On July 12th Alistair Lack led a group of members around various venues associated with the filming of the Morse series, and later the Lewis and Endeavour episodes.
He began by giving us some facts about the number of episodes involved, the scriptwriters, the composer Barrington Phelong and the relevant viewing figures. Kevin Whateley was by far the longest -serving actor, having been in all three series and for 30 years. An interesting addition to the information about personalities was that there was a close bond between Colin Dexter and John Thaw who played Morse. They enjoyed a mutual fondness for liquid refreshment in the Morse bar of the Randolph Hotel.
We began our tour outside St John’s College in St Giles, which was the fictional college attended by Morse. He failed to complete his degree course after an unhappy love affair. We stopped at St Michael’s Church at the Northgate which was associated with an incident when a victim was pushed from the top of the church tower. However we also learned that many scenes supposedly filmed in Oxford were actually filmed elsewhere, often on the outskirts of London. This was more convenient for the large numbers of crew involved, and kept costs down.
We were then taken into Exeter College grounds and the college chapel. This was the venue for Morse’s final scene when he heard his favourite piece of music, Fauré’s Requiem. He was then filmed collapsing outside having suffered a fatal heart attack.
We were also told that allowing filming was much more popular with some colleges than with others, although it was a welcome source of revenue. After a brief stop outside Walter’s in the Turl which features in one episode, we finished our tour outside the Sheldonian which played a part in the most watched Morse episode of all.
Speaker: Dave Richardson
Dave Richardson is a freelance journalist and author, and a resident of Kennington for over 30 years. Although he has specialised in travel and tourism for most of his career, he also now writes about pubs and brewing and is editor of the Oxford Drinker, the bi-monthly magazine of the Oxford branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA). Through CAMRA, he was approached by Amberley Publishing to write its book Oxford Pubs (one of a series covering many places), which duly appeared in 2015. His most recent book, Let’s Go – a History of Package Holidays and Escorted Tours, came out in 2016.
There will be some copies of Oxford Pubs for sale after the talk at a discounted price of £12.50 (cash only).
On March 8th Julie Ann Godson gave a talk on Memories of the Vale before the Railways . The source material came from two books edited by Julie: Memories of the Vale by Rev. Lewin George Main and The Scouring of The White Horse by Uffington born Thomas Hughes, the author of Tom Brown’s Schooldays.
Lewin Main (1828-1897) was curate in Stanford in the Vale from 1859 until 1866 when he became Vicar of St Lawrence Church Reading. He was a town person at heart and had started his professional life as a bank clerk in London. Observation of local poverty moved him to join the church and on completion of his training, he was sent, to his surprise, to the Vale. His first impressions on moving into the Rectory with his wife were not favourable. He observed dilapidated buildings, poorly dressed and downtrodden workers and a relatively primitive way of life in all the local villages. Nevertheless he enjoyed access to all the local families and set about collecting a rich variety of memories and folk lore going back many years, which he described in his book. He regretted the loss of traditional farm clothing of men’s white smocks and women’s bright red cloaks, many of which were family heirlooms.
Main described the daily round of work on the farms starting with the gathering of all the village cattle, summoned by the sound of a cow’s horn at dawn. The main meal of the day was taken at 11.30 and tea in the farmhouses was taken at 3.30.Transport was dominated by horses and every village had a blacksmith. Older farmers still remembered manure being taken to the fields in large baskets carried by horses. They also remembered the dog whipper, paid four shillings a year to keep the large number of strays out of the village church. Village games and pastimes remembered included cock fighting, hockey, skating in winter, marbles and the occasional fox hunt. Churchwardens’ records gave details of charitable work at Whitsun to raise funds for the poor, including the sale of ale in the church, regarded by some as a pagan practice. Local dialect interested Lewin Main and he concluded that in the Vale it was predominantly of pure Anglo Saxon origin. An example cited was the word for a new year gift: a hansel. He also noted that in the years after the civil war Christian names changed dramatically and those based on Old Testament characters became much favoured.
In the second book edited by our speaker, Thomas Hughes described the history and practice of the annual refurbishment of the White Horse known as Scouring. Villagers and visitors would gather to clean the chalk monument, thought in those days to be associated with King Alfred and his wars with the Danes. We now know it was constructed in the bronze age. The local squire provided food and drink for the workers including two eighteen gallon barrels of ale. The event was also embellished by many sporting activities known as ‘The Pastime’ to which as many as twenty thousand visitors were attracted. Local men complained that men from Somerset had an unfair advantage in the boxing because they had less blood in their heads as a result of excessive cider consumption!
In conclusion Julie Ann told us that the Rev. Main had a somewhat ignominious change of career when he and his wife suddenly fled to Yorkshire in 1874 following a ‘domestic affliction’. When Mrs Main died twenty years later Lewin was joined by the governess from his Reading vicarage and they lived together until his death three years later. She lived on until 1936 when she died aged eighty nine.