9th Season of Endeavour to start filming in Oxford

The ninth series of Inspector Morse prequel Endeavour it to start filming in Oxford today (22/5/22) according to reports.

Endeavour and Fred are back!

Within Oxford; we believe Christ Church will be used which is a college that has not featured much in previous filming. Also New College which was used in Endeavour Canticle, Sway and Apollo and St Edmund Hall already features in the early Endeavour episode; Home.

We left Endeavour in series 8 in the winter of 1971 and the year series will be set in 1972.  There will once again be 3 90-minute episodes.  This will bring bring the number of Endeavour episodes to 36 which breaks from the traditional 33 episodes that both Morse and Lewis ended on.

 

Filming from 2017 – Heidi from Walking Tours of Oxford in one of the cars used for filming!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Morse, Lewis, Endeavour – a guide celebrating 35 years on Screen

Morse owes its longevity to breaking the mould

After 35 years and three different iterations, the franchise has racked up 750 million global views and shows no sign of stopping, says John Mair

Thirty-five years ago, on 6 January 1987, the Morse franchise debuted on TV with The Dead Of Jericho, set in a then unfashionable area of Oxford. Today, Jericho is hip (I live there) and Morse is still going strong worldwide: it has been extended backwards and sideways, now runs to 100 films and the latest iteration, Endeavour, still gets an audience of 6 million-plus in the UK alone.

John Thaw, a veteran of police procedurals from his time on The Sweeney, brought Colin Dexter’s Thames Valley detective to life. The character was different to how Dexter had first written him, and so too was Sergeant ‘Robbie’ Lewis, playing Robin to the flawed Batman of Oxford.

Dexter loved the newer incarnation so much that he rewrote the later of his 13 novels around Thaw’s Morse. Thirty three episodes later, in 2000, Morse had a heart attack in the quad of his natural working milieu, an Oxford College. He died in the ‘JR’ (John Radcliffe hospital).

The city of Oxford itself is as much the star of the series as the actors on screen. The yellow Cotswold stone and magnificent architecture of the old colleges and the intrigue within them became the meat and veg of the series.

So what was the pitch that producer Kenny McBain and writer Anthony Minghella brought to their meeting with Dexter at an Oxford pub, where they planned to convince him of the project? They had already pre-sold the series and recce’d locations, but their major offer was a two-hour time slot, which was new to British television drama and allowed stories to develop at their own, slow pace.

Second, they promised great direction and writing. Some of the biggest names in British TV – directors like Danny Boyle, Julian Mitchell, John Madden and Jack Gold – have been behind the camera on Morse, with a cast of superb actors including Thaw and Kevin Whately (and later, Sir John Gielgud.)

The original Morse won seven Baftas, two National Television Awards and two Writers Guild awards, plus more in the UK and abroad. The makers – Zenith, Central, Carlton, and now Mammoth Screen – had an international hit on their hands. To date, 200 countries have bought some of the Morse films, with worldwide audiences approaching 750 million.

The franchise was very cleverly extended. When Morse ‘died’ in 2000 in The Remorseful Day, two years before the real-life death of Thaw, they went sideways and built another series of 33 films around the newly promoted Inspector Lewis and his sidekick Hathaway (Laurence Fox). Lewis ran from 2006 to 2015.

The franchise even went backwards in 2012 to the young Detective Constable ‘Endeavour’ Morse. Endeavour, too, has had a life of 33 films and while ITV and Mammoth Screen are being coy, expect a new three-part series later in 2022.

The Morse character is superbly drawn: an older, cynical detective inspector with an interrupted Oxford education, a liking for beer but not paying for it, and for women (always unrequited), crosswords and opera.

The police liked the series too. Clever coppers were rare at the time, especially in a provincial force like Thames Valley, and Peter Neyroud – Winchester and Oxford educated and a former TVP chief constable – recalls the sneers in the CID office about him: “Look what we’ve got, Morse and bloody Lewis.”

Similarly, Dermot Norridge, a former Oxford detective, recalls the cut-outs of Morse placed on the top table of CID dinners and in the office.

Inspector Morse Plaque at the Police Station

Rarely does a fictional television figure break through to public and professional acclaim like that – which is exactly what Inspector Morse and his TV iterations have done.

John Mair and Heidi Boon Rickard of Walking Tours of Oxford teamed up to produce ‘Morse, Lewis, Endeavour and Oxford – a guide to celebrating 35 years on screen. The book, is a great addition to our tours or can be purchased as a stand alone at Walking Tours of Oxford. Free P&P and signed by Heidi. Simply click on the BOOK NOW button.

Oxford Filming

It was great to be in Oxford just before Christmas and see the Warner Bros. film unit in Radcliffe Square. They were filming for a new movie starting Timothée Chalamet and Oliva Coleman. This movie is Wonka, due to be released on 2023 and tells the story of a young Willy Wonka of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. We are excited for this movie! They are due to return to Oxford for more filming over the coming weeks.

Here is Heidi, owner and guide of Walking Tours of Oxford, talking some more about filming in Oxford for BBC Oxford.

Wonka Filming Dec 2021

In July 2021, we also saw filming on Radcliffe Square for a new Steven Spielberg / Tom Hanks Production called Master of the Air

Masters of the Air filming July 2021
Master of the Air filming 2 July 2021

We offer private tour for your group to cover ‘film sites’ incl. the most famous of them all – Harry Potter!

Heidi Boon Rickard filming for BBC South

Morse, Lewis, Endeavour and Oxford book

On the 6th January 1987, 35 years ago – the legend that became Morse first appeared on our Televisions. It was groundbreaking at the time – no other TV programme had aired over 2-hours – that was a movie! A total of 33 episodes were shown and then after a short gap, we were treated to 33 ‘Lewis’ episodes. Then almost exactly 25 years later, ‘Endeavour’ began with an airdate of 2nd January 2012. From my first viewing of Endeavour, I was hooked and the references to John Thaw run true and deep. Over the lockdown of winer 2021, I wrote my tour and experiences down and the book is now published and available to buy via my website.

For anyone interested in the universe of Morse / Lewis and Endeavour and a great addition to the tours that we offer.

Walking Tours of Oxford

The Randolph Hotel

The Randolph Hotel stand in the centre of Oxford is has been a symbol of this great city for over 150 years.

It began in 1864 based on the designs of William Wilkinson in preparation for the need of top-class accommodation for the purposed visit of the Prince and Princess of Wales, 2 years later.

Named after Dr Francis Randolph, the chief benefactor of The Ashomelan Museum which stands majestically opposite the hotel on Beaumont Street.

In 2000 the hotel was acquired my McDonald Hotels and excelled in providing first class accommodation for many people from across the globe. It has long been the places to stay for politicians, film stars and royalty.

Disaster stuck in April 2015, in my earlier days of Tour Guiding and I remember vividly sitting at home as events unfolded that evening. A fire broke out in the kitchens which was the result of flambering a beef stroganoff! Immediately I was stuck by the potential loss of life but somehow all 80 guests and staff were unharmed. Thanks must go to the 14 fire engines and 70 firefighters who fought the blaze. Whilst the actual damage was about 5%, the roof was badly affected, and The Randolph closed its doors for the first time in its 150-year history.

Rising like a phoenix from the ashes, it took 11 months for the hotel to be repaired and redecorated. A champagne bar was added, and all rooms revamped.

The Randolph was acquired by the American chain of hotels, Graduate in 2020 during the covid pandemic. With hotels forced to shut during ‘lockdown’, this was a great opportunity to completely redecorate and redesign the interior.

In August 2021, the hotel reopened partially for a soft opening, and it was at the time I was invited to come and stay. Prior to becoming a Tour Guide in Oxford my work took me around the world and I had stayed in some of the world’s most iconic hotels but never at The Randolph, so I was delighted.

I was apprehensive about the refurbishment but need not have worried. Once again, she has risen to become, rightfully so, one of the world’s best hotels.

As one enters from Beaumont Street, you are welcome by concierge and to the left is the famous Morse Bar. Here you will find pictures of John Thaw and Kevin Whatley (from Morse and Lewis). Sadly, the Colin Dexter plaque did not survive the refurbishment, but I like to think of him ingrained in the fabric and feel of the hotel for he was a frequent visitor. It was here, at this hotel and within The Morse bar that I once met Colin – a truly lovely gentleman.

My room was located on the 4th floor and looking out the bedroom window, I could see the tip of the Radcliffe Camera and the dreaming spires. The room was well decorated, comfortable, and cosy. The decor has a ‘hint’ to Oxford with references to famous people associated with either town or gown. The en-suite bathroom provided all that I needed with a walk-in shower.

We had breakfast that morning in the new ‘Alice’ restaurant and I can certainly recommend the smashed avocado on English muffin!

All too soon it was time to check out – my Morse / Lewis and Endeavour tour was beckoning but this time I could tell my guests all about the Graduate Randolph!

TO BOOK THE RANDOLPH CLICK HERE

READ MORE ABOUT OUR MORSE TOURS HERE

https://www.cntraveller.com/article/randolph-hotel-review-oxford

Walking Britain’s oldest road!

What does a morse / Lewis and endeavour walking tour guide do in months of enforced lockdown?

A) rewatch many of the episodes
B) write a book on the subject (more about this in the coming weeks)
C) walk Britain’s oldest road – The Ridgeway

‘Follow the acorn’ A tour guides walk along the ridgeway in times of covid.

I survived lockdown 1, from March 2020 when all freedom was curtailed, like many, enjoying my garden and sunlounger but as night fell, I rewatched many of the episodes – driving my family nuts!

I then returned to my tours June-October with renewed knowledge and enthusiasm!

Then in November, another brief lockdown with freedom gained in December until 26th December in Oxfordshire.

With short cold days, the garden was no longer on option so my husband, Jonathan and myself donned our walking boats and took to hiking.

We live in the Oxfordshire village of Chinnor, right on the ridgeway and although we had ventured on short strolls over the 20 years we have lived here and often with our young children in days gone by, here was a real opportunity to ‘do properly’.

That winter we discovered many new paths and hikes. We were hooked and with each step, there was a determination to go ‘a little further’. Our 21st wedding anniversary was celebrated with a walk and cup of tea, following the Ridgeway from Princes Risborough back to Chinnor. By March 2021 we had reached our peak when we completed 28.82 kms from Chinnor to Watlington and beyond round trip.

Freedom again and it was time to concentrate on salvaging the business and building up the depleted coffers but those stunning walks along the ridgeway were never far from our minds.

By late summer 2021, we began again and this accumulated with a 2 day / 1 night section that we had not previously done – the start! From Ivinghoe Beacon in Buckinghamshire to Wendover.

Off we go!

The date was Sunday 3rd October and we drove our older car to Ivinghoe Beacon where there is a free national trust car park. Theoretically the ridgeway starts back from this point, at the beacon and with stunning views over the rolling hills. Not ones to do a half job, we hiked up. It was a beautiful day but the wind was blowing ferociously at the top. We took our photos and were in unison about the stunning scenery before setting off ‘properly’.

The first section here is open and again offering the most beautiful views. We met fellow hikers who were on a day trip from London and had got the train to Tring to do a circular route. We reached the top of a hill with views looking down over a quarry and was tempted with a ‘tea and biscuit stop’ but opted to continue as still so breezy. This was a slight mistake as we then ventured into ‘Grims ditch’ which, whilst lovely, and giving you a real sense of the path travellers have trod for over 5.000 years, it did not offer a scenic stop for our rest so we continued until we found a field and sat enjoying the later afternoon sunshine. It was a short push from here to Wendover, I think the only town that the ridgeway truly passes through. As soon as we reached Wendover, there was our hotel – central and very welcoming after 21.54 km, 4.5 hours and 323m elevation gain.

I had dithered as to where to stay in Wendover as, like is so often the case, review were mixed. I had contemplated a room in a private house through Airbnb but in the end opted for The Bel and Dragon (yes – that is correct – only one l). We booked direct – always the best way and I wish everyone would consider this – booking through on-line portals on OTA’s means that the price is increased for everyone as they take a commission! I was not disappointed in my choice at all. The hotel had recently undergone a refurbishment and we were shown to our double en-suite bedroom on the ground floor, just across from the main pub. It get’s a little confusing as the hotel is called The Bel and Dragon but the pub is The Red Lion. We dumped our packs and heading back to the pub for a well earned pint and before lingering in a hot bubbly bath. Extra kudos must go to the hotel for providing an abundance of toiletries including bubble bath which, I feel, is a must after a long hike.

That evening, ideally we would have eaten at the pub on-site but they had run out of roasts and I found the remaining menu a little limited for my taste. So we pulled our boots back on and headed to The George and Dragon, for a delicious Thai treat. There seems to be lots of dragons in Wendover!

Where we stayed and where we ate

The Bel and Dragon, Wendover

https://www.georgeanddragonwendover.com

Part 2 – Wendover back to Chinnor

Eating out in Oxford

Pizzas, Pints and Other People

Have you spent the last six months hankering to sit in a pub with your mates with a pint in one hand and a slice of pizza in the other? If so, now is the time to book your 2-hour slot at The White Rabbit. One of the top 5 pizzerias in the UK, this small pub is one of Oxford’s gems – and the beer’s not bad either. Farsightedly, it opened its pizza garden even before the pandemic struck – and the pizzas are as authentically Italian as the chef and as good as they ever were.

However, if you would like a bit of history with your beer, you might prefer The Bear Inn. Oxford’s oldest pub (well, one of three possible contenders for the title), it claims to date back to 1242 and used to be a huge coaching inn. Today it is tiny, but in pandemic times has come into its own with seating for 95 in the marquee out back, so you can bring friends. Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait until May 17th to see the pub’s treasured tie collection. This numbers over 4,000 tie tips donated by patrons – presumably after a few pints – framed under glass inside the pub. The ties represent schools, colleges, regiments, and sports clubs from across the world.

The Bear Inn

The Turf Tavern is another historic option with excellent outdoor seating in sight of Oxford’s old city wall. Originally known as The Spotted Cow, it doubled as a gambling den, hence the reference to the ‘turf’. It is approached down a tiny alley just under the Bridge of Sighs – follow the sign reading ‘An Education in Intoxication’ (!). Indeed, many prominent people were ‘educated’ here. In 1963, it became a Guinness World Record venue when Bob Hawke, future PM of Australia, managed to down ‘a yard of ale’ in just 11 seconds. Numerous famous names have frequented The Turf down the years – and if you go to the pub, you can read all about them on the chalk boards – Richard Burton, Tony Blair, President-to-be Clinton and the Harry Potter stars amongst others. Fictional visitors include Inspectors Morse and Lewis and the young Endeavour.

Famous names at The Turf Tavern
Outside seating at The Turf Tavern
Try something new at The Turf Tavern!

Sadly, there have been a few pandemic casualties, amongst them The Lamb and Flag, mentioned by Thomas Hardy in his novel Jude the Obscure and owned by St John’s College. Fingers crossed that the decision to close the pub permanently is reversed.

Additionally, Tolkien and Lewis fans may be disappointed to know that St John’s other pub on St Giles, The Eagle and Child, won’t be reopening until 2022. The pub is undergoing renovation and may in future function as a small hotel. This is the place where the ‘Inklings’ used to meet – a thoroughly sensible club, which mixed literature and beer.

Some pubs are currently suffering from a lack of outside space and won’t be opening yet e.g. The White Horse on Broad St, seen in several Morse and Lewis episodes and The King’s Arms at the corner of Broad Street and Parks Road, but they should be opening again after 17th May.
If you are coming shopping, then The Crown and The Plough in Cornmarket have both gone ‘al fresco’. The Plough’s seats are on Cornmarket itself and the temporarily (?) closed St Michael Street, so you can watch people pass by. They promise a ‘huge selection of gins, vodkas and whisky and a comprehensive wine list’, so if you are alcoholically inclined, you should be able to find something to enjoy.

Outside the city centre, there are some cracking alternative venues on offer, such as The White House on the Abingdon Road, where they are serving cakes, coffee and ‘sharing plates’ and they have turned the erstwhile car park into a beer garden. (Obviously, you will have to find somewhere else to park.)

If you are looking for something more exotic, try KazBar and CoCos on the Cowley Road, which has outdoor seating on the now pedestrianised Dawson Street. Pretend you have gone on holiday and try something Mediterranean.

For vegetarians and vegans, our advice would be to check out The Punter in Osney Mead. Its waterside location is attractive and the puddings in particular look terrific!

For a location combining a beautiful walk with a pub, two great options from central Oxford are The Perch in Binsey and The Trout in Wolvercote. Whilst in Binsey, find the church and the ‘Treacle Well’ which found fame in Alice in Wonderland. The Perch was one of the first places Lewis Carroll gave public readings of his classic book. Ask the staff about their ghost….

The Perch, Binsey
©philknightphotography ©walkingtoursofoxford

The 17th century Trout Inn has a lovely riverside location and if you’ve watched Morse, Lewis and Endeavour, you’ll definitely recognise it as a favoured watering hole of the fabled detectives.

So, why not take a Walking Tours of Oxford tour and then follow up with a pleasant afternoon spent eating and drinking well in one of our friendly, welcoming, traditional (or not so traditional) Oxford pubs? We hope we have whetted your appetite.

© Victoria Bentata 2021 for Walking Tours of Oxford