Main content
This programme is not currently available on BBC iPlayer

Return to Betjemanland

AN Wilson travels back to a landscape of beautiful houses and churches, beaches and seaside piers, where he reveals the life and work of poet and broadcaster Sir John Betjeman.

In 1984, Sir John Betjeman died and was buried at St Enodoc Church, close to the village of Tribetherick in north Cornwall.

Writer, critic and biographer of Betjeman, AN Wilson, visits the real and imagined places that shaped his life to reveal the life and work of the poet and broadcaster.

Wilson explores how Betjeman came to speak to, and for, the nation in a remarkable way. As a poet Betjeman was writing popular verse for the many, not the few. With his brilliant documentaries for television, Betjeman entertained millions with infectious enthusiasm as he explained his many passions and bugbears.

As a campaigner to preserve the national heritage, Betjeman was tireless in his devotion to conservation and preservation, fighting the planners, politicians and developers - railing against their abuse of power and money.

Wilson investigates this by visiting locations in London, Oxford, Cornwall, Somerset and Berkshire. He travels through a landscape of beautiful houses and churches, beaches and seaside piers - a place that Wilson calls Betjemanland.

In doing so he also reveals the complexity and contradictions of Betjeman - how Betjeman, the snob with a love of aristocrats and their country houses, is the same person who is thrilled by the more proletarian pleasures of the Great British seaside; how the poetry of Betjeman shows us that he is haunted by childhood memory, has religious faith but also doubt and is in thrall to love and infatuation; and how the man his friends called Betjeman was full of joie de vivre, but also suffered great melancholy and guilt whilst living an agonised double life.

59 minutes

Last on

Mon 7 Jan 2019 01:10

Music Played

Timings (where shown) are from the start of the programme in hours and minutes

  • 00:04

    Bill Evans

    Peace Piece

    Performer: Bill Evans.
  • Django Reinhardt & St├ęphane Grappelli

    Oriental Shuffle

  • 00:24

    Reginald Dixon

    Oh I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside

  • John Renbourn

    Deserted Streets

  • Led Zeppelin

    The Song Remains The Same

  • The Kinks

    The Village Green Preservation Society

  • Ella Fitzgerald

    If I Were A Bell

  • 00:36


    Peilerman Und Flow Teil 5


Role Contributor
Presenter AN Wilson
Producer Alastair Laurence
Director Alastair Laurence
Executive Producer Michael Poole


Featured in...

John Betjeman Collection

John Betjeman Collection

Rediscover the documentaries that made Betjeman a much-loved figure on British television