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Journey into the Weald of Kent (1959)

Courtesy of BP Video Library

Main image of Journey into the Weald of Kent (1959)
35m, colour, 22 mins
DirectorPeter Mills
Production CompanyRandom Film Productions
SponsorNational Benzole
NarratorJohn Betjeman

A travelogue on the Weald, visiting Smarden, Nettlestead, Sissinghurst Castle, Mereworth Castle, and Bayham Abbey, while showing farms, villages and orchards through the seasons.

Show full synopsis

Journey into the Weald of Kent was one of a pair of films released in 1959 as parts of a series of travelogues named Our National Heritage, sponsored by the oil company National Benzole. No further parts were released until 1962, when the series broadened into a wider documentary approach.

The Our National Heritage banner was also used by National Benzole during the 1950s in press advertising and in a series of guide books on places and activities. The temptation to exploit the double meaning of the phrase 'national heritage' evidently proved more insistent than the need for a coherent programme for its use.

Sir John Betjeman narrates this and its sister film in the series, Beauty In Trust. Both films were made between Betjeman's collaborations for the BBC Monitor series, 'John Betjeman: A Poet in London' (tx. 1/3/1959) and 'Journey Into a Lost World' (tx. 28/2/1960).

The Our National Heritage films were closer in style to the series Discovering Britain with John Betjeman he had made earlier in the decade. Those short films were designed to encourage motorists to visit various British stately homes, gardens, historic monuments and sites of interest. Where the Discovering Britain films had been travelogues made for one oil company (Shell), the Our National Heritage films were travelogues for another (National Benzole). National Benzole was, in fact, an acquisition of Shell-Mex and BP Limited, a merged marketing organisation of the companies we now know as Shell and BP. This tends to suggest that these later films are another legacy of Betjeman's earlier employment in the Shell publicity department.

The film itself is a characteristic Betjeman paean for the value of tradition over senseless modernity, which is matched by the romanticisms of its musical score. The music is by Elisabeth Lutyens, scored in the Vaughan Williams-esque style of the British pastoral school which she herself described witheringly as "cow-pat music".

James Piers Taylor

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Video Clips
Complete film (21:53)
Betjeman, Sir John (1906-1984)
British Petroleum films