Essex Archbishop captured by fly on the vestry wall

Second only to the Royal Family in the British establishment, the Archbishop of Canterbury is a modest Essex man who keeps his wife's teddy bear in the bedroom, supports Arsenal Football Club and has a gentle sense of humour.

This is the picture of Dr George Carey to emerge from an unprecedented fly-on-the-vestry-wall documentary series, to be screened across the ITV network next month, which sets out to show both the public and private sides of the first working-class head of the Church of England.

But above all, the series shows, he is a man of unshakeable faith, with a determination to make the Church face up to the realities of the end of the 20th century. "My wife teases me that I have 100 ideas every day but only one is good. But if I am convinced that an idea is God-given it will take a lot to knock me out of the driving-seat," he tells viewers.

And when the Radio 4 broadcaster John Humphrys pushed hard for Dr Carey to comment on adultery, following the announcement of the Prince and Princess of Wales' divorce, he revealed what can only be described as an irreverent wit. "Nasty man," he smiled to his press secretary when the microphone was switched off.

Dr Carey grew up in Dagenham and is proud of the fact that he can call himself a true Cockney, born within earshot of Bow Bells. Although he was brought up in a God-fearing family, his parents did not go to church, chiefly because his mother did not have a hat.

His determination to succeed stemmed from failing his 11-plus exam, after which he vowed that "by hook or by crook I was going to get there". He originally wanted to join the Merchant Navy as a radio operator but ended up in the RAF and it was there he heard his calling. On being told by a young ordinand that he would "never make it" he became determined to prove the doubters wrong.

Dr Carey met his wife, Eileen, in 1960, when he was 20 and she was 17. They had met at their local parish church in Dagenham.

Nowadays, when the couple have a few days off, they escape to their flat in Bristol, where they read, "talk a lot" and play Scrabble. "She nearly always wins, so I learn the grace of humility when I play with her."

Despite being troubled by what he perceives as society's moral shortcomings and frequently depressed by his portrayal in the media, he is still able to draw on "an inner reservoir of cheerfulness".

"You have to say 'don't worry about it, that will one day be forgotten. What really matters is your own integrity, what you believe in'."