Friday, June 16, 2017

A Quaint Community’s Star Turn

Editor’s note: In anticipation of the third season debut of Grantchester—to be broadcast on PBS-TV’s Masterpiece this coming Sunday, June 18—a British public relations and marketing company called Quite Great! sent The Rap Sheet a rather charming, seven-minute video excursion through the real Cambridgeshire village used as the backdrop for that 1950s-set ITV series based on James Runcie’s books. The video, embedded above, is hosted by UK pop-rock singer Corinna Jane. It came with the following short write-up:

This month brings the start of the latest series of the popular crime drama Grantchester. But what do we really know about the more than 900-year-old village that has become the stomping ground of a “crime-fighting” vicar, played by James Norton, and a war veteran turned police detective, brought to small-screen life by Robson Green?

Well, Grantchester lies just a mile outside the university city of Cambridge, in eastern England, and plays host to a number of famous pastimes that contribute to its quintessential Englishness. These include a Boxing Day barrel race that brings all the local pubs together for a tradition dating back to the 1960s (and ends in a hog roast!).

The village has been home to such noteworthy wordsmiths as Rupert Brooke, Lord Byron, Virginia Woolf and Jeffrey Archer, and it’s said to boast the world’s highest concentration of Nobel Prize winners.

To further accentuate its charm, Grantchester is home to some of the county’s most distinguished sites, which have become central to the television show’s story lines. For instance, The Orchard—tea rooms where Cambridge students were first served their traditional afternoon warmers in 1897—became a central hub for the program’s writers, as they would ride bicycles to that spot from Cambridge train station.

The most romanticized and sought-after local spot, spreading itself across the marshlands of the village, is the Meadows. In the show you will often see Reverend Sidney Chambers peddling past it along the banks of the River Cam, which when the sun shines is a hotbed for punts, picnics, and swimmers. Over the decades the Meadows has not only drawn the eyes of numerous photographers, but has also inspired poetry and musical works (the latter of which include Pink Floyd’s 1969 song, appropriately titled “Grantchester Meadows.”)

However, the village’s most famous attraction may be the Church of St. Mary and St. Andrew. That imposing High Street structure, part of which dates from the 14th century, features heavily in the series and does a fairly good job of summing up Grantchester as a village happy to embrace the present, but still blissfully pinned to its past.

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The new, third season of Grantchester comprises seven hour-long episodes, which will run under the Masterpiece banner through Sunday, July 30. Episode information and previews can be found here. Grantchester begins at 9 p.m. ET/PT.


Anonymous said...

"The village is also said to have boasted Great Britain’s highest concentration of Nobel Prize winners, including Rupert Brooke, Lord Byron, Virginia Woolf, and Jeffrey Archer"


J. Kingston Pierce said...

That claim is made in many places on the Web, including on this Grantchester tourism site:

Anonymous said...

It's mistaken claim then. "Rupert Brooke, Lord Byron, Virginia Woolf, and Jeffrey Archer": none of them ever won the Nobel Prize.

J. Kingston Pierce said...

Hah! I think I see what's happened here. The more common claim made about Cambridge neighbor Grantchester is that it counts among its small population the greatest concentration of Nobel Prize winners -- not necessarily of Nobel Prize-winning writers. I've edited the post to reflect that more general assertion.

Thanks, "Anonymous," for bringing this to my attention.