It's 25 years since Heartbeat made its debut on our screens. The show outgrew its original star and turned Goathland into an international tourist attraction. Dan Turner interviewed some of the cast

TWENTY FIVE years ago this week ITV unveiled its much-anticipated family drama, Heartbeat. Originally conceived as a starring vehicle for Nick Berry - fresh out of EastEnders - but expectations for the hit drama were not always high, according to three of the lead actors.

The first episode aired on April 10, 1992. Although ITV was bullish about its prospects some of those involved felt it would not run for more than one season.

Set in the fictional village of Aidensfield, in the North Riding of Yorkshire, the show was based on the Constable books written by retired policeman Peter Walker under the pseudonym Nicholas Rhea (now a columnist for the Darlington and Stockton Times). The title was changed to Heartbeat partly as a nod to the bobby's beat but also because it gave Berry (who had enjoyed a number one hit with the song Every Loser Wins) a chance to sing the theme tune –the Buddy Holly song of the same name. The song reached number two in the charts.

Berry played PC Nick Rowan, a policeman newly arrived from London with his wife Kate, a doctor in 1960s Britain.

The series was filmed at various locations around North Yorkshire. Exterior scenes of Aidensfield are filmed in the village of Goathland in North Yorkshire, with the village's railway station also appearing occasionally. Other filming locations included Whitby, Otley and Scarborough.

The Northern Echo: Heartbeat - David, Geoff, Bernie & Joe + Van 2.

David, Geoff, Bernie & Joe in Heartbeat

Bill Maynard, 88, who played loveable rogue Claude Greengrass, said: “Someone on the show called me and said, ‘I’ve got this show about a policeman in the Yorkshire moors, but I’ll be honest with you, I don’t see it going far. There’s a little part in it about a man he’s a bit of a rogue and a little whippet of a man. There are only a few lines, but I want you to come and put some humour in it.’

“People even resigned after season one because they were told this show is going to get us all the sack. They got the shock of their lives when the first episode went in at network number seven, and the second episode went in at network number four!”

Derek Fowlds, 79 who played crotchety police sergeant-turned-landlord Oscar Blaketon, agreed with Maynard: “Me and Nick Berry were filming one night for season one, and Nick said to me: "Do you think this will run?" And I replied: "Not a chance, so let’s just enjoy the next six months".

“After we’d done season one, they asked us to do another season, and then another. Then it just snowballed, and it was a huge, huge hit. It was a surprise to all of us really.”

Heartbeat ended up clocking 272 episodes over 18 years on primetime television with viewing figures reaching more than 14 million. When Berry left after seven seasons in 1998, Heartbeat carried on regardless.

Maynard explained its popularity: “It was a bloody marvellous show. It had drama, it had murders, it had me!”

The Northern Echo: HEARTBEAT, Sun 16th November at 8.00pm on ITV Network.The Rowan family pose for their wedding photogragh (from left ): Nick (Nick Berry) , Jo (Juliette Gruber) and Katie (Alice Jones).

The Rowan family pose for their wedding photogragh. Nick, played by Nick Berry; Jo, played by Juliette Gruber, and Katie, played by Alice Jones

David Lonsdale, 53 who played David Stockwell, said: “It told stories with great skill and warmth, using familiar and much loved characters. It had the ‘X Factor’ – which is ironic as that’s what took over our Sunday night slot!”

That end in 2010 came as a disappointment – and according to the actors involved – a surprise.

Fowlds said: “It was a disappointing ending, and we all felt it. We wanted the programme to carry on.

“We were still getting seven million viewers. We knew it was the last episode of that particular series, but we didn’t know that it wasn’t going to be re-commissioned until we had a meeting where the powers that be came up and told us they had to get rid of four or five programmes, and Heartbeat was one of them.”

All still see potential for the show to resurrected in some form, however.

Lonsdale even put that into action last year, writing and appearing in a stage version of Heartbeat which was seen by 30,000 people across the country.

He said: “I have people telling me almost daily that Sunday night is not the same without it. It would need a new slant though – and certainly a new decade! But the format is essentially still strong.”

Maynard said: “We had an idea to do Greengrass going back to a care home in Aidensfield. I rang up Derek Fowlds, Peter Benson, and Tricia Penrose and they were all keen to do it.”

Heartbeat still has a following today, and can be viewed daily on ITV2 and ITV Encore.