the most watched programmes on British television. An average Emmerdale episode generally attracts 8.5million viewers and it regularly competes the other two major soaps Coronation Street and EastEnders. However, notable episodes and storylines have seen the viewing figures soar:

  • On 30 December 1993 Emmerdale attracted its highest ever audience of 18 million when a plane crashed into the village killing four villagers. The aftermath of the plane crash on 5 January 1994 attracted 16 million viewers. The storyline brought Emmerdale into the public eye and consequently kept the show as one of the most watched soaps on British television
  • On 27 May 1997 Emmerdale attracted over 13 million viewers when Frank Tate died of a heart attack, after his wife, Kim Tate, returned after faking her own death months before.
  • On 20 October 1998 Emmerdale attracted 12.5 million viewers when the Woolpack exploded after being burnt down with fireworks.
  • On 19 January 1999 Emmerdale attracted nearly 15 million viewers as Kim Tate flee the village in a helicopter to avoid arrest.
  • On 1 January 2004 Emmerdale attracted 11.19 million viewers when the village was hit by a storm, which caused the Woolpack roof to collapse after it was struck by lightning, which then collapsed onto Tricia Dingle, who died from her injuries in hospital. One of the soap's most famous storylines, it gave the show a huge ratings boost and the storyline went down in Emmerdale history. The year to come would see the show gain an even higher profile.
  • On 1 March 2005Emmerdale attracted 10.08 million viewers when Charity Tate left the village after ruining Jimmy King's 40th birthday by playing a tape which confirms their affair and revealing his wife Sadie's lies to she stop Charity's wedding to Tom King

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 six half-hour episodes each week.

Emmerdale is filmed roughly between 4–6 weeks before it is first broadcast on ITV1.

Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Number of
Weekly Episodes
1972–1988 2
1988–1990 2
1990–1997 2
1997–2000 3
2000–2004 5
2004–2008 6
2008–2009 4 + 1 hour long on Tuesdays
2009–Present 6

Titles and theme tunes

Read more: Title sequence, Credit sequence & Break bumpers

1972sequence7

The orginal title sequence

The original titles featured a slow panning shot of the Yorkshire Dales, before slowly zooming in on Beckindale (in reality Arncliffe) and then a shot moving from a sunset through some trees to the farmhouse. The title caption zoomed out to the camera as the camera focused on Beckindale. Kevin Laffin's name appeared on the farmhouse shot. The theme, written by Tony Hatch, was performed on the cor anglais with piano and strings accompaniment. The opening changed many times the first being in 1974, but it often had many of the same components, featuring the village and farm life in slow panning shots, often showing grand helicopter views of the Dales and using the Tony Hatch theme, although many tweaks were made to the tunes throughout the year. 

The longest-lasting title sequence was introduced in 1975, which has been dubbed the 'Sunset' titles, due to the fact that the sequence uses footage of various farm activity interspersed with surrounding scenery as the sun gradually sets in the background. The final shot appears with the sun setting directly behind a farmhouse. This was the first time the farmhouse seen at the end of the sequence is not the building used for Emmerdale Farm in the programme. These titles last all the way until November 1989 when the programme's title was shortened to Emmerdale. This title sequence brought a new look to the programme, going away from the helicopter view of Beckindale, now showing a bit more action-packed shots and more animals and activities. New title sequences introduced in coming years would continue that trend and focus even more sports and motion and going further and further away from farm life and animals. 

In 1999, a new sequence was filmed, differing from the previous ones by showing a superimposed montage of people performing the various emotions seen in a soap in black and white shots overlaying an in-colour helicopter view of the Yorkshire moors and farming areas before zooming in on the village and ending on a view down Main Street with the title popping up, which would persist in the following sequences. In 2005, the opening titles were replaced with another helicopter montage, this time marginally slower and without the actors but the biggest change since the show's inceptions would come with the titles introduced in 2011. The imagery was given a complete revamp, moving away from the helicopter shots that had been in use since 1998. They start out with a Range Rover driving through the woods, cuts sideways to a woman stroking a man's leg with her foot: a couple running upstairs in Home Farm, a dog in the Dingles' living room before ending on a view of Main Street similar to previous titles. This new sequence also featured one of the largest changes in music as it wasn't recorded using live instruments but instead a modern synthesiser to give a contemporary fresh look to the show.

See also

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