fonds CW - The Charles Wood Archive

Identity area

Reference code



The Charles Wood Archive


  • 1960-2006 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

1.3 cubic metres

65 boxes

Context area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Charles Wood was born on Guernsey on 6 August 1932 to Jack Wood and his wife Mae Harris. His parents were actors in a repertory theatre company playing there at the time and Wood travelled with them until 1939 when the family settled in Chesterfield, Derbyshire. There, he attended St Mary’s Catholic Primary School and Chesterfield Grammar School.

In 1946 his family moved to Kidderminster where his father, Jack, managed The Playhouse Theatre and Wood began attending King Charles I Grammar School as well as assisting his parents in the Playhouse as stagehand, electrician and occasional actor. In 1948 Wood was admitted to Birmingham School of Art to study theatrical design and lithography.

In 1950 Wood joined the Army and served five years with the 17th/21st Lancers graduating to corporal by the time he was demobbed in 1954-55. His military service made him, by his own admission, avowedly anti-war and acutely aware of the pressures on the ordinary serving soldier, themes that would become prominent in his literary works.

In 1954 he married actress Valerie Newman and in 1955 he emigrated to Canada where he remained until 1958. On his return to England, Wood worked at the Bristol Evening Post newspaper, where playwright Tom Stoppard was then working as a journalist. In 1959 Wood wrote his first play ‘Prisoner and Escort’ which aired on radio in 1961. In the same year Wood’s first televised work ‘Traitor in a Steel Helmet’ was broadcast. In 1963 his play ‘Cockade’ won the Evening Standard Award for Most Promising New Writer and Wood resigned from his role at the Evening Post to write full time.

Wood's The Drill Pig was televised in 1964, and by 1965 Wood was cemented in a role as a hard hitting young dramatist, able to empathise with the hardships suffered with the ordinary soldier without losing sight of the wider issues, combined with a telling, exacting and accurate critique born from experience of the post war military. However, it was Wood's work with American director Richard Lester which gave him his acclaimed, groundbreaking works of the late 1960s - most notably 'The Knack,' 'How I Won the War' and 'The Charge of the Light Brigade.'

Wood next scripted 'Help!' for the Beatles, directed once again by Lester. Produced during the height of mid-60's Beatlemania, the film was a sure-fire hit, precursing the development of the music video some 20 years before it was born.

1965-66 also brought about two of Wood's most well known stage productions in 'Fill the Stage with Happy Hours' and 'Dingo.' Fill the Stage drew inspiration from Wood's background in the theatre as a young boy at the Playhouse in Kidderminster, whilst Dingo drew yet again upon Wood's experiences in the Army.

In 1989 Wood’s ‘Tumbledown’ was broadcast by the BBC. Originally conceived as a film but unable to find backing, the drama was a bleak portrayal of war set in the Falklands conflict of 1982 and went on to win the BAFTA for Single Best Drama. This was followed by scriptwriting for films such as ‘A Breed of Heroes’ set in Northern Ireland during the Troubles and the ultimately unrealised development of a docudrama on Gulf War Syndrome.

Wood also embraced popular drama, writing scripts for ITV for 'Inspector Morse,' 'Kavanagh QC' and 'Monsignor Renard,' in the 1980s and 1990s, as well as several adaptations of Bernard Cornwell’s ‘Sharpe’ novels, set during the Napoleonic Wars, and ‘My Family and Other Animals,’ based on the books of Gerald Durrell.

Since 2000 Wood has written the screenplay for the 2001 biopic ‘Iris,’ charting the life of novelist Iris Murdoch and her husband John Bayley, and for the 2008 film ‘The Other Man,’ directed by Richard Eyre. His radio play, 'A Conspiracy at Sevres,' set during the Suez Crisis of 1956, was nominated in the best radio play category for 2007 by the Writers' Guild of Great Britain.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

The archive was purchased from Charles Wood by the Borthwick Institute in 2004. A further addition was made to the archive in 2006.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Scripts, development and production notes, correspondence, financial papers, publicity and VHS video tapes relating to works by Charles Wood, 1959-2006, including 'Traitor in a Steel Helmet,' 1961, 'Dingo,' 1967, 'The Charge of the Light Brigade,' 1968, 'Jingo,' 1975, 'Tumbledown,' 1989, and 'Iris,' 2001; research into Gulf War Syndrome for unproduced docudrama, including witness interview transcripts, government reports, correspondence and drafts, c.1991-1999; copy of MPhil thesis, 'A survey of Charles Wood's plays for stage and screen with particular reference to the treatment of war in Dingo, H and other assorted films,' 1982; scripts and ephemera relating to plays by other authors, c.1958-c.1988.


Further accruals are expected.

System of arrangement

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Records are open to the public, subject to the overriding provisions of relevant legislation, including data protection laws. 24 hours' notice is required to access photographic material.

Conditions governing reproduction

A reprographics service is available to researchers subject to the access restrictions outlined above. Copying will not be undertaken if there is any risk of damage to the document. Copies are supplied in accordance with the Borthwick Institute for Archives' terms and conditions for the supply of copies, and under provisions of any relevant copyright legislation. Permission to reproduce images of documents in the custody of the Borthwick Institute must be sought.

Language of material

  • English

Script of material

Language and script notes

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Includes VHS video tapes. Access to audiovisual material may be restricted due to technical requirements, please contact the Borthwick Institute for more information.

Finding aids

A typescript finding aid, to file level, is available for consultation in the searchroom of the Borthwick Institute.

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

Related descriptions

Notes area

Alternative identifier(s)

Access points

Place access points

Name access points

Genre access points

Description control area

Description identifier

Institution identifier

GB 193

Rules and/or conventions used

ISAD (G): General International Standard Archival Description, International Council on Archives (2nd edition, 2000); Rules for the construction of personal, place and corporate names, National Council on Archives (1997).

Level of detail

Dates of creation revision deletion

Created by S. A. Shearn, 19.05.15.




Accession area