Jack Hargreaves: Wikis


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Jack Hargreaves, OBE

Jack Hargreaves OBE (31 December 1911 – 15 March 1994) was an author and television presenter in the UK. His enduring interest was to comment without nostalgia or sentimentality on accelerating distortions in relations between the city and the countryside.

He also conceived and appeared on How! - a live children’s programme about how things worked, shown from 1966 on Southern Television and networked on ITV until the demise of Southern in 1981, but he is probably best known as the gentle-voiced presenter of the weekly magazine programme Out of Town, first broadcast in 1963, following the success of his 1959 television debut with the B&W series Gone Fishing. His country TV programmes continued in the 1980s with Country Boy and Old Country. Other programmes he created for local viewers were Farm Progress and another live afternoon series House Party.

Most of his viewers were probably unaware that he was a player in the setting up of ITV, and a member of Southern's board of directors. From early in his life he acquired a sophisticated grasp of city life. He made his reputation in the heart of London, on whose outskirts he was born. Yet for the last 30 years of his life, while employed by the National Farmers' Union, serving on the Nugent Committee (the Defence Lands Committee that investigated which parts of the Ministry of Defence holdings could be returned to private ownership) and throughout his later career as a TV personality, he sought - in entertaining ways - to question and rebut metropolitan assumptions about the character and function of the countryside. A biography of Hargreaves by Paul Peacock was published in July 2006.


A town and country life

Born, like his brothers, in north London, Hargreaves, in his youth, was placed by his mother with old family friends at Burston Hill Farm north of Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire where he was profoundly influenced by the farmer Victor Pargeter. Over half a century later, Hargreaves would acknowledge Pargeter as part of a composite of father, grandfathers, uncles and old farming friends in the formative character of 'The Old Man' at the start of his book Out of Town (1987). Hargreaves was to live at a variety of addresses in central London between Soho, Chelsea and Hampstead. In the late 40s he was moving between a London home and a caravan in a field on the bank of the River Kennet at Midgham, then a cottage in Bagnor in Berkshire by the Winterbourne running into the River Lambourn, then at Lower Pennington and Walhampton near Lymington as well as at Minstead and East Boldre in The New Forest, and, he spent his final years at Raven Cottage, near Belchalwell in Dorset which he - an inveterate commuter to and from the places from where he worked - was wont to bless for being 'just out of range of London'. He died at the Winterbourne Hospital in Dorchester, and was cremated at Salisbury, his ashes spread on Bulbarrow Hill above Raven Cottage.

Early career

Jack Hargreaves in the 1930s
Major Jack Hargreaves, 1944

Born in London in 1911 to James and Ada Hargreaves (née Jubb), Jack (christened John Herbert) was one of three brothers. The family was rooted in Huddersfield in the West Riding of Yorkshire, but James Hargreaves based himself partly in London for commercial advantage and to allow his wife the benefit of the capital's midwifery. The brothers attended Merchant Taylors' School, Northwood near London after which Edward and Ronald Hargreaves pursued successful careers in medicine, while Jack went to study at the Royal Veterinary College at London University in 1929, leaving the University to earn a living as a copywriter, journalist and script writer for radio and films. By the late thirties he had established a reputation for his pioneering approaches to radio broadcasting.

At the start of World War II broadcasting was recognised as part of the war effort. Hargreaves' talents in this field meant he faced being recruited to a restricted post in radio. Instead he joined the Royal Artillery as a private, quickly became an NCO, entered the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and was commissioned into the Royal Tank Regiment. Even so, Hargreaves' reputation as a communicator went ahead of him. He was recruited to the staff of General Montgomery to play a role setting up broadcasting services to allied forces before and after D-Day. He left the army in 1945 with substantive rank of major, having briefly held acting rank of lieutenant-colonel.

After the war, Hargreaves continued his media career and during the 1950s was editor of Lilliput magazine and Picture Post where he commissioned work from Bert Hardy. His brilliance as a communications manager led to him being recruited to the National Farmers Union by Jim Turner, later Lord Netherthorpe, celebrated for his success as a lobbyist for farmers. Working closely with Turner, Hargreaves organised and developed the NFU's Information Department, founding the "British Farmer" magazine during an almost intractable crisis of trust between NFU HQ and the members of the largest union in the country, many of whom were experiencing seismic change in the agricultural economy.

Hargreaves loved angling. Bemused at the way it had, from "sociological, technical, financial and Malthusian" causes become tribalised by class and species, he wrote "Fishing for a Year", published in 1951, arguing "for regression" - the pursuit of different fish, in separate places and varied methods throughout the licensed seasons. "What do they know of fishing" he wrote "who know only one fish and one way to fish for him?" Yet his language was seldom so polemic and never adversarial. Hargreaves' style was seductive and evocative, perfectly complemented, in this first book, by the drawings of his friend Bernard Venables:

"...just under the surface"

"It is one of the most excellent provisions of Nature" he wrote in a chapter for the warmest time of the year "that chub are to be angled for on hot summer afternoons ... When the grass is high and full of hum and rustle, when the comfrey blooms along the edge of the water and the air shivers in the heat, the chub lie just under the surface in slacks and corners and eddies all along the bank. You will see them and you will think they have not seen you". His writing and contacts among anglers saw the president of The Piscatorial Society, Sir Robert Saundby, asking Hargreaves to organise the Society's library. With typical thoroughness the collection was removed to Jack's home, leaving it fully catalogued with not a volume unread. This was when he became sceptical about the opinion of the immortal 17th century author of "The Compleat Angler", Izaak Walton, as to the culinary qualities of the chub - a dish Hargreaves described as "eating cotton wool full of pins and needles".

Southern Television

With Simon & Pewter in 1953

In 1959, by now well-known in the trade as a creative media innovator, Hargreaves was head-hunted by Roy Rich to the new ITV franchised company, Southern Television, both as programme maker and assistant programme controller. He might have been promoted but Independent Television Authority (ITA) regulations prohibited being in charge of programming, while also making programmes. It was at Southern, in the same year he joined the station, that Hargreaves made his screen debut with the B&W series "Gone Fishing" - and so, what had previously been a pastime became the focus of his wider reputation. He recounted how on his first broadcast, sitting in the studio, apprehensive at the thought of being about to talk live to a potential audience of millions, his director had reminded him that although that vast audience might be statistically daunting, it was more likely to be two or three people and perhaps a dog sitting in their front room. He aimed at conversing with such an audience for the rest of his career. The director of nearly all of Hargreaves' programmes at Southern Television was George Egan who, with cameraman Stan Bréhaut, became the third ingredient of a most creative outdoor team.

In the early 1960s Hargreaves, fascinated with a still young medium and perceiving how completely different television - especially "live" television - was from cinema, collaborated in a new documentary series under the "Out of Town" umbrella. Hargreaves had moved from his country home in Bagnor near Newbury to a new home near Lymington on the Solent and one of his earliest programmes for "Out of Town" documented the invention, design and construction, by his friend Denys Rayner, of a family yacht - the Beacon Corvette - which evolved into Rayner's Westerly 22 and became among the first of a new family of small affordable sailing boats capable of being trailed behind a family saloon, easily launched and used for weekending as well as ocean voyaging. Jack and his last wife Isobel, who he married in 1964, took one of these - "Young Tiger" (named after another of his TV series) - through the Canal du Midi between Bordeaux and Sète in 1965, completing one leg of a transatlantic voyage continued by his stepson, Simon.

Stan Bréhaut

The programme "Out of Town" was broadcast between 1963 and 1981. Jack Hargreaves became a household name in the parts of England covered by Southern Television. When Southern lost its franchise, Hargreaves continued his TV career on Channel 4, also continuing, in prose, the deceptively simple narrative style that had worked well "on the box". Hargreaves' most extended filming relationship was with Stan Bréhaut,[1] the cameraman who worked closely with him for over 20 years on over a thousand shoots. He described Bréhaut, who died peacefully in December 2005, as "the finest outdoor cameraman in England". Enjoyed for the relaxed style of his "countryside" broadcasting, Hargreaves, with Stan's help, used a sure grasp of how television worked best to spread cogent messages about the loss of men's connection with the land.

Theme tune

The earlier black and white episodes used the theme song "Out of Town" by Leslie Bricusse and Robin Beaumont, performed by Max Bygraves. The lyrics begin: "Say what you will, the countryside is still".

The distinctive classical guitar music theme tune to later episodes, "Recuerdos de la Alhambra", was written by Francisco Tárrega and was recorded on an album by the classical guitarist John Williams and released on a single as "Out Of Town" by Juan Martin. [2]

The Nugent Report

As an independent member of the Defence Lands Committee 1971-73, Hargreaves made key contributions to the Nugent Report, 1973, [3] reviewing the use of land held by the country's armed forces for defence purposes. He became even more aware that one of the best ways to reserve the countryside for its proper purpose was to keep most people out of it. Although agriculture would be preferable, military exercises seemed less harmful in their impact on the environment than its use for the recreational choices of a predominantly urban population. This was a conundrum he shared wryly with his audience, gently repeating the point, that the countryside, insofar as it had a purpose for humans, was to grow their food in sustainable ways.


Jack Hargreaves was married, in 1932, to Jeanette Haighler. They had two sons, Mark and Victor; then, after divorce, he married Elisabeth Van de Putte. Two more sons were born - James Stephen in 1946 and Edward John in 1947. That marriage ended in 1948 when he began a relationship with a journalist from Vogue, Barbara Baddeley.

Isobel in 1965

Living with her until 1963, Hargeaves became a stepfather to Bay and her brother Simon, Barbara's children by the diplomat John Baddeley CMG [4] . He also had a daughter Polly, born in 1957 as a result of a six year relationship with his secretary Judy Hogg.

In 1965 Hargreaves married Isobel Hatfield (b.12 Apr 1919), living with her over three decades. Isobel died four years after her husband on 5 February 1998. Her ashes were spread with Jack's on Bulbarrow Hill. [5]

Hargreaves' biographer Paul Peacock arranged for Polly to meet Simon and his family in March 2006.

Published film and tapes

A number of the films Hargreaves and Bréhaut made together for the "Out of Town" series exist as videos and DVDs. This material is not the same as the originally broadcast versions of "Out of Town". Southern Television was no more, so Hargreaves, now retired and having bought the original "Out of Town" tapes, started working with Steve Wade, also retired, and with whom he had worked on "How". Based in the village hall at Meonstoke, Hampshire, Hargreaves and Wade sorted, edited, rehashed and broadcast new versions of "Out of Town" on Channel 4. These comprise:

  1. Appleby Fair/Ramming Time, New Forest Point to Point/Apple Grafting and Kingfishers/Model Carts
  2. Sheep Shearing/Sea Bream, Sweetheart Story/Tyring a Cart and Farm Sale/Fishing in a Gale/Forest Fire
  3. Market Day/Minnow Trap/Lobster Boat, Iron Ponds/Lobster Breeding and Romney Marsh/Pumpkins.
  4. Lambing/Mayfly, Mole Catcher/High School Horse and Rake Maker/Stage Coach.
  5. Bee-Skips/Pheasant Shooting, Tidal Mill/Ice Fishing and Fly Casting/The Log Splitter.
  6. The Hidden Stream/Deer Shoot, The Shooting Master and British Finches/Yerro’s Operation.
  7. Stour River, Hacienda/Bullfight and House Building/Trout and Grayling.
  8. Freeze Branding/Cider Making, Trammel Nets/The Coach Builder and Big Skate/Pannage.
  9. Cod Fishing/Centenarian Angler, Charcoal Burners/Pigeon Shooting and Long Distance Ride.

Hargreaves also authored a number of audio-tapes and long play records on his favourite subjects.

External links


  • Jack Hargreaves, illustrated by Bernard Venables, 'Fishing for a year' MacGibbon & Kee 1951, republished Medlar Press 1998
  • Jack Hargreaves and others, 'HOW Annual', Independent Television Books 1975
  • Jack Hargreaves, 'Out of Town: A Life Relived on Television', Dovecote Press 1987
  • Jack Hargreaves, 'The Old Country', Dovecote Press 1988
  • Jack Hargreaves with Terry Heathcote, 'The New Forest: A Portrait in Colour', Dovecote Press 1992
  • Paul Peacock, 'Jack Hargreaves - A Portrait', Farming Books & Videos 2006
  • Report of the Defence Lands Committee 1971-73. Chairman: The Rt Hon The Lord Nugent of Guildford. Cmnd.5714. London:HMSO 1973
  • Colin Willock, 'The Gun Punt Adventure', new edition, Tideline Books 1988

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