Richard Carpenter was a prolific television screenwriter, author and actor who created numerous popular British TV series including Catweazle, Robin of Sherwood, The Ghosts of Motley Hall, Smuggler and The Borrowers.
Richard was born in 1929 in King’s Lynn and won a scholarship to the Old Vic Theatre School before starting his acting career in repertory. He joined a company in Sheffield where he met the actress Annabelle Lee. They were married at the Sheffield registry office in 1954. He appeared in many British TV series in the late 50s and 60s including The Citadel, Dixon of Dock Green, The Black Arrow and notably as Peter Parker, one of the three leads, in 35 episodes of Knight Errant Ltd for ITV.
Richard created Catweazle in 1970. This was his first work as a writer and he wrote all 26 episodes. It was produced by LWT and starred Geoffrey Bayldon in the title role. Catweazle was the story of an unfortunate wizard from the 11th century who was accidentally transported to the present-day. The series earned Richard a Writers’ Guild Award, was a huge success for ITV and became popular worldwide. During the 1970s, he wrote for many series, including The Ghosts of Motley Hall, The Adventures of Black Beauty, The Famous Five and Doctor Snuggles.
Richard, Paul Knight and Sidney Cole formed the production company Gatetarn in the 80s. This made the historical adventures Smuggler, Dick Turpin and its New Zealand based follow-up Adventurer, with Richard principal writer for all three series.
These were followed by the lavish series Robin of Sherwood, produced once again by Paul Knight, with whom Richard worked for 40 years, starring Michael Praed and Jason Connery. This ran for three series on ITV and was screened in the US on the Showtime channel.
Richard created and wrote a number of series for children and families in the 90s, including The Winjin Pom, Stanley’s Dragon and Out of Sight, (winning the Writers’ Guild Award for Best Children’s Drama for the second series). He also wrote notable adaptations of classic novels, including The Borrowers, The Return of the Borrowers, True Tilda, The Scarlet Pimpernel and Philip Pullman’s I Was a Rat, which won the Best Children’s Drama at the Banff Television Festival. The Borrowers, starring Ian Holm and Penelope Wilton, also won Best Children’s Drama awards from BAFTA, PACT (the Producers’ Alliance of Cinema and Television) and The Royal Television Society, and received an International Emmy Nomination.
Richard received the Writers’ Award at the 2000 Children’s BAFTA in recognition of his substantial contribution to children’s television drama.
Here in Ayot we all knew Kip as a modest man who had a great love of the countryside and nature. He was never happier than when walking his dog or chatting with a neighbour, and was always a lively and interesting companion. Kip was incredibly well-read and interested in a wide range of subjects, and this gave him the ability to have an informed conversation on almost any topic. He had a great empathy with young people, which is no doubt why he was able to write them such compelling stories.
Kip died on 26 February 2012 and a well-attended celebration of his life was held at Harwood Park Crematorium in Stevenage on Thursday 15th March.
His wife Annabelle Elsie Constance Lee was born on 24th July 1930 in Brentford, Middlesex. She left home in her teens and became an actress on stage and (from the 1950s) on TV. She was still a working actress well past normal retirement age, appearing in pantomime in east London into the 21st century. She died on Monday 5th March 2018. The ashes of Kip and Annie are scattered in the Ayot countryside.