Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Stock Photographs

My father was very fond of the works of the war poet Rupert Brooke – particularly “The Old Vicarage, Grantchester”

But Grantchester! ah, Grantchester!
There's peace and holy quiet there,
Great clouds along pacific skies,
And men and women with straight eyes,
Lithe children lovelier than a dream,
A bosky wood, a slumbrous stream,
And little kindly winds that creep
Round twilight corners, half asleep.
In Grantchester their skins are white;
They bathe by day, they bathe by night;
The women there do all they ought;
The men observe the Rules of Thought.
They love the Good; they worship Truth;
They laugh uproariously in youth;
(And when they get to feeling old,
They up and shoot themselves, I'm told)...

grantchester 2

I was interested to watch ITV on Monday with James Norton and Robson Green, acting in the new series based on the books by James Runcie [son of the late Robert Runcie, former Archbishop of Canterbury] Norton plays a vicar/amateur sleuth.

It was…OK…more Agatha Christie’s Marple, with slightly contrived plots, rather than the intellectual stimulus of Colin Dexter’s Morse. And Father Brown, he most definitely isn’t – I have yet to see evidence of the deep spiritual insights of Chesterton’s moon-faced priest. I have blogged about sleuthing priests before [here] I found Grantchester to be relaxing sit-and-do-your-knitting entertainment [I would have expected this to be shown on a Sunday evening rather than at the same time as New Tricks – but perhaps ITV are hoping to pick up NT fans who feel that set of detectives are losing their edge?]


One of the pre-release reviewers I read said that she found it rather slow moving and had started looking for errors in the 1950’s settings [You do that anyway, said Bob] Yes, they had a set of Green Beryl Woods Ware crockery – still to be found in church kitchens up and down the land, the men wore braces, the housewives wore hats and pinnies. But I got a little concerned about the Rev’s attire.

His clerical collar and stock didn’t seem quite right to me. My own dearly beloved doesn’t ‘robe up’ on a Sunday [he has been known to conduct worship casually dressed with no tie!] but in the 50’s my Dad wore a “Clerical Collar and Vest Stock” for church. I am sure his white shirt was not visible inside the collar [unlike Sidney’s was ]Many of today’s clergy have a little rectangle of white plastic which they insert into the front of their shirts [black or coloured], back then many Revs wore a white shirt and over the top had a black front – a small dickey-bib, which tucked into their V-neck waistcoat or a longer vest-front which had straps attached at the waist – and both had collar bands to which the stiff clerical collar attached with a stud at the back [through collar and shirt collar band]

cb rabat collar

These are properly called “Rabat Stocks” – from the old French word rabat or rebato – a ‘stand-up collar’. These were very popular with the Elizabethans [and Cate Blanchett]

I must go and find an elderly clergyman and ask about 1950’s collars and stocks. Maybe I am remembering it wrong – I was very young then.

Runcie has an informative website devoted to the books. It declares that Grantchester is “ Father Brown with attitude, Agatha Christie with Cathedrals, and Barbara Pym with sex.”

I went to the Old Vicarage once, around 40 years ago. Dad and I were driving through Cambridgeshire and saw a sign saying “Book Sale, Old Vicarage, Grantchester” so we went. I bought some very useful 2nd-hand books which were on my Uni booklist. Just after that, the OV was sold – to Jeffrey and Mary Archer, who still live there, I believe. I think the current TV series is using a different property for filming the Vicarage.

If you like nostalgic fifties settings, and friendly rivalry between the professional copper and the amateur sleuth, then I think you will enjoy this series. In a world where there is so much sadness, is it so bad to want a bit of gentle escapism on an autumn evening occasionally?

I’m glad that my man doesn’t set himself apart behind a collar –so here’s Neil Diamond, singing For Reverend Blue Jeans


  1. Granchester isn't showing on TV in New Zealand (yet) but I do enjoy James Runcie's books.

  2. It's early days yet but I wasn't overwhelmed really. There are worse ways to spend an hour so I think I will stick with it. HOH says he keeps thinking of the vicar as the baddie in Happy Valley where apparently he was really nasty. Also if it's not too forward to say so, I think Barbara Pym has some very sexy bits. It may not be overt but it is there and beautifully done.

  3. 'For Reverend Blue Jeans' lol! A bit like 'my ears are alight', (the Israelites or something like it from a song, I can't remember who sang it or what its' exact title was!)

  4. In our usual backward ways we are working our way through borrowed boxsets of Downton Abbey! We are getting to the end of Series 2! maybe we'll be uo to date for the next series after this current one! But it has made us all very historically-minded.

  5. Thank you for explaining history of word 'rabat'. I wear one occasionally . but did not know etymology.


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