16 Kids and Counting Episode 1: The Radfords

Last night kicked off the new series of 16 Kids and Counting on Channel 4.

The programme is narrated by Kris Marshall saying that UK families are shrinking. That most of us have 2 children or less.  But some extraordinary families are bucking the trend: Having 10, 12 or even 16 kids. Where mealtimes are like feeding time at the zoo and getting to bed is the job from hell.

For me, this was possibly more positive than the intro to 15 kids and counting, but still not really that positive; really should children be compared to animals?

Titled “The Price of Living Big” and narrated as Counting the Costs.

“It is the start of a new chapter for Britain’s biggest family. Sue and Noel Radford announced the birth of baby Casper swelling their ranks to a coach load of 16 kids. The Radfords’ baby making antics have made them so notorious they have been invited down to London to appear on morning television.”

Working Family

It is made clear that the Radfords are NOT on benefits: Sue saying that a lot of big families are not on benefits and work hard.

Sue always gets a new pushchair with each new baby and is not disappointed this time. “A new buggy is just one of an ever-growing stream of costs. Noel works hard in the family bakery to pay for it all. And although his income is boosted by £160 a week in child benefits he has to find ways to cut costs.”

Noel says kids become more expensive when they go to secondary school. The children understand that you must have money in the bank to spend on the “bank card” – clearly showing to me that the Radfords are not living off credit. They don’t go out drinking and don’t smoke.

Treatment from Others

In the local community the Radford family are well-known for running their bakery, and a lady comments what a remarkable woman Sue is. Kris Marshall describes the Radford family as having “Descended on Morecambe” for a shopping trip. Sue says you can see people counting them, and that they do that all the time. That you need eyes in the back of your head to keep them all contained. Sue thinks yeah it might be easier with just two. The shop keeper said, “I can’t deal with 1 never mind 16”.

How the kids behave

I think that is important to note that Sue and Noel are keeping their eyes on their children, and ensuring that they are behaving – something that you may not find even parents of two are doing.


Kris Marshall says “The key to the Radfords being able to afford and enjoy their big family is division of labour. Sue does more the childcare and household chores, which includes 9 loads of washing, and a heap of ironing every day. Whilst Noel brings in the money from the family bakery, and at home, is head chef.”

Sue says, “Why our home, and why our marriage works, is because everything we do is team work”.

Sue and Noel met when she was 8, and went out when she was 13. They realise they need to spend time as a couple. They arrange to go out on a date night, last time was their honeymoon over 20 years ago. Noel surprises Sue with a trip to Chester. He saves money on childcare by the three noisiest children going to Sue’s mum and dad’s, then Noel’s mum and dad, plus eldest daughter Sophie look after the others. Noel has also rented a 12 plate Audi Quattro a5 to transport them there – all the whistles and bells.

There’s chaos in the Radford house whilst they are away, and I don’t think Sophie will be going on to have 16 children.

Religious Occasion

The Radfords decide to christen 11 kids (first 5 already done when younger) which they expect to cost around £500-600. They “have found a church willing to perform their mass christening” have run into another problem as usually there’s 2-4 Godparents per child – meaning they need 22. They don’t have 22 friends they would want as Godparents:  So they ask Sophie and Chloe (their older children).

With an hour and a half to go before the service Sue is still ironing, whilst Noel (and Katie) are doing the catering to save money. Noel says he thinks they will be late, and Katie says that they are never on time. Sue spends all time getting kids ready only has 5 minutes on herself. Noel says it’s hard work getting ready for something like the christening but it’s worth it.

The Radford christening was a very proud moment. The children were all so well-behaved. It appears that Noel and Sue have not only successfully named 16 children well – but that they also have middle names! Sue says she is looking forward to the massive chocolate cake – and with her figure she can certainly afford it. Also shown is Max also has his own special little cake.

Cutting Costs

The family have to look for ways to cut costs and saving to pay for special occasions, they do this by putting money into different accounts. Noel holds the purse strings and makes tough decisions on spending: Such as that Casper and Oscar are the only ones having new clothes for the christening – others have clothes in their wardrobes already which will be fine for the event: Surely this is also less wasteful, and better for the planet too.

We are told that after the mortgage the food is the biggest cost. They do a daily food shop – otherwise kids just eat it all. Noel is always saving money and working it out all the costs, and how much food is needed, this cuts out food waste. He can quiet comfortably make a meal for everybody for about £10. See Sue’s meal challenge she set him over on their blog.

Casper’s birth has promoted them to rethink the sleeping arrangements so if the kids all do want to sleep in one room they can. Noel is very handy around the house, so with the added bonus of saving money too, he builds a bunk bed that will sleep 6, so that if the children want to sleep in one room they can. Sophie says that Sue very rarely gets stressed, but things get even crazier when the routine is broken – such as when Noel has something else to do.

Having more Children

We are introduced to the fact that Sophie (18) is also having a baby, and then a quote from after the birth about how during labour she was thinking her Mum is mad going through it again and again. She’s not in a hurry to have any more yet.

Millie (11) says that she bets that in another 10 weeks her Mum will be having another baby: Well she would have lost her bet as Sue is not pregnant again. Noel says he thinks that they might stop when Sue gets to 40. He is asked whether he means 40 children, and explains that no when Sue is 40 years old.

Noel’s mum Valerie says it’s getting expensive, and hopes they will just enjoy the ones they’ve got.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.