Jennings at School (partially found BBC Radio 4 adaptation of children's book series; 1972-1974)

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Anthony Buckeridge, a young Jeremy Clarkson, and the other main cast for the series.

Status: Partially Found

Jennings at School (also known as Jennings) is a series of children's novels written by Anthony Buckeridge. It detailed the misadventures of title character J.C.T. Jennings, a pupil at Linbury Court preparatory school. The series, based on a 1948 BBC Radio series, would receive numerous later radio adaptations, including between 1972 to 1974 as part of Radio 4's Children's Hour. This adaptation is notable for featuring the voice of a 12-year-old Jeremy Clarkson, the future Top Gear and The Grand Tour host playing the role of Atkinson in the series.


Jennings' origins began in 1948, when writer Buckeridge proposed a script to the BBC.[1] It was accepted, and the series' first play, "Jennings Learns the Ropes", would be broadcast on 6th October 1948 as part of Children's Hour.[1] This inspired Buckeridge to write a total of 62 plays, as well as convincing Williams Collins to publish a series of books, Buckeridge going on to write 24 of them.[2][1] The books also proved popular, not only in the United Kingdom, but also in Norway.[2] Ultimately, most of the original radio plays are permanently missing, as the BBC elected not to record them.[1] Nevertheless, a series of volumes containing the original manuscripts were published by David Schutte in 2002.[1]

1972-1974 BBC Radio 4 Adaptation

As the Jennings books remained popular well into the 1970s, various plays would be broadcast.[3] A six-part radio play featuring Clarkson was commissioned for BBC Radio 4's Children's Hour, entitled Jennings at School.[4][3] In this adaptation, Buckeridge would voice Mr. Wilkins, the headmaster of Linbury Court preparatory school.[5][3] A rotating cast of pupils would voice the various schoolboys in the play, with Mark Hadfield selected for the part of Jennings.[5][3] Meanwhile, Clarkson was picked to fulfil the role of Atkinson, a classmate of Jennings who would frequently irritate the latter and others by his continual practicing of the piano.[6][4][5][3]

Episodes would be broadcast weekly, lasting for around 20 minutes during Children's Hour.[5] The first episode, entitled "Jennings and the Rattling Relic", was broadcast on 30th December 1972.[5] It was followed by "Jennings and the Planned Operation" and "Jennings and the Farewell Glit", broadcast on 6th and 13th January 1973 respectively.[5] Two more episodes were broadcast in January, including "Jennings and the Organised Outing" on the 20th, and "Jennings Entertains the General" on the 27th.[5] The original series finished with "Jennings and the Lure of the Jumble" on 3rd February.[5] Two holiday specials would be broadcast later that year; this included "Jennings and the Scientific Frogman", broadcast on 25th April and repeated on 28th September 1974.[5] The final episode was Christmas-themed, and the only one where Radio Times provided a synopsis for.[5] Broadcast on 22nd December 1973, "Happy Christmas, Jennings" involved Jennings causing chaos and confusion among the school on the last day before the Christmas holidays.[5][4][3] No other episodes were produced with the cast, as the actors voicing the schoolboys, including Clarkson, would inevitably have their voices broken as they reached puberty.[6]


It is unclear as to how many episodes of the series remain in the BBC archives, especially when considering the extent of BBC lost radio media that extents into the late-1990s.[7] Nevertheless, "Happy Christmas, Jennings" has survived, as it was broadcast on BBC Radio 7 in 2007 and 2009 on Christmas Day.[8] Additionally, extracts from it were broadcast during series 11, episode 1 of The Unbelievable Truth, as well as the This Is Your Life episode focused on Clarkson.[4] The full episode is missing, although the extract from This Is Your Life has resurfaced. The other five episodes are completely missing.



This Is Your Life episode focused on Clarkson (Jennings at School extract from 12:12-12:45).

See Also