Emmerdale’s biggest changes since 1972 – name swap, set makeover and recastings

Hit soap Emmerdale has changed dramatically since its inception in 1972.

Beginning as Emmerdale Farm back in the day, the soap has since catapulted to fame and had a new purpose-built set to match, along with snazzy new opening credits.

As with any soap, it’s also had a huge amount of characters come through its gates to make the current line-up.

And even more characters have been recast as actors left the soap for various reasons.

And around the 10th anniversary of the soap changing its opening sequence to include new theme music and new, more modern shots of Home Farm and the village – along with its logo – we take a look back on all the iconic changes the village has gone through since it first blasted onto our screens.

Emmerdale Farm

Of course, Emmerdale wasn’t always known as Emmerdale – the show was called Emmerdale Farm from 1972 until 1989.

The soap originally focused on the farm of Emmerdale, intended as a farming serial based on BBC radio soap The Archers.

It originally centred on the Sugden family and their rural farm life and was broadcast twice a week in the afternoon.

Critics regarded it as a "sleepy soap", in which not a lot happened – but by 1977 it had been awarded an extended run and moved to a prime time slot.

The farm was originally based close to the village of Leathley, though when the soap moved to Esholt things switched up to Lindley Farm.

And the village of Emmerdale wasn’t even originally called Emmerdale – it was originally known as Beckindale.

Name change

Emmerdale village was originally called Beckindale – but that all changed in May 1994.

The village name suggests a Viking settlement and was founded in the early 1500s.

The catalyst for the swooping change came in December 1993, when a plane crash devastated the sleepy village.

A huge Eastern European airliner was on its way to Canada when it exploded over the village and crashed, shooting fireballs down into the village and killing nine villagers, as well as all of the 250 passengers on board.

It brought a huge change not only to the cast of the soap but to the set, as The Woolpack wine bar, Home Farm stables, Skipdale Bridge, Demdyke Row and a house close to what is now the surgery were completely destroyed.

The storyline garnered the soap’s highest ever viewing figures of 18million, and saw four regular characters killed – Mark Hughes, Elizabeth Pollard, Archie Brooks and Leonard Kempinski.

Later, the village was renamed Emmerdale after the Sugden family, who had farmed in the area since the 1400s – in order to stop grisly tourism who associated the village with the plane crash.

Shooting locations

The main filming locations for Emmerdale have changed three times since it was first broadcast.

Things started out in the North Yorkshire village of Arncliffe back in 1972 – a village which still attracts fans of the show to this day, despite the soap not being filmed there for almost 50 years.

Its local pub The Falcon Inn was used as The Woolpack, and its church, vicarage and shop also saw regular use for the external scenes.

In 1975, the cast and crew packed up and moved to Esholt to be closer to the Yorkshire TV Studios in Leeds, and that village was used from then on.

Esholt remained the primary filming location for Emmerdale until 1997. As both villages had a very different look, The Woolpack – which was actually filmed in the village’s Commercial Inn – was said to be suffering from structural damage and so new premises had to be found.

As the new pub was located on the main street while the previous Woolpack in Arncliffe overlooked the village green, the first episode to be filmed in Esholt began with property surveyor Mel Openshaw inspecting the new property.

Emmerdale managed to keep its new filming location on the down-low until 1983, when the Bradford Tourist Board caught wind of it and tourists swarmed the village – leaving one real-life villager to put up a sign which read ’This is not Emmerdale Farm – Private Property!’ to stop tourists coming into his home.

In 1998, the soap found itself popular enough for a purpose-built set, and things moved close to Harewood House in Leeds.

But that wasn’t the last viewers saw of Esholt, as the village actually popped up in a 2016 episode, when vicar Ashley Thomas did not recognise the village as he usually would due to his ongoing dementia battle.

The new set was built as a replica of Esholt, though building on the church and vicarage had to be held off until more money could be raised.

And filming in Hotten – the town closes to Emmerdale – takes place in Otley.

Changing credits

Even the credits of Emmerdale have changed over the years.

The soap’s original opening sequence, produced by Yorkshire Television, featured a helicopter flying across the Dales before panning on the village of Arncliffe, with the Emmerdale Farm logo eventually appearing.

It has undergone several other changes since then – perhaps the most significant being in November 1989 when the show shortened its name to Emmerdale. It included various countryside shots, including a tractor making its way through the streets.

From 1998 until 2005, the purpose-built set was featured, including a gorgeous shot of the Wharfedale Viaduct in Yorkshire. Then, in 2005, various aerial shots of the countryside were shown before zooming in on the village itself.

And finally, in May 2011, that all changed to showcase elements of the soap itself. With new theme music and a new logo, the Emmerdale credits now feature the Home Farm interior, a shot of the Dingles’ living room and a glimpse of The Woolpack.

Recastings

Since the start of Emmerdale, there have been plenty of familiar faces being replaced with less familiar ones.

In recent years, many of the soap’s younger cast members have changed faces, including Gabby Thomas, who was originally played by Annelise Manojlovic and is now portrayed by Rosie Bentham, and Sarah Sugden, who switched from Sophie Amber Moore to Katie Hill in 2017.

One of the soap's most recent recastings came as Ellis Chapman changed from Asan N'Jie, who played the role in 2018 and 2019, to Aaron Anthony, after Asan was sacked after a public fight with Jamie Lomas.

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But one of the most memorable recastings goes to Jack Sugden in 1980, when Clive Hornby took over the iconic role from Andrew Burt.

Even soap favourites Aaron Livesey and Robert Sugden underwent face swaps, with Danny Miller taking over Danny Webb’s original role as Aaron and Ryan Hawley taking over from Karl Davies as Robert after eight years.

Emmerdale airs on weekdays at 7pm on ITV, with an extra helping on Thursdays at 8pm.

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