DEEP in rural Kent stood an old pigsty, adapted into a workshop and studio. It was here where magical new worlds were created, from wool, paper, string and Meccano - which went on to change the face of children’s television.

Created by Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin, characters such as Bagpuss, the Clangers and Ivor the Engine were much-loved TV characters in the late 1960s and early 70s. These quirky, inventive programmes, featuring Postgate’s gentle voice and Firmin’s enchanting puppets and stop-frame animation, shaped the childhood memories of a generation and were cornerstones of 20th century British culture. Before CGI, the pair used detailed craftsmanship to create their endearing characters and imaginary worlds, influencing children’s TV to this day.

Now the original puppets and artwork are at Bradford’s Cartwright Hall. On loan from the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Clangers, Bagpuss & Co exhibition features characters from Smallfilms, Firmin and Postgate’s production company, and archive screenings of programmes not seen on TV for decades, including Pogles’ Wood and Noggin the Nog.

Original sets, storyboards and scripts are brought together in a playful recreation of the old studio. Oliver Postgate’s stop-motion film camera, which he adapted using a small motor and bits of Meccano, is on display and visitors can try their hand at animation, and even learn how to speak ‘Clanger’...

“We hold a place in our hearts for Smallfilms’ creations,” says V&A curator Alice Sage. “Beyond telling captivating stories, they encouraged children to look at the world with curiosity.”

To anyone who loved these characters as a child, it’s a thrill to see them up close. Bagpuss, the “saggy old cloth cat”, is smudged and pink, as if he’s run in the wash. In the original illustration he’s a ginger cat, but the fabric shop got the order wrong so he ended up pink. Alongside him are other inhabitants of Emily’s shop for lost and broken things - Gabriel the Toad, Madeleine the rag doll, the splendid Professor Yaffle and the mice, with their Marvellous Mechanical Mouse Organ. Also on display is the dress worn by Emily, one of Peter Firmin’s daughters.

The characters are delightfully home-made. Working on a small budget, Smallfilms used paper cut-outs, homemade equipment and puppets operated by Meccano. The Clangers, knitted by Peter Firmin’s wife, Joan, stand with the Soup Dragon, made from bits of felt. Their clothes were inspired by Twiggy’s 60s styles. Running from 1969-72, the Clangers’ outer space setting brought something new to TV. The eerie sound was created with tape recordings, bells and a tin violin.

A handwritten script reveals that the dialogue was originally in English - “C1: Hi. Where’s Charlie? C2: I’m over here. I’ve got the rope. C1: Let go, you horrible thing. C3: Stop it! Oh you bad Clangers” - then translated into “swannee whistle”, (the high-pitched ‘Clanger speak’).

The return of the Clangers to children’s TV has attracted a new generation of fans. Hannah Fleming, senior curator at the Museum of Childhood, V&A, says the exhibition is popular with grandparents, parents and children: “People love the nostalgia, they talk about their childhood. Visitors can have a go at animation using apps, which have a handmade feel, connecting them with Peter and Oliver’s stop-frame filming.”

In a corner stands a ‘shed’, a nod to the adapted pigsty where the programmes were created and filmed, and visitors can watch the old shows on TV. On the walls are paper cut-outs of Noggin the Nog and Ivor the Engine. The Pogles, the woodland puppet family from Smallfilms’ first production, are also on display.

Complementing the exhibition are old toys from Bradford Museums and Galleries social history collection, including a Doctor Who annual and Sooty and Sweep, who started life in Guiseley. Family-friendly events at Cartwright Hall includes presentations by Sandra Kerr, creator of the evocative Bagpuss music, and the voice of Madeleine. On Wednesday, August 29 she will talk about working with Oliver Postgate on creating the songs, 11am-12noon; sing and play music from Bagpuss, 2-3pm; and lead a singing workshop from 6-8pm.

Youngsters can also make their own Clanger, with personalised outfit, at a workshop with artist Zareena Bano, Thursday, August 23, 1-3pm.

* Bagpuss, The Clangers & Co Exhibition runs until October 7.