Tuesday, 5 May 2020

John Betjeman at Avebury

John Betjeman at Avebury
In 1955 Sir John Betjeman was hired by Shell to narrate a series of 26 short films extolling the glories of the British Isles that were now more easily accessible to the public at large in this new era of the motor car.

The series, 'Discovering Britain with John Betjeman', was one of several travelogue style films that Betjeman was to make throughout his life and was a continuation of an association with Shell that stretched back to 1934 when he had written and edited the guidebooks known as the 'Shell Guides' for the company.   Of the 26 films the one of most interest to us here at Wyrd Britain is the one concerning the stone circles at Avebury.

Betjeman has an obvious affection for the stones and the nearby burial mounds and as a lifelong fan of both Arthur Machen and M.R. James it comes as little surprise that in his narration he stresses the religious aspect, the pagan burials and the "sinister atmosphere" of the place which he contrasts with vivid imaginings of the toil, the skill and the scope of the work involved in their construction.

It's an enchanting little film that is almost as much a time capsule of a lost era as the stones themselves and which offers us another glimpse of a part of the land that has long proved irresistible to artists of all flavours.



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