Albion Market was a British soap opera, set in a covered market in Salford, in the northwest of England. It was intended as a companion to fellow ITV soap Coronation Street, starting at 7:00 pm on Fridays and Sundays. However, due to continued troubles and ratings competition from the BBC‘s Open All Hours, the series was only broadcast for one year, before being replaced with additional episodes of Coronation Street.
Albion Market launched in August 1985, four months before Coronation Street celebrated its 25th anniversary. Granada Studios dubbed it a “continuing drama series”, considering the term “soap opera” derogatory. The show ran twice weekly on Friday and Sunday night; at the time, 7.00 pm on Fridays and Sundays were considered “graveyard slots“, usually broadcasting game shows or American imports.
Very quickly, the Sunday episodes were moved back to around 6.00 pm, and LWT later dropped the Friday episode and instead broadcast a double bill of the series at 5.00 pm on Sundays. At the series launch, the chairman of Granada Television claimed that “When Coronation Street celebrates its Golden anniversary, Albion Market will be celebrating its silver anniversary”. Despite this, the show lasted for only one year.
The show received negative reviews from critics and did not do well in the ratings. Many noted that the actual storyline rarely strayed from the confines of the market itself. The long-suffering market superintendent Derek Owen (David Hargeaves) was the primary focus; his day usually began with the difficult task of assigning the few unowned stalls to the large number of casual traders. Prominent among these were Lynn Harrison (Noreen Kershaw) and her ex-convict husband Roy (Jonathan Barlow); while the regular traders included the gossiping ceramics dealer Morris Ransome (Bernard Spear) and handsome lothario and cake seller Tony Fraser (John Michie).
The series struggled to attract a sizeable audience. Characters were bogged down by the business of running their stalls, and the sheer drabness of the set compounded the monotony. After this faltering start, compounded by Michael Grade’s success with his newly rearranged schedules for the BBC, Granada attempted to change direction and bring in both glamour and familiar actors. Despite attempts to encourage viewing figures by bringing in Coronation Street actor Antony Booth and singer Helen Shapiro, the ratings did not improve, and some ITV regions dropped the series from their peak-time schedules. The show was cancelled after just 100 episodes. For many years, the outdoor location with its distinctive arch-shaped Albion Market sign above the River Irwell remained intact. When the Granada Tours Experience was closed in 1999, the sign was removed, and the building which was once Albion Market was sold. It now forms part of the Victoria and Albert Hotel.
|British air date
|30 August 1985
|Market Superintendent Derek Owen’s day doesn’t get off to a good start when he is forced to evacuate the market following a telephone threat. Proceedings are eventually returned to normal, until an arson attack on an unoccupied stall results in a further evacuation. Meanwhile, Lynne Harrison is excited at the prospect of her husband’s release from jail, but her daughter isn’t so pleased. Derek’s assistant Keith is also excited about taking his motorcycle test.
|1 September 1985
|Derek continues his investigation into the arson attack and suspects that one of the Jessop family may have sabotaged their own stall. Later, further telephone threats to the market are made, leading to Derek interrogating Ralph Jessop. Meanwhile, Lynne’s husband Roy is finally released from prison, and Geoff and Morris’ dispute over the sale of pot plants threatens to reach boiling point. Keith finally passes his motorcycle test but is upset when his bike is stolen.
|Jonathan Wright Miller
|6 September 1985
|Tony Fraser makes a welcome return from his travels, immediately setting his eye on both Lisa O’Shea and Carol Broadbent. Meanwhile, a charity fun run to raise money for the local hospital unexpectedly results in the discovery of the identity of the market arsonist. Roy Harrison befriends Larry Rigg, who offers to show him the tricks of the trade. Morris decides to up the stakes in his feud with Geoff by starting to sell pot plants, much to Geoff’s anger.
|Jonathan Wright Miller
|8 September 1985
|Roy stalls Lynne’s chances of a permanent stall on the market after trying to bribe Derek. Tony’s seduction attempts fall flat when Lisa and Carol discover their ‘holiday’ presents were actually bought from Brenda’s stall, and concoct a plan to show him the error of his ways. Geoff tries to con Morris with a story involving ‘root rot’, but Morris isn’t having none of it and refuses to back down. Larry offers to import a shipment of goods on Roy’s behalf.
|13 September 1985
|Derek makes a decision over the Jessop’s future on the market after further trouble, offering their stall to the Sharma brothers, who are desperate for a regular tenancy. Morris and Geoff agree to let bygones be bygones, but soon find themselves at loggerheads once more. Roy begins to embrace working on the market by selling a batch of expensive watches, but Lynne suspects they may be stolen and does a little digging. Tony continues to woo the ladies.