BBC Radio

Mrs Dale's Diary

Programme Guide

MRS DALE'S DIARY/THE DALES was a daily, weekday, serial aimed largely at housewives. It went out in a 15 minute segment in the late afternoon, repeated the next morning. The most important single scriptwriter was Jonquil Antony. It succeeded the wartime serial about THE ROBINSON FAMILY, and was eventually succeeded, in a very different climate of broadcasting, by WAGGONER'S WALK.
It ran altogether from January 1948 until April 1969. MRS DALE was played from the outset by ELLIS POWELL (replaced for a time in the early days by THEA WELLS, who stayed in the serial to play ISOBEL FIELDING), and her husband DR DALE by DOUGLAS BURBIDGE.
The other original cast member who played her part for many years was MRS MORGAN, later MRS MAGGS, who gave domestic help, and became part of the family (as well as a source for the serial of slightly more downmarket characters). The Doctor originally practised in Kenton, which had the disadvantage of being a real place, which rather cramped the writers' style, and they were moved to the fictional London suburb of Parkwood Hill.
Other major characters included Mrs Dale's redoubtable mother MRS FREEMAN, who was played at first by COURTNEY HOPE and then for twenty years by DOROTHY LANE. And her sophisticated sister SALLY, who was at first THELMA HUGHES and later MARGARET WARD (to stick with the longest-serving performers; there were many changes).
Dr & Mrs Dale had two children BOB, played by NICHOLAS PARSONS, HUGH LATIMER, DEREK HART, and by LESLIE HERITAGE for nearly twenty years. And GWEN who was successively VIRGINIA HEWITT, JOAN NEWELL, BERYL CALDER and (for many years) ALINE WAITES.
Bob married an actress JENNY, who was originally and distinctively JULIA BRADDOCK, and later played by MARY STEELE and SHIRLEY DIXON. Gwen's not always faithful husband DAVID was Jenny's brother, and he was played mainly by ANTHONY JAMES, FRANK PARTINGTON, GORDON MORRISON, JOHN SPRINGETT, ROBIN LLOYD and LEE PETERS. One has to say 'mainly' because only the very central characters were on anything but ad hoc contracts, so there were a vast amount of cast changes. The most noticeable of these came in 1963. Ellis Powell had acquired two different reputations in the character - a public one of being unfashionably cosy and wifey, and an image with her employers the BBC of being pretty much the opposite of these qualities, and rather unreliable.
It was an irony that was later extended and developed into the central character of "THE KILLING OF SISTER GEORGE", with lesbianism added. Douglas Burbidge had left the serial in 1954 because of ill-health, and had been succeeded (the coincidence of name must have suggested it) by JAMES DALE, a well-known and well-respected actor of his time, but older than his predecessor and soon sounding understandably older than his character.

In 1961 the BBC had made an attempt to move with the times, and to respond to the rather jokey suburban image the programme had, and the Doctor joined a group practice in a fictional out of London new town, Exton. Various excuses were made for shifting other characters there too. At this time, too, the programme became "The Dales" and the convention that it was a dramatised diary, with narrative links by Mrs Dale, was abandoned.
Two years later, they made a clean sweep of the two actors who they thought sounded anomalous in the modernised programme, and recast Dr and Mrs Dale. The new Doctor was CHARLES SIMON who had enormous stage and radio experience, and who died only in 2002, still working at 93.
The press had a bit of a gala with the new choice for Mrs Dale, as it was JESSIE MATTHEWS, an enormous musical star in her youth, who had later had a lot of professional and personal problems. This was a great comeback for her, though her own time as Mrs Dale was also dogged by ill-health.
She started doing a lot more musical work again, however. Sadly, Ellis Powell died soon after she lost the part.
The serial continued for another six years, before - I think - the BBC decided that it really was an anachronism, and they wanted something new. One of the parts Jessie Matthews subsequently played was "Sister George", the play about the character in a radio serial who was a household name, but lost the part in a policy shake-up!


Broadcast Dates:


Production Company:
BBC Radio 1948-1969

Internet Pages:

Your Views:
Don't know if you are still covering this site as it comes up with white writing... but my grandfathers sister was Mrs Dale (ellis Powell) Her real name was agnes but ellis is a family name and she used it for stage...
Inge Powell - 22/06/06

Hi There,
Glad to see you have information about "The Dales".My memories of this series,are deep in my childhood.My Mother used to get annoyed with me if I interupted her while she was listening to this series.So "The Dales" was responsible in a way for quite a few clouts from my Mother!.
I was 50 yesterday,and still remember,Parkwood Hill and Mrs Maggs.For a good laugh,about a fictitious Radio Soap look out for Tony Hancock in "The Bowmans" a BBC TV Video.
Best of luck with your website.
Alan Barber - 08/10/03

Mrs Freeman was always called "mother-in-law" by Dr Dale. She had a cat called, Captain (but pronounced Kepton - you know, very posh). She lived in a flat in the Doctor's house.
Sally had a hat shop in London and a weekend cottage in the country (Suffolk, I think) where she had a housekeeper called, Zenobia.)
June Breed
PS Isn't is remarkable that people are still talking about this programme after all these years. My friend told me last week that she always made her Christmas pudding when Mrs Maggs made one for the Doctor.
This started us reminiscing about what we could remember about the programme. That's why I was searching the internet for what I could find today. I am pleased to say I had remembered most things. - 26/01/03

I played Gwen in the Dales and was mothered by both Ellis Powell and Jessie Matthews (as was Leslie Heritage as Bob). We both stayed with it to the end. The final episode was my engagement to John Justin. Several other members of the cast are familiar faces - Derek Nimmo.
Will think of some more and let you have information as it comes to me.
Yours Aline Waites 30/11/02

I grew up in post war England to the daily life of the Dale family in Mrs. Dales Diary, I would love to know if anyone has either the music that started the show each day on tape or even an episode or two. There was a book published do you have any info. on that I now live in cananda.
Terry & Carla Cooke "Plumsview" 14/11/02

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Soap Cross-Over

Douglas Burbidge
Dr Jim Dale #1

Leslie Heritage

Jack Howarth

Charles Hyatt
Dr Lionel Smithson

Hattie Jacques
Mrs Leathers

Jessie Matthews
Mrs Dale #2

Ellis Powell
Mrs Dale #1

Charles Simon
Dr Jim Dale #2

Bill Treacher

Derek Nimmo

Thanks to Hannah for details regarding Bill Treacher, thanks to Jeff Lee with regards to the Light Programme mix up (Yes, Radio 4 was the Home Service) and Roy Gissop for extra details of cast.

Last Update: 28/08/06

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