The Archers’ most surprising moments – Affair, fatal roof fall and sudden death

BBC Radio 4 soap The Archers has gripped listeners for more than seven decades since it was first broadcast in 1951.

Following the lives of the residents in the fictional village of Ambridge, The Archers has been rocked by everything from steamy flings, to tragic rooftop falls and real life campaigns to free characters from their prison stints.

Gaining a loyal listener base throughout the years, it is no surprise that with stories like this, it continues to grip fans every week.

READ MORE: BBC Radio's The Archers soap star Graham Blockey dies as fans leave tributes

As The Archers celebrates its 71st birthday (January 1), Daily Star takes a closer look at some the radio soap's most shocking moments.

Sudden death

One of The Archer's earliest most shocking moments occurred in 1955, when Grace Archer died suddenly in a fire.

A fire had broken out at the stables, but Grace was severely injured as she rushed inside to save one of the horses.

Having only been married to her husband Phil for a matter of months, he was left devastated as she died in his arms on the way to the hospital.

He wasn't the only one, as more than 10m listeners tuned into the broadcast, with 48 complaints from upset listeners submitted to the BBC during the broadcast alone.

"Free the Ambridge One"

In 1993, fans began a campaign to "Free the Ambridge One" after Susan Carter was sent to prison for harboring her fugitive brother Clive Horrobin.

Clive had raided the village shop and taken Betty, Debbie, Jack and Kate hostage, before going on the run.

However, fans were furious that Susan was sent to prison for not handing in her brother and started a campaign for the character to be released.

Birmingham Live reported that even Home Secretary Michael Howard became involved in the debate surrounding the character too.

After Susan was sentenced to six months in prison, The Guardian reported that Michael Howard called the character's sentence "improbably harsh."

Tragic Tractor accident

One of the most heartbreaking moments in The Archers history came in 1998, when beloved John Archer died in a tragic tractor accident.

John had been rowing with his family, but dad Tony and brother Tom became concerned when he did not return home to Bridge Farm that evening.

They later found John underneath an overturned tractor, with Tony sitting with his son until the ambulance arrived.

Tony could he heard overcome with guilt and grief, as he said: "I’ll stay and talk to you… Oh John. Oh son."

However, it was sadly too late, and John was pronounced dead at the scene.

Steamy fling

Ambridge was rocked by a steamy affair in 2004, when Emma Carter slept with Ed Grundy – despite being engaged to his brother Will.

Emma later married Will, but further drama was to follow as she became pregnant, and did not know who the father of her baby was following her one-night stand with Ed on her hen night.

However, the truth of baby George's paternity was later revealed and the fling exposed, in one of The Archer's most shocking love triangles yet.

Fatal roof fall

The Archers fans were left in tears in 2011, after Nigel Pargetter fell to his death from a rooftop at Lower Loxley as part of The Archer's 60th anniversary storylines.

His brother-in-law David Archer had taunted him by asking if he was a "man or a mouse", after Nigel was reluctant to help David take down a New Year banner from the residence.

After the taunts, Nigel reluctantly agreed to help, but later lost his footing and tragically plummeted to his death.

Grey Gables explosion

One of the most recent shocking moments occurred in 2020, when there was an explosion at country hotel Grey Gables.

A number of residents were still trapped inside, including kitchen porter Freddie Pargetter who managed to rescue both himself and colleague Lynda – before collapsing.

Along with the huge damage caused to Grey Gables, the residents of Ambridge were left shook by the revelations to follow, as Philip Moss and his son Gavin were exposed as being directly involved in causing the accident.

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