The Story of Edith Thompson and Frederick Bywaters
I saw this series in 1973 when it was first shown. It was of particular interest to me because it was based on the story of the love affair between Edith Thompson and Frederick Bywaters, a woman whose younger lover murdered her husband. The murder took place in Belgrave Road in Ilford which was local to us and I remember a film crew coming to the area to film the scenes at the spot where the murder actually took place.
The title A Pin to See the Peepshow came from a scene at the very beginning of the first episode. A little schoolboy had made a peepshow in a box. An older girl came up to him and asked him if she could have a look and he said 'You have to give me a pin first'. She was irritated by this but took a pin from her clothing and gave it to him. The view inside the peepshow was beautiful: white and shining with snowflakes and cotton wool. This older girl would be captivated by the little boy again in later life as he would become the lover who murdered her husband.
I was only nine years old when I watched this and already a fan of the beautiful Francesca Annis who had hosted Disney Time. She was captivating in this series and at no time did I feel any compassion for anyone except her. She was successful in getting the audience on her side from the very first episode and her husband came across as a pig-headed older man who had ensnared her. I broke my heart when the incriminating letters she sent to her lover were read out in court and when she was executed I covered my eyes. You always got the impression that killing her husband was her fantasy to escape from her unhappy marriage and it was impossible to believe that she had ever tried to poison him with powdered glass as she had claimed in the letters. When her husband was actually murdered she appeared absolutely devastated. Francesca Annis gave an amazing performance - I only wish I had seen her as Emma Bovary two years later in 1975 but at the age of eleven I was not yet aware of the genius of Flaubert.
I would love to see this series again. I have DVDs of many 70s programmes and I love the way that no time was ever wasted in those days and every bit of every show mattered. A Pin to See the Peepshow was gripping from beginning to end and it was no surprise that Francesca Annis went on to become such a great star.
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