Bless This House and Carry On might be as synonymous with the Seventies as bell-bottom trousers and Farrah Fawcett, but the legacy of these landmark comedies has definitely lived on, largely thanks to the enduring appeal of one man: Sid James.
What was Bless This House about?
Bless This House was all about life in Howard Road, New Malden, where travelling stationery salesman Sid Abbott and his wife Jean live with their teenagers Mike and Sally.
When did Bless This House air?
Bless This House aired on ITV from February 2 1971 to April 22 1976.
Where was Bless This House filmed?
The exterior shots of the houses in the show were filmed on Bolton Avenue in Windsor. Several exterior scenes were also shot in Burnham in Buckinghamshire.
Bless This House film
A film of the series was made in 1972 although Mike was instead played by actor Robin Askwith as series regular Robin Stewart was unable to appear in the film due to commitments.
One actress who worked with Sid across both these sitcoms is Sally Geeson, most memorably playing Sid’s on-screen daughter, Sally, alongside Robin Stewart and Diana Coupland in Bless This House.
“I first met Sid at Thames Television – the place we called the fun factory because it was such a blast – when producer and director, William G Stewart introduced us to talk about a new TV series he was planning called Bless This House,” says Sally. “I was expecting to meet this Carry On character. But Sid was the loveliest, sweetest man. He just stood up and said, ‘Hello, Sal’, and straight away we had a rapport that we knew would work.
“Sid was so different in life to many of his characters. He was a quiet, sophisticated man and while he wasn’t a joker, he could see the funny side to every situation.”
He certainly could - Sid was known for his distinctive laugh!
Sally tells how all 72 episodes of Bless This House were filmed in front of a studio audience. “We’d all be introduced at the start. Every time Sid was announced, you felt the roof was going to come off the studio, people were cheering so much. Everybody loved and identified with him, especially in Bless This House where he was this dad and husband character.”
But while Sid loved the public affection, Sally says he was never a show-off. “When we filmed the outdoor scenes of Bless This House twice a year on location the whole area used to shut up shop to line the streets because they loved Sid. He didn’t see himself as a celebrity, but just a working actor like the rest of us. He definitely taught me that this is a job. Getting starry-eyed and affected doesn’t work at all. You have to keep your feet on the ground. So he was a very stabilising influence for me.”
Sally adds that he was also very serious about rehearsing. “He knew his craft so well and had this incredible ability to make it look completely natural, but it was seriously practised. He was a lot like Norman Wisdom in that way, who I worked with in the early days – a slick, professional performer, but a real natural clown."
As well as Bless This House, Sally worked with Sid again when she appeared in three Carry On films, once as a child and later in Carry On Abroad and Carry On Girls. “Me and my sister (the actress Judy Geeson) adored the Carry On films as children, so it was such fun to join something I’d grown up loving. The best thing about being part of it was that I felt so comfortable, because Sid was there. Funnily enough, despite him being such an icon, I never felt nervous acting around Sid as he was so kind. Because of his brilliant comedy timing, everyone around him had to learn how to do it as well to make it work and Sid would help us all with that. He was certainly a mentor to me.”
Sid James' tragic death
When news broke in 1976 that Sid had died, aged just 62, after suffering a heart attack on stage at the Sunderland Empire Theatre Sally was heartbroken. “He was such a tonic. When he passed it was just terrible. He died so young – who knows what more he would have given us?”
Where can I watch Bless This House?
You can catch up with all the episodes of the sitcom on Amazon Prime via ITV Hub+. You can also watch the Bless This House movie for free on YouTube here (although the quality isn't the best).
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