Arnold Ridley Archive


Arnold Ridley OBE (1896-1984), the British playwright and actor, is probably best remembered as author of the play The Ghost Train, and for his roles of Private Godfrey in Dad's Army and Doughy Hood in the radio soap The Archers.

Born in Bath in 1896 and educated at Bristol University, Ridley seemed destined to become a stage actor, making his first appearance in a production of Prunella at Bristol’s Theatre Royal in 1914, but, following injuries received during the First World War, he was forced to put his acting career on hold and instead turned to playwriting.

What the collection holds

Ridley's archive reveals his dual career as both actor and prolific playwright. It includes over thirty original play scripts; over twenty story outlines; and three printed novels based on his plays. His plays included The Ghost TrainThe WreckersKeepers of YouthThird Time LuckyGlory Be-Tabitha,Easy Money and Beggar My Neighbour, many of which were also made into films. He also wrote and directed two films Royal Eagle (1936) and Doctor Zander (1936).

As an actor, Ridley appeared in countless plays, performing with the Birmingham Rep and later the White Rose Players, where he met his future wife, the actress Althea Parker (1911-2001), as well as appearing in several West End productions. This is reflected by the wealth of programmes, handbills, posters, news cuttings, and production photographs in his archive.

The archive also brings to light the background to Ridley’s most famous play, The Ghost Train. It includes the author’s final typescript version of the script, with annotations in his own hand; his notes on presentations of the play; production photographs; and programmes from numerous performances, including the first performance of the play at Brighton’s Theatre Royal in 1925. In an article published in 1933 he revealed how the terrifying sound effects of the ghostly train were created: "The effect itself was perfectly simple, being merely a judicious mixture of thunder sheets, compressed air, a garden roller, and pieces of sandpaper and wire brushes combined with a kettle-drum"!

The online catalogue for this collection can be viewed here: 
AR - Arnold Ridley Archive

Arnold Ridley in the character of Doughy Hood in the BBC radio series 'The Archers', 1967. Photographer: E.Johnson Taylor.
Arnold Ridley in the character of Doughy Hood in the BBC radio series 'The Archers’, 1967. Photographer: E. Johnson Taylor. Image credit: University of Bristol Theatre Collection
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