Noel's House Party ran for 8 series from 1991 - 1999, presented by Noel Edmonds on BBC One. The show became a staple of light entertainment, with millions tuning in on Saturday evenings. It featured many family favourites such as presenting Golden Gotchas to unsuspecting celebrities, and gunging bemused members of the public! Noel's House Party won the BAFTA for Best Light Entertainment Show in 1993 and was a well-loved part of 1990s television, and is still fondly remembered by those who tuned in each week.
During the 1970s, Noel Edmonds had moved from being the voice of Radio 1 to the face of BBC1. In 1982 he left his presenting role on Multi-Coloured Swap Shop to present The Late, Late Breakfast Show. The show came to an abrupt end in 1986 when stunt performer Michael Lush died during a rehearsal for the show. Two years later Noel presented The Noel Edmonds Saturday Roadshow until 1990. The show featured many aspects that would eventually form the basis of Noel's House Party, including the infamous Gunge Tank, and pranking unsuspecting celebrities with Gotcha Oscars.
The Noel's House Party Crew for the show's 100th episode, 1996. (Credit: Ben Kellett)
On 23rd November 1991, Noel's House Party was first broadcast, set in the fictional village of Crinkley Bottom in the Great House, where various guests would turn up at the front door, including Neil Morrissey as the Window Cleaner. Over the eight series the show ran for, hundreds of celebrities featured on the show, usually as victims of Gotchas, gunge or both. The show introduced Mr Blobby to the world as a Gotcha prank.
The show alongside Mr Blobby became hugely popular during its eight year run, the amount of audience participation made it a hit with audiences both old and young. Noel's House Party wasn't confined to the studio at BBC Television Centre, Noel's Garden Party was created, a roadshow where viewers across the UK could visit and become a Crinkley Bottom villager for the day. It was this event that inspired four permanent Crinkley Bottom theme parks, and even a Gotcha-themed attraction called Gotchaland.
In 1999, the show ended after multiple format changes. In an interview Alan Yentob, BBC1 controller at the time, stated: "You know, it had exhausted the audience really by then. They’d seen it, they knew what Noel’s House Party was like, and however much it was changed, it still was the same programme, and inevitably, after a while, they’d had enough of it." The final episode was broadcast on 20th March 1999 and was described by Noel as "the end of an era".
The Gotcha Award was a regular feature where elaborate pranks were played by Noel Edmonds and the team on unsuspecting celebrities. It was during this feature in Series 2, Episode 1 (first broadcast 24th October 1992) that Mr Blobby appeared on our screens, pranking dancer Wayne Sleep into thrinking he was teaching ballet on a children's programme. Mr Blobby went on to appear in eight Gotchas, pranking Wayne Sleep, Valerie Singleton, Garth Crooks, Lizzie Webb, Gary Davies, Will Carling, Hudson and Halls, and Francis Wilson.
Other notable celebrities who received the award are Richard Branson, Jon Pertwee and Richard Whiteley. Annabel Giles, presenter and counsellor, was the first celebrity to not fall for the prank, when she spotted the hidden camera in the back of the car.
The closest current version of this format can be seen on ITV's Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway as the pair go undercover pranking celebrities. Noel Edmonds appeared on the show, joking that the pair had stolen the Noel's House Party concept.
The Gunge Tank
There were multiple features that were an integral part of the show. The gunge tank is possibly the most famous of these, many famous faces were the victim of the thick, luminous substance over the years, including Noel himself. The format developed over the show's eight series, including a ride around the Great House set during Series 4 and 5 which was the most elaborate version of the tank.
Wait Till I Get You Home!
Wait Till I Get You Home featured children being interviewed by Noel Edmonds, which was then shown to the child's parents, where they had to try and guess their child's answers. This segment ran from Series 1-5.
NTV would place hidden cameras in people's homes, surprising them live whilst watching the show. This was also the segment where Mrs Blobby and Baby Blobby first appeared, as Noel surprised Mr Blobby in his home in Series 2 Episode 20, first broadcast 13th March 1993.
My Little Friend
My Little Friend began in Series 6, where children alone in a classroom would be surprised with a talking character. In Series 6 this would be an inanimate object such as a plant, a teddy bear and a hamster, after helping the character with their task, Noel would enter with a gift for them. In Series 7 two puppet aliens, Arthur and Malcolm took over the segment, explaining to the children that they needed help fixing their spaceship. In Series 8 they were replaced with Waffle the Squirrel and Phibber the Frog, all these characters were voiced by Noel Edmonds and Barry Killerby with heavily distorted effects.
Phibber the Frog had his own theme park in 1996, Gotchaland at Bicton Park in Devon, though it closed after only two months.
Grab-a-Grand was usually played at the end of each episode. The contestant would enter the tank which would then have fans that blew Crinkley Bottom Groats around. The contestant would have to try and grab as many groats as they could in 60 seconds.
The Grab-a-Grand game, alongside the popular Gunge Tank, became a hugely popular feature of the show, so much so that during touring events such as Noel's Garden Party, members of the public would flock to try it out themselves.
The show had other features, some lasting only one series. These include The Big Pork Pie, where an audience member had to sit in a giant pork pie prop whilst taking a lie detector test; The Crinkley Bottom Soap, first appearing in Series 7, a short soap opera documenting life in the fictional Crinkley Bottom village; Panel Beaters, another Series 7 feature where a panel had to spot an imposter, one episode featured three Mr Blobbies, only for all three of them to be the imposters and the real Mr Blobby revealing himself at the end; The Crinkley Bottom Observer, though not a game, most episodes of the show feature a newspaper with a humorous headline.
Crinkley Bottom Village
Noel’s House Party not only brought us Mr Blobby, but also the fictional village of Crinkley Bottom. The Great House was set in this village, and eventually extended to Noel’s Garden Party in 1993, a travelling theme park where visitors could become residents for the day.
Then, in 1994, two theme parks (Cricket St. Thomas, Somerset and Happy Mount Park, Morecambe) became permanent and more exciting versions of the Garden Party. (Though the Morecambe endeavour three weeks…see our Theme Parks page for more!)
Merchandise was produced to promote Crinkley Bottom, including mugs, badges, books and a set of specially commissioned plates.
“My ideal village of Crinkley Bottom has only ever lived in my imagination. I never thought it would – or could – live anywhere else. When I commissioned Mick Bensley to conjure up my vision of Crinkley Bottom, I knew he was going to come close to it. I am so amazed and delighted at how he exceeded my wildest hopes that I am proud to have my signature appear on each numbered plate.”
– Noel Edmonds, 1994
The artist - Mick Bensley
Royal Doulton has produced unique pottery since 1815 including decorative plates and dinnerware. In 1994 they were commissioned to create a set of nine plates depicting various scenes within Crinkley Bottom and what life would possibly be like there. This presented a more countrified version compared with the Mr Blobby-focused theme parks which also had their own distinctive styles.
They were designed by landscape artist Mick Bensley who created these serene viewpoints, including a village fete, the schoolhouse, constabulary and the village green. Each image also includes Noel Edmonds hidden like a rural Where’s Wally! The plates are all limited edition and individually numbered with their own certificates of authenticity.
'The Village Green'
'The Coaching Inn'
'The Village Pond'
'The Castle Ruins'
'Down on the Farm'
'On the Beat'
Finale - 'The Village Fête'
A small selection of memorabilia was produced alongside these plates, including mugs, badges, thimbles and even a book depicting what village life was like in Crinkley Bottom.
NOEL'S GARDEN PARTY
'Noel's Garden Party' was an annual event, bringing Noel's House Party and Crinkley Bottom to life.
The 1993 Garden Party took place at Haydock and Doncaster Racecourse for two weekends in August.
Over 100,000 people visited the event, alongside numerous celebrities including Tony Blackburn, Anthea Turner and Mr Blobby. Noel Edmonds himself said that "this way, everybody gets the chance to be a [Crinkley Bottom] villager for the day."
The Official Programme from the event features some brilliant photographs and details of what visitors were able to experience, badges and t-shirts were also available for visitors to take home.