Esholt is a village in the Metropolitan Borough Of Bradford, West Yorkshire. It was used for the village scenes for Emmerdale from 1976 to 1997 until they moved to a purpose built replica of Esholt, the Emmerdale "Village" on the Harewood Estate. Before 1976, for the first 3 and a half years of the show, they had filmed the village scenes in Arncliffe, North Yorkshire. As Arncliffe was a long way from the Yorkshire Television Studios, Leeds, they decided to find a village closer to the studios.
The show returned to filming a one off scene in Esholt in 2016 as part of Ashley Thomas' dementia and not recognising the village as he normally would, in a clever move where the old Esholt set was used, otherwise making the Harewood set look different would be harder.
In May 2010 my dream of visiting Esholt came true. One Sunday morning the family and me drove 210 miles to Esholt from Norfolk. When we parked by the viaduct and I saw the shop and Woolpack for the first time for real I was chuffed. 6 years later, I visited the Harewood set. And this page is all about Esholt itself and its use before and during being used for village scenes for Emmerdale. (Benny 1982, founder of this Emmerdale Past & Present Wiki).
Esholt is a small village in West Yorkshire inbetween Shipley and Guiseley and just north of the city of Bradford. The village is situated in the Metropolitan District of Bradford. The name "Esholt" indicated the village was settled in a heavily wooded area of ash trees.
In the 1800s the village expanded because a waterworks was built and they needed cottages for the workers. In 1824, Henry Mitchell was born in Esholt. He later became a wealthy mill owner and recieved a knighthood for his support and service to education in Bradford.
In 1914-1918, a villager called Frederick Brocklehurst went to war in the trenches in Ypres.
Usage in Emmerdale Farm/Emmerdale 1975-1997
In 1975 Esholt was chosen as the village to film the village scenes of the ITV soap opera Emmerdale Farm. Before that, filming previously took place in the Littondale village of Arncliffe, North Yorkshire but a location closer to the Yorkshire Television Studios, Leeds was chosen. Esholt looks very different to Arncliffe. The pub in Arncliffe was overlooking a green, whereas in Esholt it was on a main street. So the shows makers had to come up with an idea to explain the different looking "Woolpacks" in the show.
So, the producers come up with a storyline where the old Woolpack was suffering from structural weakness and new premises had to be found, in a different part of Beckindale village, the fictional village in the show, (Beckindale renamed Emmerdale in 1994).
Arncliffe was a Dales village, whereas Esholt was not. Esholt was just north of the city of Bradford, and the stonework of the village was coursed sandstone as opposed to the rubble style limestone of Arncliffe. Apparently one crew member was never quite happy with Esholt due to it not quite looking like a Dales village.
For years, only Yorkshire TV and the residents of Esholt knew it was the village used in the show, but in 1983, the Bradford Tourist Board somehow found out and they advertised Esholt, and from then on many tourists descended on the village. A car park had to be built to cater for the coaches that stopped there for tours. One disgruntled owner of a farm just off Main Street in Esholt was so sick and tired of fans walking down his pathway that in 1985 he put a sign up saying "This Is Not Emmerdale Farm, Private Property". Tourists had mistaken the farm as the real life farm used for the "Emmerdale Farm" scenes, when in fact that farm was Lindley Farm, Leathley, Yorkshire, a few miles from Esholt. Several villagers did find the filming in the village could be a nuisance, while others loved it.
In 1989, there were plans to build a purpose built Emmerdale "village" but this was soon abandoned due to the budget at the time. The idea of a purpose built set was put on hold for the next 6 years.
In 1995, when the producers decided that Emmerdale was to be shown 3 times a week, the location filming schedule in Esholt got heavier. Other major British soaps such as Coronation Street and EastEnders had introduced a third weekly episode, so it was no wonder that Emmerdale was to follow suit.
Due to more filming required because of a 3rd weekly episode, plus tourists flocking on the village, as well as the residents always having to move their cars, and stay indoors during shots, and tourists being asked not to get into shot or take photographs, that the decision was made by Mervyn Watson that a purpose built replica of Esholt was to be built, well away from the public.
Costings were formalised and plans submitted and approved. In June-Oct/Nov 1997 the purpose built replica of Esholt was built on the Harewood Estate near Leeds, designed by Mike Long, the series set designer. Mike oversaw the construction of the new "Village". During construction of the set, location filming still continued in Esholt.
In December 1997, after 22 years of filming the "Emmerdale Village" scenes there, the Emmerdale production team waved goodbye to Esholt and this meant the villagers would not have to put up with the filming disrupting their lives any more. However tourists would continue to flock on the village, and do so to this day.
In mid January 1998 after the Christmas and New Year break, the Emmerdale production team started filming the village scenes on the picturesque new life size "village", first appearing on screen in Episode 2325 (18th February 1998) which featured Kim Tate stealing milk from the milk float parked outside The Woolpack.
The Harewood village is not an exact replica of Esholt and several viewers wrote in to Yorkshire TV noticing the slight change. Although the geographical relationship between the pub, the post office, Pear Tree Cottage, Victoria, Cottage, Keepers Cottage and Mill Brook Cottage is virtually identical to Esholt. They made the stonework more like a Dales Village which is rubble style limestone whereas Esholt's is coursed sandstone. Some parts of the Harewood village have a similarity to Arncliffe such as the bridge, cemetery and river even if they probably did not base it on Arncliffe, and not forgetting some of the buildings in Harewood which are copied from Esholt are meant to be the same buildings in the fictional show to what they were in the Arncliffe days, ie smithy, school, village hall and bridge.
The Commerical Inn, Esholt - later renamed The WoolpackTIn 1976, the real life Commercial Inn, Esholt was to dub as the new Woolpack once the move from Arncliffe to Esholt was complete. A specially made sign "The Woolpack" was placed over "The Commercial Inn" sign during filming of the pub. The interior of the Commercial Inn was never used for filming, as they used a studio set. The windows and front and back doors of the set matched that of the interior of the Commercial Inn but the bar area and seating areas was not. However the crew did replicate the stairwell at the back and the position of the toilets for the studio set. The Commercial was later renamed The Woolpack, to make things easier for the crew.
The pub has many, many photos of the cast and crew, some of the are signed photos.
Brief Return to Esholt for Emmerdale in 2016Due to the vascular dementia of Ashley Thomas, former vicar of Emmerdale, the show filmed a scene in Esholt again after 19 years. The episode was featuring Ashley from his point of view of how the world looks due to his dementia and thinking he is a teenager again and thinking it is 1979 again.
First appearance of Esholt in Emmerdale Farm scenes Episode 291 (26th January 1976)
Last regular appearance of Esholt in Emmerdale Farm (Now Emmerdale) scenes Episode 2323 (12th February 1998)
Last appearance of Esholt in Emmerdale scenes to date Episode 7699 (20th December 2016).
Emmerdale 1918 - A real life documentary about Esholt during WW1
Stills from first ever and last scenes filmed in Esholt
For many years in The Woolpack in the show, a photo of Ronald Magill aka Amos stood outside the Esholt Woolpack hung above the bar.
In the studio set used as the village hall in the Harewood set, photos of Esholt can be seen, taken from YTV publicity shots during filming of Emmerdale Farm/Emmerdale.
Legacy of Emmerdale left in Esholt
Esholt still attracts many tourists to this day, over 20 years since Emmerdale stopped filming there in late 1997. Holiday companies run an Emmerdale Tours coach trip, not to be confused with the Sunday March-October tours of the Harewood set which started in 2016, the only day the set is not used for filming.
The Woolpack has many signed photos and other Emmerdale memorabilia. Esholt post office and shop has many Emmerdale souvenirs - from Emmerdale stationary to books and booklets which are not available in high street shops.
When I visited Esholt in 2010, a lady was there on a coach trip and was complaining that she had been taken to where Emmerdale used to be filmed rather than is currently filmed. This was in May 2010, and tours to the Harewood set was not available back then. A lesson to learn is, read the itinerary properly.
Late 2017 was 20 years since regular filming stopped in Esholt when they moved to the Harewood replica.
- It is assumed that on one or 2 occasions inbetween 1998 and 2002 that the Emmerdale production team did use Esholt church for church scenes in Emmerdale, but this has not yet been confirmed. A study of wedding episodes of Emmerdale shown inbetween 1998 and mid 2002 will answer this, study the look of the churches they filmed at. They did however film at various churches in the Yorkshire area until 2002 when Zoe Tate burned down the church and soon after the recently vacated tea rooms at the old school house, on the Harewood set was to become the new Emmerdale Village church.
Photo tour of the villageNow here are a few photos of the village, from my own personal collection of photos I took in Esholt in May 2010.
The photo, right is of Esholt post office and houses nearby on the main road which runs through the village. The post office was used as the village post office in Emmerdale.
The Woolpack, Esholt. Used as the exterior of the Woolpack in Emmerdale. Esholt Woolpack was once the Commercial Inn but due to tourists visiting the name was changed to the Woolpack to match the fictional pub in the Emmerdale story.
The slip road to and from the car park behind the Woolpack in Esholt.
The back of the Woolpack. In December 1993 when a plane crashed on the village a piece of wreckage hit the wine bar extension of the Woolpack trapping Chris Tate in the rubble. The scenes where he was found was filmed here. A purpose built temporary extension to the Woolpack was built for the scenes.
Esholt tea rooms and the church in the background. This building was used as the exterior of the Emmerdale Tea Rooms. And Esholt Church which can be seen behind, which was used for the scenes of baptisms, weddings and funerals in Emmerdale.
A gallery of many more pics of Esholt I took during my visit there.