History and Images: Episode 2

Learn about the real history in Ridley Road Episode 2, from secret paramilitary forces and female infiltrators from the 62 Group to Colin Jordan’s children. Deepen your understanding of this little-known part of British history, even as you deepen your experience of watching Ridley Road!

  1. 1.

    Was There a Secret Paramilitary Force Called Spearhead?

    Scene from Ridley Road on MASTERPIECE on PBS

    Vivien reports to Soly Malinovsky that she’s seen uniformed men under Colin Jordan doing military drills. “Spearhead. It’s Spearhead,” her uncle says. In fact, Jordan’s National Socialist Movement (NSM) received enough backing to support an equipped, uniformed, and trained army to display or use force for its political ends. The paramilitary force was modeled on the Sturmabteilung (“Assault Division”) of Nazi Germany, the men dressing in quasi-Nazi uniforms with a pagan sun wheel symbol armband. As early as 1961, undercover police took pictures of Spearhead practicing maneuvers and had the force under surveillance.

  2. 2.

    Was the Duke of Westwick a Real Person?

    scene of estate from Ridley Road on MASTERPIECE on PBS
    Yorkshire's Broughton Hall was the film location for the Duke of Westwick's estate.

    In Episode 2, Colin Jordan drives Vivien to an estate owned by the “Duke of Westwick,” who has loaned his home in Kent as a base for training NSM’s Spearhead forces. According to series writer and executive producer, Sarah Solemani, the Duke of Westwick is a fictional character representing the very real Duke of Bedford who actually died in 1953. This 12th Duke of Bedford, Hastings Russell, heavily invested in far-right British political movements, laying the foundation for the NSM’s 1962 birth and growth.

  3. 3.

    Were There Female Infiltrators in the 62 Group?

    actors Rory Kinnear as Colin Jordan and Agnes O'Casey as Viven Epstein in a scene from Ridley Road on MASTERPIECE on PBS

    In Ridley Road, Vivien Epstein uncovers her inner Mata Hari—dying her hair, crafting a back story, and cozying up to Colin Jordan. Indeed, there were women participating in 62 Group activities, but did they go undercover in the highest ranks of the NSM? “Not that’s ever been made public,” Ridley Road novelist Jo Bloom tells the BBC. “But there may well have been. I know of a romantically involved couple who infiltrated the far-right on behalf of [the post-WWII anti-fascist] 43 Group.”

  4. 4.

    Did Colin Jordan Have Children?

    Actor Rory Kinnear (right) as Colin Jordan in scene from Ridley Road on MASTERPIECE on PBS

    In Ridley Road Episode 2, we meet Jordan’s 8-year-old son Paul. Colin tells Vivien that Paul doesn’t want to go to school because he’s teased. But “Colin Jordan didn’t have any children in real life,” says series writer and executive producer Sarah Solemani in the MASTERPIECE Studio podcast. “[My] primary aim is to tell a good story, so there were certain elements that I did fictionalize. [Colin Jordan] has a son in Ridley Road, and that was very important to me because it humanized him. A lot of these far-right members or parties, you know, they’re not setting out to be villains of history, they’re setting out in their own logic, [with] a plan to better their children or their race or their world. And so, when you humanize them, actually, you understand how they’re operating, which makes it more complicated.”


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