Fans of the 70s and 80s British BBC TV sitcom “Are You Being Served?” will know that five of the troupe went on to play, in 1992/3, in a 12-part spin-off titled “Grace & Favour” in the UK, and “Are You Being Served? Again!” in the USA and Canada.
Retaining the trademark wall-to-wall innuendo and double entendres of the original, Grace & Favour looks at what happens when five members of the old Grace Brothers department store team inherit a country house hotel, instead of a cash pension from their deceased former employer, and decide to run it for an income when they discover they are not allowed to sell it. The two series star John Inman as the campy Mr Humphries, who, when free, is given a comely farmer’s daughter Mavis Moulterd (Fleur Bennett) as a love interest, Wendy Richard, who took time out from her Eastenders commitments to reprise her naive cockney Miss Brahms, Frank Thornton as the haughty Captain Peacock, Nicholas Smith as the bumbling Mr Rumbold and Molly Sugden as the pompous Mrs Slocombe, whose remarks about her beloved cat Tibbles raised titters on both sides of the Atlantic when she referred to it innocently (?) as her pussy. Also appearing is their former employer’s attractive last squeeze, Jessica Lovelock (Joanne Heywood), outrageous female magistrate Celia Littlewood (Diane Holland, the deliciously snobby dancer from Hi De Hi) and Maurice Moulterd (Billy Bowden) the home farm’s crude and jolly yokel farmer. Both Are You Being Served (69 episodes) and Grace & Favour were written by David Croft and Jeremy Lloyd, also the writers for the hit 80s sitcom ‘Allo, ‘Allo!, and Lloyd has a cameo part in one episode of Grace & Favour.
The film location for the hotel, dubbed “Millstone Manor” was Elizabethan Cotswolds Manor house Chavenage House, located 1.5 miles north-west of Tetbury in Gloucestershire, also known for being “Candleford Manor” in the BBC’s Lark Rise to Candleford and “Trewith House” in a new adaptation of Poldark. It has also featured in The House of Eliot, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Cider With Rosie and Dracula, and it has a long history which includes a curse on one owner, Nathaniel Stephens, who was struck down with a fatal illness after agreeing with his relative Oliver Cromwell, who visited Chavenage, to support the arrest, trial and execution of Charles 1. Stephen’s body was allegedly carried off by a spectral black coach and horses, driven by a headless coachman. Today it is still reputed to be haunted, despite Cromwell’s room being exorcised, but event organisers unafraid of ghostly goings-on can hire a range of five period-style rooms with a total capacity of 300, including a ballroom for 100 for dinners and other corporate events.
Sadly for fans most of the cast of Are You Being Served/Grace & Favour have now passed away, John Inman in 2007 from hepatitis, aged 71, Wendy Richard in 2009 from breast cancer, aged 65, Molly Sugden in 2009 from heart failure, aged 86, Frank Thornton in 2013 from natural causes whilst asleep, aged 92 and Nicholas Smith in 2015 from a head injury after a fall at home, aged 81. Billy Bowden died in 1994 from a heart attack, aged 79 and Diane Holland in 2009 from bronchial pneumonia, aged 78.
Grace & Favour is being released by Eureka Entertainment on May 23 as a 4-disc, 6-hour DVD set.