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"...not only will they be up against each other, they'll also be facing the ultimate mechanical menace - the House Robots!"
Craig Charles, Series 4, Heat A

The House Robots were a group of robots on Robot Wars acting as additional hazards for competitor robots in the arena. They would usually occupy one or more Corner Patrol Zones (CPZs), or the Perimeter Patrol Zone (PPZ) in Series 2 only, either attacking competitors if they entered those areas or after they had become immobilised. Only during the latter scenario would House Robots be free to roam outside the CPZs to finish off defeated competitors.

Four House Robots debuted in Series 1 - Dead Metal, Matilda, Sgt. Bash and Shunt - with more joining them as the original series progressed. These additions were Sir Killalot (Series 2), Mr. Psycho (Series 6), Growler (Series 6) and Cassius Chrome (Series 7).

For Series 8-10, new versions of Sir Killalot, Matilda, Shunt and Dead Metal were built with several improvements to keep them up-to-date with modern robot combat standards. Sgt. Bash, Growler, Mr, Psycho and Cassius Chrome were announced not to be returning for the rebooted series. In Series 9, a new feature was added where pressing the Arena Tyre could activate 'Rogue House Robot' mode, allowing the House Robots to leave their CPZs and attack competitor robots anywhere in the arena for ten seconds.

Additional House Robots were also built for roles other than those applied to the main group. Part-way through Series 2, The Sentinel was introduced as an obstacle in the Gauntlet stage, only to be retired at the end of the series. Meanwhile, the non-combative Refbot was introduced in Series 4 to help ensure fair play in the arena, remaining until the end of the original show's run in Series 7.

Two further machines, Shove and Dozer, were also used behind the scenes to push and drag competitors out of the arena at the end of battles, as well as to clear debris from the Drop Zone in the case of Dozer. However, neither robot was formally mentioned in the televised series.

Unlike the majority of competitor robots, the House Robots were often referred to by gender pronouns. For most series, Matilda was designed and referred to as a female ("she"/"her") whilst the others were often referred to as males ("he"/"his"/"him"); however, Dead Metal has also been referred to as a female House Robot in publications coinciding with the broadcast of Series 10.

History[]

House Robot Series 1 Series 2 Series 3 Series 4 Series 5/Extreme 1 Series 6/Extreme 2 Series 7 Series 8-10
Cassius Chrome
Dead Metal
Growler
Matilda
Mr. Psycho
Refbot
Sgt. Bash
Shunt
Sir Killalot
The Sentinel

The House Robots featured heavily in Robot Wars promotional material, and were instrumental to the show's success. They were designed to act as recurring characters for the audience to follow, ensuring that they would be familiar robots in every episode even if popular competitor robots were defeated at any stage in televised competitions. The House Robots also enabled Robot Wars merchandise to be produced without having to negotiate royalties with the competitor teams.

"...these robots all have their own personality. They all look very individual. They don't look like metal boxes, because that's almost certainly what the competitor's robots are going to look like. "
— Chris Reynolds, Sir Killalot and the House Robots

The original House Robots were constructed and maintained by the BBC's Visual Effects Department, led by Chris Reynolds. The department eventually closed in 2003, with Reynolds and his team instead being employed by Robot Wars itself for Series 7. For Series 8-10, the new House Robots were constructed by creative engineering company Robo Challenge, who have been involved with numerous other television programmes such as The Gadget Show and have hosted live robot combat events in the UK. The four new House Robots took around 7-8 weeks to build.

Speed comparisons of the Series 2-5 House Robots (excluding Refbot)

After Robot Wars entered its hiatus, the original House Robots were given to Chris Reynolds, but were later reclaimed from him by the BBC and eventually put into storage. Robot Wars judge Mat Irvine doubted that they remained in perfect working condition, because the effects department often cannibalised electronics from old projects to save money.[1]

As part of an agreement that involved using the Robot Wars brand for live events, Roaming Robots acquired the rights to the House Robots in early 2013. Soon after this, they began using a replica Matilda in their live events, particularly in featherweight battles, and continued to do so until the end of the Robot Wars live tours in 2016.

In late September 2014, some of the moulds for the original House Robots were put up for sale on the auction site eBay. In early October of the same year, they were purchased by Roaming Robots and Robot Wars LCC. It was believed that they intended to use them for making replicas of the House Robots for future events, though only John Findlay's Matilda replica would appear.

The original House Robots in secure storage

In February 2015, tech reporter Lucy Hedges posted an image to Twitter appearing to show her with Matilda and Sgt. Bash at the Robo Challenge facility, with the robots looking in good condition despite their age. Almost a year later, just days before the announcement of the new series of Robot Wars in 2016, Team Storm shared this same image, also confirming that the rest of the House Robots were also in the storage facility.[2] Ed Hoppitt later commented to dispel the various rumours as to their whereabouts that had circulated over the years.

"They were never 'lost' someone was paying for their storage - it's just some people didn't know who."
— Ed Hoppitt of Team Storm
"...they have never been lost, just some people didn't know where they were ;-) !"
— Another reply from Ed Hoppitt concerning the original House Robots' whereabouts prior to Series 8[3]

The House Robots in their loading bay during Series 8

Following the announcement of Series 8, Dead Metal, Shunt, Matilda and Sir Killalot were confirmed to return for the rebooted series. New versions of each were built by Robo Challenge featuring significant redesigns and improvements, being officially billed as 'descendants' of the original versions.[4] To this day, Robo Challenge still own the original versions of the House Robots as well.

In June 2016 when quizzed about Sgt. Bash's absence, the Official Robot Wars Facebook page responded, suggesting the possibility of further House Robots in potential future series. However, no more House Robots were added for the entirety of the rebooted series' run, with the BBC deciding not to renew Robot Wars in 2018.

"Sgt Bash isn't joining us for this series, as we only needed four for this series. However next time..."
— Official Robot Wars Facebook Page[5]

Main House Robots[]

Shunt[]

Main article: Shunt

Shunt in Series 1-2

Shunt in Series 3-7

The first of the four original House Robots to be introduced, Shunt was influenced by bulldozers and railway shunting engines, possessing excellent pulling and pushing power befitting of his name. His arsenal included a snowplough and scoop at either end (the latter pneumatically-operated from Series 2 onwards), along with an axe which by Series 3 had been upgraded with a diamond-edged head and a striking force of 500kg per square centimetre. Shunt was initially designed for and frequently used in the Sumo trial, though at times he would face strong opposition from competitors such as Panic Attack in those events.

In later series, Shunt would often be vulnerable to attacks from competitors armed with flipping or lifting weapons, notably Chaos 2, Firestorm, Bigger Brother and Gravity. He also had the lowest quoted weight of all House Robots at 105kg, only 5kg more than the maximum limit implemented for heavyweight robots from Extreme 1 to Series 7. However, his diamond-edged axe often proved capable of causing major damage, such as in the Series 4 Grand Final where he stopped Hypno-Disc's flywheel during its Eliminator against Pussycat.

Shunt in Series 8-10

Shunt was rebuilt in 2016 with several major improvements. The formerly lightest House Robot now weighed 327kg, further improving his pushing power, while the lifting scoop was now made out of wear-resistant HARDOX steel to defend against more powerful spinning weapons. A larger and more powerful axe was also employed, featuring a titanium-tipped spike head and the capacity to strike with a tonne of force in a quarter of a second.

Matilda[]

Main article: Matilda

Matilda from Series 1-4

Matilda from Series 5-7

Based on a mutant alien boar, Matilda was one of the original four House Robots, equipped with pneumatic flipping tusks and a rear-mounted spinning weapon which changed over the course of the original series. Initially, this took the form of a 3,000rpm chainsaw, but in later series this was replaced with a more potent 27kg vertical flywheel capable of severely damaging and even throwing competitors out of the arena.

Though not the lightest House Robot in the original run (weighing at a quoted 116kg), Matilda was often subjected to attacks from competitor robots in earlier series, receiving damage to her tusks and fibreglass shell alongside flips from robots armed with flipping or lifting weapons. Notably, the Series 1-4 model was heavily damaged by Razer at the end of the Southern Annihilator, which lead to her receiving a substantial upgrade for Extreme 1 and Series 5 with more powerful tusks as well as the flywheel weapon. The chainsaw, nevertheless, continued to make sporadic appearances in international versions where it was listed as an interchangeable spinning weapon alongside the flywheel.

Jonathan Pearce sometimes jokingly implied there may be a relationship going on between Matilda and Sir Killalot, and to lesser extents Shunt and Sgt. Bash, but this was never expanded upon.

Matilda in Series 8-10

Matilda was rebuilt in 2016, featuring a revised design with a more triceratops-inspired look. Further improvements were made to both of her weapons systems; in addition to a new 35kg HARDOX flywheel, the tusks were overhauled to form a lifting headpiece capable of throwing competitors at a pressure of 800psi. The revised Matilda's weight was also increased to 350kg.

Replicas[]

In 2011, Alan Gribble of the Cold Fusion Team built his own version of Matilda based on the original Series 1-4 bodyshell. This retained the tusks, but lacked a chainsaw or flywheel at the rear, instead comically sporting a feather duster in a similar manner to The Steel Avenger. This version was subsequently used as a House Robot for featherweight battles at Roaming Robots events alongside the 2013 Robot Wars live events tour run by the same organisers. Gribble's version was subsequently acquired by Cyberigs Robotics, who restored it to working condition with tusks and a dummy chainsaw weapon accurate in scale to the original machine.[6]

For the 2014 live tour, John Findlay built another version, reinstating the rear flywheel (limited to 500rpm for safety reasons) while also featuring improved tusks and a stronger bodyshell which was later replaced with one made from the original moulds. Capable of throwing featherweight competitors out of the arena, Findlay's Matilda continued to appear until the end of the Robot Wars live tour in 2016.

Dead Metal[]

Main article: Dead Metal

Dead Metal in Series 1-2

Dead Metal in Series 3-7

Dead Metal was one of the four original House Robots, recognisable by a steel exoskeleton chassis resembling a scorpion or lobster. His weaponry consisted of a pair of pneumatically-driven pincers, which would be used to trap competitors before cutting into them with a vertically-mounted circular saw forming his 'head'. Dead Metal's name originated from the fact that it looked like he had been made from metal found in a scrapyard.

Of the initial House Robots, Dead Metal was the quickest at 12mph and his armament remained largely similar throughout his appearances in the original run. However, his scorpion-like appearance substantially evolved in earlier series; by Series 3, the arm-based grinding blade/cutting disc had been replaced with a larger 3,000rpm Stihl type saw which could move forwards on a hinged assembly forming his new 'head'. This gave Dead Metal a significantly more effective weapons synergy and resulted in him gaining a reputation for producing sparks when cutting into competitors, especially those armoured in titanium. His appearance was thus largely unchanged for the remainder of the original series run.

Dead Metal in Series 8-10

Dead Metal was rebuilt in 2016, weighing 343kg and carrying over many features from the Series 3-7 build. Along with LED 'eyes', a top speed of 13mph and enlarged claws with a 1.4m diameter, a larger and more robust saw mechanism was also employed. The 450mm magnesium sawblade now rotated at 4,000rpm, allowing this version of Dead Metal to cause similar kinds of damage as his/her predecessor.

Sergeant Bash[]

Main article: Sergeant Bash

Sgt. Bash in Series 1-2

Sgt. Bash in Series 4-7

One of the original four House Robots, Sergeant Bash (often abbreviated to Sgt. Bash) was designed to look like a military tank with his green army colours and turret-based flamethrower weapon. In Series 1-2, he carried a sharp battering ram at the front and a small circular saw at the rear, the former later replaced for Series 3 by a set of pincers similar to those wielded by Sir Killalot.

By far Sgt. Bash's most famous and memorable feature was the flamethrower itself, a weapon type usually prohibited under the Robot Wars build rules. The propane-fuelled weapon was frequently used to set more flammable competitors alight such as the robots of Team Nemesis, even forming the basis of a Series 2 exhibition battle where the House Robot himself played a prominent part.

Sgt. Bash received a major redesign for Series 3 which added the front pincers, but replaced the circular saw with a bent ornamental one due to space limitations. The pincers were exchanged from Series 4 onwards for a set of custom hydraulic claws, allowing him to grip and crush competitors at a force of eight tonnes. However, his narrower front-end shape left him vulnerable against a variety of lifting and flipping weapons, notably getting turned over by competitors such as Griffon, Bigger Brother, Chaos 2, Thermidor 2 and Firestorm throughout his appearances.

A rebuilt version was briefly considered by Robo Challenge upon Robot Wars' revival in 2016, but ultimately did not appear due to timing constraints.[7]

Sir Killalot[]

Main article: Sir Killalot

Sir Killalot, between Series 3-7

Sir Killalot in Series 8-10

Sir Killalot (also simply known as Sir K or Killalot) debuted in Series 2 as the largest, heaviest and most famous House Robot. A blue tracked robot initially weighing 520kg and designed to resemble a medieval knight (his name being a play on 'Sir Lancelot'), he featured two hydraulically-operated arms equipped with cutting jaws (left) and a spiked 'lance' (right), later modified from Series 3 onwards to include a rotating drill. The jaws were initially a set of pincers repurposed from the 'jaws of life' used by emergency services, but were later upgraded from Series 4 onwards as a custom-made weapon featuring a wider reach and thus even greater damage potential.

From his initial appearance, Sir Killalot was billed as the 'king' of the House Robots, featuring prominently in merchandise and promotional materials while also becoming known for his weaponry and methods of attacking defeated competitors. Among those included lifting and carrying them in his jaws or lance to arena hazards (such as the Flame Pit or Pit of Oblivion), or performing a 'spin trick' where he would spin on the spot and throw affected competitors across the arena upon releasing his grip. However, his top-heaviness would sometimes cause him to lose balance (such as while attacking GroundHog in Series 2), while his exoskeletal armour and petrol drivetrain also left him vulnerable to catching fire on occasions. Despite attempts by competitors such as Roger Plant and Wheely Big Cheese to do so, Sir Killalot would become the only House Robot never to be fully flipped over.

Along with Shunt, Matilda and Dead Metal, Sir Killalot was rebuilt in 2016 with an electric power system and a larger and considerably revised design. Weighing 741kg (750kg by the time of Series 9), he boasted an increased lifting capacity of 300kg, a revised claw weapon, a 10mph top speed (double the quoted 5mph speed of the original) as well as substantially improved protection to his tracks and internals. The drill lance, however, was no longer made to rotate, leaving the claw as Sir Killalot's main armament.

Growler[]

Main article: Growler

Growler

Growler was one of two House Robots introduced for Series 6 along with Mr. Psycho. Designed by Rob Englebright, he was established as Mr. Psycho's 'pet', a four-wheel drive mechanical dog armed with hydraulic jaws capable of clamping competitors with 4 tonnes of force. His main feature, however, was a powerful skid-steer drive system similar to that used by Series 6 Champion Tornado, resulting in a top speed of 17mph. Coupled with the jaws, a predominantly steel construction and a maximum weight of 375kg, this allowed Growler to grab, spin and ram competitors at high speeds while inflicting major internal and external damage. A small rear flamethrower was also added for Extreme 2, but was removed afterwards after seeing very limited usage throughout the series.

Mr. Psycho[]

Main article: Mr. Psycho

Mr. Psycho

Mr. Psycho made his debut in Series 6, also designed by Rob Englebright and succeeding Sir Killalot as the largest and heaviest House Robot from the original series. Weighing 750kg, Mr. Psycho had some similarities to Sir Killalot in featuring tracks and a hydraulic claw weapon, the latter designed to grab and hold competitors high off the arena floor. His most famous weapon, however, was a swinging hammer weighing 30kg, capable of causing significant internal damage to any competitor positioned underneath it. Mr. Psycho was quoted as having a top speed of 8mph, considerably faster than the original Sir Killalot. Despite his added weight, however, he was not invulnerable to toppling over on occasions, such as in the Extreme 2 Commonwealth Carnage where he was flipped by Firestorm 4 at the end of its second-round battle.

Cassius Chrome[]

Main article: Cassius Chrome

Cassius Chrome

The final new House Robot to be introduced, Cassius Chrome appeared exclusively in Series 7 as a two-wheel drive robot modelled on a heavyweight boxer. Once again designed by Rob Englebright, he featured a pair of cam-driven arms with interchangeable 'fists' or spears as his main weapons, along with a static shovel and the highest top speed of any House Robot at 20mph. While not able to cause as much external damage as his predecessors, Cassius Chrome was frequently able to use his fists to ram and deflect competitors as well as dislodge vital internal components, such as Mechaniac's batteries in its Third World Championship qualifier.

Other House Robots[]

Refbot[]

Main article: Refbot

Refbot

Refbot was introduced in Series 4 as a humanoid House Robot intended to enforce fair play in the arena. Modelled on a sporting referee, his roles included separating competitors if they became stuck together, extinguishing fires and ensuring that the main House Robots did not attack competitors from outside their CPZs.

Equipment carried by Refbot initially consisted of a set of static ploughs/scoops to separate other robots as well as a left arm with a pincer grip and a CO2 fire extinguisher integrated into his right arm. From Extreme 1 until his last appearance in Series 7, a three-light indicator replaced the pincer grip, showing either a yellow card or red card to signal eliminations or House Robot infringements, and a green light at the start of battles. An electronic counter was also added to his chest to count out immobilised competitors, prior to further attacks from the other House Robots.

Throughout his appearances, Refbot served his intended purpose as a non-combative House Robot, though in later series there were occasions where he activated and brought defeated competitors to hazards instead of any other robots in the arena.

The Sentinel[]

Main article: The Sentinel

The Sentinel

Debuting in Heat G of Series 2, The Sentinel was a repurposed JCB excavator modelled to resemble a large robotic arm. It was used almost exclusively as an obstacle in the Gauntlet stage, though it did appear in some arena battles as shown in the Series 2 Grand Final and the subsequent Grudge Matches episode.

Armed with a spiked club on the end of its arm, The Sentinel could block, pin and push competitors against walls and into a nearby pit, operating with a 180-degree and later 360-degree reach over the left and centre routes. Likely as a result of its status as a Gauntlet-specific hazard, it was retired at the end of its debut series.

Shove[]

Main article: Shove

Shove

One of two House Robots mainly used behind the scenes, Shove was a four-wheel drive machine designed to push and drag defeated or damaged competitor robots to the entry gates for collection by roboteers. For this purpose, it was equipped with a static front scoop similar in shape to Shunt's as well as a rear hook-like device resembling a spiked axe.

Used in the first three UK Series, Shove was later superseded by Refbot for the televised competitions of Series 4, and by Dozer from the Series 5 live tour onwards. However, it remained present up until the end of the original series as a static display in The Pits.

Dozer[]

Main article: Dozer

Dozer

Built by Derek Foxwell to replace Shove for the Series 5 live tour/qualifiers,[8] Dozer fulfilled the same role as its predecessor, with a similar appearance, drive system and static scoop/hook attachments. In subsequent series, it was also used to clear up Drop Zone debris for future battles, and remained in use until the end of Series 7.

Proposed House Robots[]

Early Concepts[]

A number of concepts for the House Robots were proposed over the original series' run, some of which were developed into the final machines seen on television. Many were featured in publications such as the Robot Wars Fun Fax as well as on the official Mentorn website.[9]

The following concept sketches were present in the Fun Fax 'Primitive Prototypes' poster:

  • Evildoer - A prototype for Matilda, with an oval-shaped body, several saws along its back, cog-driven wheels and a rear chainsaw. The concept looked very similar to the finalised Matilda seen in the televised series.
  • Shove - The inspiration for Shunt and not to be confused with the non-televised House Robot of the same name. Featured a similar appearance to the latter two but with eight wheels, larger scoops/ploughs, side-mounted spinning weapons and a more train-inspired design. Also referred to as The Keeper on the Mentorn website.[9]
  • Phobia - A flying robot, with helicopter blades and two chainsaws suspended from underneath. The Fun Fax description perpetuates it to have crash-landed on its first test flight.
  • The Sentinels - Not to be confused with the Series 2 House Robot. A large clusterbot consisting of two tall humanoid-like machines armed with hooked arms and connected by a steel net used to trap other robots. The Fun Fax poster humorously claimed that The Sentinels were destroyed when they had an argument and sliced through each other's power lines.
  • Hammerhead - Designed after a shark, this robot had sharp steel teeth at the front, saw blades for wheels (similar to Saw Point) and an axe for a tail. In the Fun Fax, Hammerhead was said to have eaten itself when its tail got stuck in its own teeth. Alternatively titled Happy Eater.[10]
  • A Taste of Kaos - By far the biggest robot designed, this was a huge tracked robot with jet propulsion, two 'bionic' side arms with saw blades attached to the ends, and a hooked front ramming blade.

A further three concepts exclusively appeared on the Mentorn website:

  • Ekk Eekk - Alternatively titled RAT (Rapid Assault Tank)[9], a rounded robot with a menacing toothed grin, tiger stripes, tall front horns and a rear overhead arm featuring a hand-like spiked claw.[11]
  • Power Mosh - A humanoid-style four-wheel drive robot with front and rear scoops along with a pair of swinging hammers resembling large fists. Also known as Gauntlet[9] (unrelated to the Series 1-2 competition stage) or Mosh Diver.[12]
  • Steel Slammer - Alternatively named Chain-Mane[9], a machine resembling a go-kart with a humanoid 'driver', large exhaust stack and an assortment of spiked maces and hooks attached to free-swinging cables or chains.[13]

Spyder/The Bird[]

According to Issue 5 of Robot Wars: The Official Magazine, a further two House Robots were also conceptualised for a possible debut sometime after Series 6 and Extreme Series 2. Revealed by original series Executive Producer Steve Carsey, these were to be tentatively called Spyder, an 'observational robot', and The Bird, a second 'flying robot' concept which would have become the first of its kind to appear on the televised show. Neither Spyder nor The Bird would ultimately appear by the time of the televised Series 7, and no images or further information on these have since surfaced.[14]

Trivia[]

  • In the Russian dub of Robot Wars (known as Robot Battles), the House Robots were referred to as the Patrol Robots.

References[]

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