Initially, the focus was on Emmerdale Farm in Beckindale, Yorkshire and also featured a landlord of a pub in a nearby village and a retired factory owner who bought his business acumen to the village and ruffled a few feathers along the way. This man was Henry Wilks who soon had connections with the farm.
The main focus was on Annie Sugden, her 2 sons Jack and Joe Sugden and daughter Peggy Skilbeck who was wed to farm employee Matt Skilbeck and Annie's father Sam Pearson. All these people were residents of Emmerdale Farm in the first episode on 16th October 1972. Jack had just returned to the farm after his fathers funeral.
The early years also saw several semi-regular characters and families popping in and out of storylines, most of them connected with residents of the farm, but towards the end of the 1970s, after viewers got fully acquainted with the Sugden family, several new "permanent" characters were introduced to the show, most notably the former school boiler man-turned gamekeeper Seth Armstrong and Dolly Acaster, who would go on to become a member of the show's central family, the Sugdens, by marrying Matt Skilbeck in 1978.
The show also gained a rival to Emmerdale Farm in the form of farming giant NY Estates, who set up base at Home Farm (formerly Miffield Hall) in 1978, which it bought, following the death of the local squire George Verney. In 1982 Annie Sugden and her father were getting less screen time in favour of the younger characters like Jackie and Sandie.
As the show moved into the next decade, the 1980s, the producers brought in a number of changes. The size of the cast had been increased in order to lessen the number of scenes in the Emmerdale Farm kitchen. A big change came when Joe Sugden defected from his family farm to NY Estates, thus beginning a long running feud between Joe & his brother Jack, usually over farming methods. This also ensured more scenes at Home Farm.
New arrivals early on in the decade included the Merrick family, who had previously appeared briefly in 1972, and NY Estates manager Alan Turner, who was generally lazy and had an aggressive attitude towards his workforce. Jackie Merrick became a more central character as did half sister Sandie Merrick.
More younger characters were introduced as the decade went on, and whereas Emmerdale Farm had been the main focal point since the show began, suddenly became part of a wider community. By 1983 Emmerdale Farm was shared with the vicarage, Home Farm, the Woolpack and Demdyke Row. 1984 saw the introduction of Victoria Cottage where Mrs Bates moved into. The title of the show remained.
In November 1984 one of the biggest influences to the emphasis drifting from the farm was the death of old Sam Pearson, who was so set in the old ways that he hated the modern ways of living. In his last few years there had been a decrease in the amount of scenes in the farmhouse kitchen but his death emphasised that. Annie Sugden was aghast for a while but soon adapted to life without her father although she had slightly less scenes.
1985 saw the introduction of Mrs Bates two children, Nick and Kathy Bates. Due to the death of Sam Pearson in late 1984, scenes in the farmhouse kitchen were reduced as was Sheila Mercier's scenes as her character Annie Sugden.
The mid-late 1980s saw the arrival of several more characters and families including Archie Brooks, the Bates family, the Whiteley family and the dastardly Eric Pollard. 1986 was when the emphasis on the farm took another slight dip when the old mill was bought back into the show, having been vacant since 1973. By 1988 Emmerdale Farm was also shared with Victoria Cottage, Home Farm, the Woolpack, Mill Cottage, Demdyke Row and the vicarage as central locations of the village seen in the show. The emphasis was drifting further from the farm and more onto the village. By this year there was just 20% or so focus on the farm and the rest on the locations mentioned earlier on in this paragraph. Yet the title of the show remained during this change of style to the show.
In January 1988, the farming giant NY Estates bowed out after 10 years of business in the village, and the following year it was bought, lock, stock and barrel by haulage contractor Frank Tate for £1 million, who set about turning a village once heavily reliant on agriculture and farming, into one of leisure and tourism.
While Jan, Feb and March 1988 were quite action packed, April to August 1988, Emmerdale Farm became more loaded with farming scenes and marrow wars after the hectic previous year with the nuclear dump protests storyline. In September 1988, a new family arrived, Kate Hughes and her 2 children Mark and Rachel, thus increasing the much needed younger character presence in the show, only seen with Nick and Archie once fellow youngster Jackie Merrick married an became a responsible farmer.
Emmerdale Farm becomes just EmmerdaleEditIn the summer of 1989, after 17 years, the producers finally decided to drop the word Farm from the title to just Emmerdale to reflect this gradual focus shift away from the farm which had begun in the early 1980s. Why still call the show Emmerdale Farm when a lot of the show was not about that said farm? It made sense to drop the second word from the title, meaning they could do a few episodes or so away from the farm altogether and a chunk of scenes at Home Farm for instance mixed with scenes in the village. Also when the decision was made to drop the word Farm from the title the actors and actresses were cast to play the new Tate family who were to become the new owners of Home Farm and were to take a central role in the show. Frank Tate and his much younger wife Kim Tate and his 2 children from his first marriage, Chris Tate and Zoe Tate marked the new era for the show.
It is suspected that for a few years before the title was dropped this was planned, probably just after Sam Pearson died and they'd leave it about 4 or 5 years but in the meantime gradually move emphasis from the farm and more onto the village and Home Farm.
This means they could do a few odd episodes without scenes at the farm. However the farm was still to continue being featured in the show.