• Midsomer Murders History Header Austen Orczy

    Jane Austen & Baroness Orczy in Midsomer County

    (Caution: Contains spoilers for episodes: 10×07: They Seek Him Here, & 19×05: Death by Persuasion)


    The idyllic landscape of Midsomer County is well known. No wonder Jane Austen and Baroness Emma Orczy, two famous writers, are said to have stayed here. Or is that just a story?


    Competition for authenticity

    Jane Austen
    Jane Austen 1870.jpg. 1869 engraving showing an idealized, young en:Jane Austen, based on a sketch by Cassandra Austen. Public Domain.

    The Gorgeous Georgians re-enactment at Whitcombe Grange Hall has to be interrupted because one of the Regency lovers has been murdered in the nearby woods – journalist Samantha Berry.

    John Barnaby and Jamie Winter interview the house owners, Kitty and James Oswood. Kitty Oswood answers the question of what kind of event is taking place: It’s just a re-enactment in honour of Jane Austen’s visit to Whitcombe Grange Hall in 1801.

    Well, Gemma Christie, who lives in the village, thinks otherwise. She runs the Jane Austen Peaceship Circle in a museum of sorts. It is located in a small annexe – “The Jane Austen Tea Room” is emblazoned on the outside of the building. Several rooms full of Regency furnishings – only much more crowded than the rooms were back then. Every inch of these rooms seems to have been used. There are also countless books on the walls.

    Posing as a qualified historian and Jane Austen expert, she teaches John Barnaby that Jane Austen did indeed come here in 1801, but that she did not stay in the manor house, but here, where the tea room now stands.


    Jane Austen at Whitcombe Grange?

    Whether Jane Austen actually stayed at Whitcombe Grange – in the Hall or in the village – is not really clear. Did Gemma Christie simply lie about her education in order to gain a better reputation and win the competition against Oswood’s ‘play’? Or is Jane Austen’s visit also part of the plot?

    Jane, born in 1775, was educated by a relative in Oxford in 1783 and attended Reading Ladies Boarding School from 1785 to 1786. She also visited relatives in Kintbury, Berkshire, the home town of her mother Cassandra.

    Before 1801, the family lived in Steventon, between Reading and Southampton and a good 10 miles or 20 kilometres south of the Berkshire border. For the first 26 years of her life it was only a day’s journey, so well within the realms of possibility. And Jane Austen moved back after five years, albeit to the south of Hampshire.


    Darcy’s Pemberley in Midsomer County

    Chatsworth House
    Chatsworth House where where Gorgeous Georgians took a murderous turn. Photo by Trevor Rickard, 2010. CC-BY SA 2.0.

    Turville, the location of Gemma Christie’s museum and tearooms, is in Buckinghamshire, right in the middle of Barnaby country. 22 miles to her home in Steventon, 14 miles to her boarding school, 20 miles to her mother’s home in Kintbury – in the 1800s a coach travelled at five miles an hour.

    The village of Turville was inhabited in Anglo-Saxon times. Apart from the two manor houses already mentioned, the village made history through the Sleeping Girl of Turville. Exactly 70 years after Jane Austen’s supposed visit, the girl, Ellen Sadler, fell into a comatose sleep from which she could not be awakened. She became a tourist attraction, earning money for the family. After nine years, she awoke suddenly and, apart from a few minor physical consequences, lived a longer life.

    But there is no trace of any reference to Jane Austen.

    Quite the opposite of Whitcombe Grange Hall. I had wondered why a location near Sheffield had been chosen, rather unusually. But lo and behold, not only did it serve as the setting for the 2007 version of Pride and Prejudice, but it is also said to have served Jane Austen as the model for Pemberley, the home of Fitzwilliam Darcy.

    I think it is more likely that Jane Austen came here to have tea than to Turville, but both places are conceivable.

    In addition, Chatsworth House has links to the Anglo-Saxon period when the land belonged to the Norse Chetel and is mentioned in the Domesday Book as a Crown property. Later, during the Civil War, the manor was occupied by both sides. The Cavendish family, Dukes of Devonshire, sided with the Royalists and did not regain their property, which had been theirs for nearly 500 years, until 1660.


    Lord Fitzgibbon – the archetype of a hero?

    Superman, Batman, Spiderman, Zorro… the list of superheroes who do not reveal their identity is long. They are all based on the idea of Baroness Orczy and the Scarlet Pimpernel. A chivalrous, gallant Englishman called Sir Percy Blakeney, who, in disguise, saves aristocrats from the guillotine. On the one hand, a rich buffoon, on the other, a master swordsman, clever disguiser and escape artist.

    With one distinguishing mark: A Scarlet Pimpernel.

    Neville Hayward paces the living room a little nervously. He has a pad in his hand and is writing something down. He speaks softly and incomprehensibly to himself. His sister-in-law, Gwen Morrison, is playing tarot cards and is visibly annoyed and disturbed by his movements and nervousness. But he doesn’t notice, because he’s just very happy with his wording.

    Not so Gwen Morrison, who has been living with Neville since the death of her husband and Neville’s brother Ted, who sighs and rolls her eyes in annoyance. She does not like it when he mentions that Baroness Orczy, author of the famous book ‘The Scarlet Pimpernel’, lived at Midsomer Magna Manor and that the character of Sir Percy Blakeney is based on the then landlord of Midsomer Magna, Fitzgibbon.


    A defender of the aristocracy

    Baroness Orczy
    The baroness Emma Orczy, 1920. Public Domain.

    Unfortunately, we learn little about Lord Fitzgibbon in the episode, and cannot compare the man with the novel character. But what about the fact that Baroness Orczy was in Midsomer Magna just after the turn of the century? Or rather, Loseley Park, Guildford, Surrey. (Yes, this is where the famous boxing match between Sayers and Heenan took place on the Farquaharson estate in 1860).

    Emma ‘Emmuska’ Orczy spent her early years in Hungary as the daughter of a baron. Her family fled with her across Europe – Brussels, Budapest, Paris – during the uprising against the aristocracy, settling in England twelve years later in 1880. Throughout her life she believed in the supremacy of the aristocracy, imperialism and militarism. All these elements came together in her play about the Scarlet Pimpernel, which premiered in Nottingham in 1903.

    Baroness Orczy came up with the idea for Sir Blakeney after testifying in Paris, where she had been with her husband, Henry George Montagu MacLean Barstow, shortly after the turn of the century. She is said to have written the play in just five weeks.

    Initially The Scarlet Pimpernel was a novel, but no publisher would print it, so an actor friend of her husband’s introduced her to the acting team of Fred Terry and Julia Neilson, who were looking for a new romantic drama. And so Baroness Orczy rewrote her play.


    The Unknown Hero was born.

    Scarlet Pimpernel
    A Scarlet Pimpernel, the sign of the superhero of the same name. Photo by AnemoneProjectors, 2012. CC-BY SA 2.0.

    Although the play was not a great success in Nottingham, it opened at the New Theatre in London on 5 January 1905 and proved very, very popular. So popular, in fact, that Orczy was able to sell her novel. This became an instant success as the rave reviews of the play brought Orczy many more readers in Britain and the rest of the world. The book became a bestseller and a new kind of hero was born.

    The book is set in England in 1792: Sir Percy Blakeney has gathered the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel: 19 chosen men – all English aristocrats – who knew his secret identity. His opponent was the citizen Chauvelin, sent to England by Jacobin France. The Scarlet Pimpernel saved several English lords and earls from the guillotine, naturally earning the resentment of the Jacobins and their supporters.

    Fun fact: I first heard about the Scarlet Pimpernel in the episode “Nob and Nobility” in the third series of Blackadder. In the pub, Edward expresses his support for the French Revolution and Liberty, Equality, Fraternity – and doubts the existence of the Scarlet Pimpernel. Tim McInnerny, who is always Percy in the series, plays an alter ego of the Scarlet Pimpernel in this episode. Fans of Blackadder will probably have guessed how this is going to end up, or rather, will have seen this episode before.


    They seek him here

    Loseley House
    Loseley House in June 2023, by Petra Tabarelli. Public Domain.

    The episode title is a quote from the novel. The full passage is: “They’re looking for him here, they’re looking for him there. The French are looking for him everywhere. Is he in heaven or in hell? That damned elusive Pimpernel”.

    But where was Baroness Orczy? She lived in London, so it may well be that she once made a trip to Surrey. Loseley Park was built in the 16th century, partly with stones from Waverley Abbey after its Dissolution. By the time of the Domesday Book there was a building called Loosely, owned by Torald (Thorold).

    Orczy was so successful that she could afford a house in Monte Carlo. She also retreated here in exile when the Second World War reached England. She did not return to her beloved London, but to Oxfordshire. It was not Guildford, where Loseley Park stands, but Henley-on-Thames. And thus the location of ten episodes of Midsomer Murders, and 31 miles (50 km) from Loseley Park. But The Scarlet Pimpernel had already been written.


    Occasional embellishment of the story

    And really, it doesn’t matter, because …. do you remember the dialogue between Neville Hayward and Gwen Morrison? She dislikes the mention that Baroness Orczy lived at Midsomer Magna Manor and that Lord Fitzgibbon was her model for Sir Percy Blakeney.

    And with good reason: it’s not true. But he doesn’t care, because it’s all about publicity. The end justifies the means. Isn’t that typical?



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    • Header Midsomer Murders History Boxing Bare-knuckle fight

      Sports History in Midsomer, pt. 1: Boxing

      (Caution: Contains spoilers for Episode: 13×06: The Noble Art)


      Cricket is played in many episodes – even actively by Sergeants Gavin Troy and Ben Jones – but unfortunately the history of cricket is never discussed, and football is completely absent. However, there are mentions of historical events in three other sports, each involving very successful Midsomer County sportsmen: chess, Formula 1 and boxing. See: Sports History in Midsomer, pt. 2.


      Loseley House
      Loseley House in June 2023, by Petra Tabarelli. Public Domain.

      The latter is the subject of this article. And we begin – how could we not in Midsomer – with a re-enactment of the famous boxing match between Tom Sayers of England and John Heenan of the USA on the grounds of Midsomer Morchard.

      Not even Tom Barnaby knew that this famous bare-knuckle fight took place here, but his friend Gerald Farquaharson, a justice of the peace and ex-boxer, tells him, to Tom’s astonishment, that it did. Here outside Morchard Manor. Queen Victoria was not present, although she would have been interested, but the famous authors Charles Dickens and William Makepeace Thackeray were.


      Illegal but aristocratic patronage

      This suggests that Midsomer Morchard is on the border of another county, as it was common in those days to hold the illegal prize-fights close to the border. This allowed spectators to cross the border quickly and escape the threat of jurisdiction.

      But how did this fascination with a sport that was not even legal, but classified as an affray, an assault and a riot, come about? How did a sport become a sport of, yes, brawling? Pugilism became socially acceptable around 1700. From 1698 there were pugilistic contests which, despite their illegality, took place in London’s Royal Theatre. One of the prizefighters, James Figg, attracted so much attention and enthusiasm that he was crowned champion of England and remained so for 15 years (1719-1734).

      Jack Broughton was one of Figg’s pupils and is credited with laying the foundations for boxing to become an accepted and respected sport: He set the first rules (1743) and enjoyed aristocratic patronage. This may have something to do with the fact that by the 1800s it had become unfashionable to carry swords and other deadly weapons used in duels.

      In any case, the English aristocracy’s interest in and patronage of prizefighters increased when the lightweight Daniel Mendoza thrilled and fascinated them with his style of fighting – speed rather than strength.

      The peculiarity of Broughton’s rules was that the fight was divided into rounds, with half a minute’s rest between rounds. The rules also provided for a referee.

      This added a degree of order and fairness to the fight, which continued to be fought without gloves, without weight divisions and without a maximum duration. Also, under Broughton’s rules, it was still permitted to wrestle and punch an opponent after throwing or hitting him on the canvas.


      Wrestling allowed

      Tom Sayers, champion of England, 1860. Public Domain.

      Regency England was the height of British boxing. The aristocracy loved the sport more and more and although it was still illegal, police raids were no longer carried out with the utmost severity, but very laxly. In fact, even the King, George IV, was a great supporter of boxing and asked some famous prizefighters to act as his bodyguards at his coronation.

      In 1838, 17 years after his coronation, a new set of rules was introduced, the revised 1853 version of which was still in force at the time of the Sayers-Heenan fight:

      The London Prize Ring Rules were a set of 29 rules initiated by the British Pugilists’ Protective Association. After the Broughton Rules and Daniel Mendoza’s fighting style, they were another cornerstone of boxing’s move towards legality.

      Wrestling was still allowed, as were spiked shoes (within limits) and holding and throwing an opponent. They were still bare-knuckle fights, i.e. without the use of gloves.


      Limited brutality

      New was the size of the boxing ring, 24 feet or 7.32 metres square, bounded by two ropes. And although wrestling and spiked shoes were still allowed, the new rules limited the brutality somewhat. Fouls included kicking, gouging, head butting, biting, low blows, scratching, hitting while the opponent was down, holding the ropes and using resins, stones or hard objects.

      The fight had several rounds, but there was no maximum number of rounds or duration. It lasted until one of the opponents could no longer fight. That is, if he could not get to the scratch, the starting position at a marker in the centre of the ring, within 38 seconds without help.

      No points were awarded, but the fighters could agree to a draw with the referee. Other possible reasons for a stoppage were crowd disturbances, police interference, harassment or simply because night had fallen and nothing could be seen.


      42 Rounds

      Sayers Heenan
      Painting by artist and former boxer Jim Ward of the fight for the “Championship of England and America” between Thomas Sayers and John C. Heenan in 1860. Public Domain.

      The fight between Brighton’s Tom Sayers and the American John Heenan was regarded as the first world championship in boxing and attracted a level of publicity that boxing in England had never seen before. The New York Times of 31 March 1860 reported that several members of Parliament were among the spectators, as well as the aristocracy and many of London’s literary, artistic and sporting celebrities. Transport from London was provided by the North Western Railways. And yet boxing was illegal.

      It is true, by the way, that the writers Charles Dickens and William Makepeace Thackereray were among the spectators, as Farquaharson mentions. So were the then Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston, and the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.

      The match started at 7.30am on 17 April 1860 and lasted two hours and 10 minutes. Sayers was the favourite, having won twelve out of fifteen bouts. Heenan, on the other hand, was celebrated in the USA as a successful, powerful boxer, but he had only fought in two prizefights – and lost both. Everything looked relatively straightforward, but Heenan managed to knock his opponent down in the third and fourth rounds, perhaps because Sayers was facing the sun. Then, in the sixth, Sayers’ right arm was so badly injured that he had to fight with one hand for over an hour. In the seventh round he managed to punch Heenan several times in the eye, which then swelled up.


      An abrupt end

      Then, in the 37th round, Heenan pushed Sayers’ neck against the top rope, almost illegally choking him. The ropes were then lowered to save Sayers’ life. Normally, when the ropes came down, the fight was over and the crowd poured in. There was a hell of a pandemonium – well, not unusual for Midsomer County, was it?

      Anyway, the referee wanted to stop the fight and declare it a draw, but the opponents were having none of it. So the ring was moved a few yards to the side and the fight continued.

      However, in the 42nd round, the fight was stopped when police were spotted on the sidelines and the fight was declared a draw. Both fighters were awarded championship belts. Sayers never fought again.


      The Noble Art…

      “As soon as the Englishman had brought the use of his fists to a ‘science’ – or, perhaps, as he preferred to call it, to ‘the noble art of self-defense’ – he began to look upon the use of the knife as cowardly, as a practice utterly beneath his contempt. And so it came to pass in due time that among foreign nationalities the fists of the ready Englishman were always more to be dreaded than the murderous knife of the desperado.” (Source: Frederick W. Hackwood: Old English Sports. London 1907. P. 198-199.)


      This was not the end of the story, however, as controversy and animosity continued for weeks. The British saw Sayers in the lead, the US raged that Heenan was ahead. Deliberately tipped off about the location of the fight, the police ensured it would be stopped, robbing Heenan of his victory.

      Iain Manson investigated both the newspaper reports and the controversy a few years ago and concluded that Heenan was probably very close to winning.

      The re-enactment at Morchard Manor was to be a different story: Not only did Queen Victoria – portrayed by Joyce Barnaby – attend the battle and unveil Libby Morris’ Sayers sculpture.

      No, newly crowned world champion John Kinsella was to play Sayers, and Justice of the Peace Farquaharson’s son Sebastian was to play John Heenan. And, of course, the plan was for Kinsella to win as Sayers.


      … but make it more midsomer-y

      Loseley Park Estate
      The view from the entrance of Loseley House to the north, June 2023. By Petra Tabarelli. Public Domain.

      In fact, the re-enactment ended with a mix-up, with Ken Tuohy standing in front of Kinsella instead of Sebastian. He is the sculptor’s husband and she is cheating on him with John Kinsella. Yes, a typical Midsomer-ish mess and probably this fight would have been pro Tuohy-Heenan had Gerald Farquaharson not intervened.

      Yes, the battle between Sayers and Heenan did take place, but not in Midsomer County, but in a field near Farnborough in north-east Hampshire and the Surrey border – and 10 miles / 16 km from the filming location: Loseley House, mentioned in the Domesday Book as “loosely” held by Torald. The present building is also of Elizabethan date and has been little altered externally since its construction in the 1560s. Stones from Waverley Abbey, which fell into ruin after the Dissolution of the Monasteries, were used in its construction – and it was itself a recurring film set for Midsomer Murders episodes, for example St Frideswide Abbey, but also as the abandoned monastery of Monks Barton.


      • Hackwood, Frederick W.: Old English Sports. London 1907.
      • Manson, Iain. The Lion and the Eagle. Cheltenham 2008.


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      • Header Midsomer Murders History Chess Formula 1

        Sports History in Midsomer, pt. 2: Other Sports

        As well as playing a lot of cricket, Midsomer has been very successful in chess, Formula 1 and boxing. The famous boxing match of 1860 is a topic for another time: here we look at chess and F1 first.


        (Caution: Contains spoilers for Episodes: 06×01: A Talent of Life, 14×01: Death in the slow lane, 15×05: The Sicilian Defence, and a little bit of 05×03: Ring Your Dead und 19×03: Last Man Out)


        Manor House Warborough
        Stannington’s house – Manor House in Warborough. Steve Daniels: A large house on Warborough Green. CC-BY SA 2.0.

        In 1893 there was a world champion from Bishopwood in Midsomer County: Reverend Stannington. John Barnaby learns this in passing during an interrogation of the descendants of Edward Stannington after he was murdered by a lake. He questions Edward’s aunt Vivian and learns that one of her ancestors, the Reverend Stannington, was the 1893-1894 World Chess Champion. What Vivian Stannington fails to mention is that her ancestor died in 1894, so was unable to enjoy his world championship.

        The location for the Stannington house is the manor house in Warborough, Oxfordshire. Here, in Warborough, there was a settlement as far back as Roman times, and it is listed in the Domesday Book as part of the extensive royal estate of Benson. The manor house, formerly known as Beech House, was built in the late 17th century but has been altered several times since. It has been on the National Heritage List since 18/07/1963.


        World Chess Champion 1893-1894

        Lasker Steinitz
        One of the game on Lasker’s (left side) road to World Championship: Philadelphia, 1894. Public Domain.

        The game of chess probably originally came from the Indo-Pakistani-Arab region to southern Europe and then to Britain – probably as early as the Norman period. But it was not until the early 19th century that chess clubs, chess tournaments, chess books and chess magazines began to appear. The first world chess championship was held in 1886. It was won by Wilhelm Steinitz against Johannes Zuktort – and Steinitz remained world champion until his match against Stannington. The games took place in the spring at three different venues in North America. And the world champion was the first to win ten games – and this time it was not Wilhelm Steinitz.

        It was not all that surprising, as quotes from the run-up to the World Chess Championship show.

        “ Ask me something easier. I know only on thing, that Steinitz never in his life met a man of Lasker’s strength.” the US chess player Jackson Whipps Showalter is quoted in the New York Times and his compatriot and also chess player Eugene Delmar in the same place: “Lasker’s youth might help him along, but Steinitz is Steinitz after all. Nay, I can’t commit myself to name the winner.”

        Oh yes, Lasker, that was more or less Reverend Stannington’s real-life alter ego, who actually won the World Championship, which incidentally was not played until 1894. And unlike Reverend Stannington, Emanuel Lasker did not die shortly afterwards, but remained World Chess Champion for another 27 years and lived for another twenty years after that.

        „While I have not played serious chess since my match with Tschigorin, I have had no end of domestic trouble and bother during the last two years.” Wilhelm Steinitz is quoted as saying in the New York Times. “Still, I am confident that I can play chess as heretofore. I never underrate an opponent, and I believe that Lasker is a really fine player. Moreover, the latter had the chance to study all my games, my book, and therefore my style, and if I do lose he will have to beat me with my own weapons.”



        Alan Robson, chess player, online game developer and father of the missing Finn. He is being questioned by John Barnaby and Ben Jones at the CID in Causton. As he is about to leave, his gaze falls on Barnaby and Jones’ area of the CID’s open-plan office. Specifically, a number of A4 sheets of paper taped to a cupboard. Oh, how well he knows!

        The three men are standing in the area of our two investigators. Ben is watching with his arms crossed, slightly in the background of the scene, leaning against a desk. John is standing by the cabinet with the printouts and Alan Robson is writing these moves on a plexiglass wall – by heart. He pauses to explain why he knows these moves so well.

        These are the chess moves that an internet user nicknamed Silverfish used to beat the reigning world chess champion Vladimir Kostelov a few years ago.

        A World Chess Champion

        Kasparov Karpow
        The world championship match between Kasparov (left) and Karpov in 1984-1985. Kasparov won the match and remained world chess champion for many years. Photo:

        At the heart of the episode is a chess game that has existed before: Kasparov Versus the World, played in 1999 between the reigning world chess champion Garry Kasparov and internet users.

        Kasparov’s success was due in part to his unrivalled knowledge of chess opening theory, i.e. how do you start a game? How do you position your pieces in the first move or two so that you can checkmate your opponent as much as possible fifty or a hundred moves later? One variation Kasparov chose was the Sicilian Defence, which was first documented in 1594 in – wonder of wonders – Sicily. It is Black’s response to White’s move from e2 to e4.

        White: pawn from e2 to e4.

        Black: pawn from c7 to c5. This one move is the Sicilian Defence.

        That’s it.

        The advantage of this variation is that there is no feeling out, but it leads directly to a sharp fight – and can quickly lead an experienced black player to victory.

        This variation was very popular for a couple of centuries, but fell out of favour in the course of the 19th century. Wilhelm Steinitz, for example, did not like the Sicilian Defence.


        Online Chess

        Kasparov Versus World
        The separate moves of the game

        There is no mention of when the online game – apparently a competition with several single games in a knockout system – took place. It is only mentioned that Vladimir Kostelov, like Kasparov, was a world chess champion in the 1980s and was bought in for this online game for a fortune.

        Perhaps Kostelov saw the opportunity for self-marketing via the internet – a pioneer of personal branding via new media, so to speak. It was the same with Garry Kasparov, who from the end of the 1980s played several competitions under tournament conditions against some chess programs – and won almost every game.

        Then, in 1999, he went one step further with an even newer medium: the Internet. “Kasparov Versus the World was a media-rich event that took place on the MSN Gaming Zone between 21 June 1999 and 22 October 1999 and attracted over 50,000 people from more than 75 nations – and that was just for one game.


        Against the chess world

        The “Kasparov Versus the World” media spectacle was open to anyone registered in the MSN Gaming Zone. Microsoft also provided a bulletin board forum for discussion in the Gaming Zone, and the ingenious system worked as follows:

        First, Kasparov had 12 hours to make his move. Then four young chess geniuses also had 12 hours to watch it and – each for themselves – write a recommendation. These recommendations were posted on the MSN forum, discussed and then the possible moves were voted on. The move with the most votes after 18 hours was validated for another 6 hours and then drawn.

        So it was not a multi-stage knockout system with several games, but a single game.

        The four advisers to the World Team were 16-year-old Étienne Bacrot, 19-year-old Florin Flelecan, 14-year-old Elisabeth Paehtz and 15-year-old Irina Krush. The latter was also present at the launch on 21 June 1999 with a promotional event at Bryant Park in New York and became a leader during the chess game.

        The game has been widely published and discussed, and there are numerous analyses and recaps. It is perhaps the most analysed game in the world, with the World Team using chess computers to predict moves.



        For a long time Kasparov and the World Team were evenly matched. The then World Chess Champion later said that he had never put so much effort into any other game. And in the end – unlike the episode and celebration at Bishopwood – Kasparov won after 62 moves.

        “It is the greatest game in chess history. The sheer number of ideas, the complexity and the contribution it has made to chess make it the most important game ever played”.

        The chess notation found on the Bishopwood murder victims is not the chess notation of Kasparov’s game Versus the World. But this notation begins with the very classic Sicilian Defence:

        E4 c5

        Nf3 d6

        D4 cxd4

        Nxd4 Nf6.


        Two racing celebrities: Isobel Hewitt…

        Midsomer County is also home to two racing celebrities from the 1950s, both of whom celebrated victories at Silverstone in that decade: Isobel Hewitt and Duncan Palmer.

        Unfortunately, we do not know exactly when and in which race Isobel Hewitt was so successful. We and Cully Barnaby only learn in passing from Dixie Goff that Isobel Hewitt celebrated a triumph as a racing driver at Silverstone. The Malham Bridge resident brings some old photographs to Cully’s mobile library in a caravan.

        We learn a little more about Duncan Palmer, who won a Formula One race at Silverstone in 1960 or a few years earlier – ahead of Stirling Moss, the famous British racer of the 1950s.


        … and Duncan Palmer

        Silverstone GP 1952
        Grand Prix in Silverstone on 19 July 1952. John Gourlay Beatson: Photo from Grandstand. CC-BY-SA 4.0.

        This is the opening sequence of John Barnaby’s first full-length case. (The first, after all, was the Badger’s Drift vicar’s hanging from the bell rope, which caused Tom Barnaby’s birthday and farewell party to be abruptly abandoned by his cousin and former colleagues).

        We see a car race on a television set, recorded many, many years ago. The quality of the image and the racing cars make it easy to recognise. It’s a summary of a Formula 1 race at Silverstone. The commentator mentions this and mentions four of the drivers by name. Firstly the famous English racing driver Stirling Moss, but also Peter Fossett, Jamie Brooks and Duncan Palmer. Duncan Palmer narrowly wins the race against Peter Fossett. They knew each other well as they were both from Midsomer.

        As Duncan Palmer died in a barn in 1962 in a Lotus X4, the F1 race must have taken place before that. And as not all British Grand Prix were held at Silverstone, and Sir Stirling Crauford Moss was active from 1951 to 1961, and Tony Brooks (who was apparently called Jamie Brooks in Midsomer?) from 1956 to 1961, the plausible races are 1956, 1958 or 1960 – always in mid-July.


        When did Duncan Palmer won the Silverstone Grand Prix?

        These races were won by Argentinean Juan Manuel Fangio (1956, Mercedes), Australian Jack Brabham (1960, Cooper-Climax) and Brit Peter Collins (1958, Ferrari).

        So there are two plausible options for Midsomer’s Duncan Palmer: either the footage is from the 1958 Grand Prix and it matches his nationality, or it is from the 1960 Grand Prix and it matches the make of the car. What he has in common with Jack Brabham is that he competes with Brooks and Moss, and what he has in common with Peter Collins is that he died shortly after his triumph (Collins, however, was killed in the German Grand Prix just two weeks after his Silverstone triumph). In 1962 he was murdered in a barn near Midsomer-in-the-Marsh.

        There is also a slight anachronism in the race commentary: Luffield Corner did not exist in the 1950s.


        More Midsomer women in sport

        Midsomer Wellow’s Frances Le Bon won the Inter County Championship as a markswoman – unfortunately no year is given.

        So did Germaine Troguhton from Lower Pampling, who played cricket. She was very talented and captained the England women’s cricket team. It was probably in the late 1960s or 1970s.



        • Meredith, Anthony/Blackwell, Gordon: Silverstone and Formula 1. Stroud 2022.
        • Meredith, Anthony/Blackwell, Gordon: Silverstone Circuit through time. Stroud 2013.
        • Hackwood, Frederick W.: Old English Sports. London 1907.
        • Manson, Iain: The Lion and the Eagle. Cheltenham 2008.
        • NN: Warborough. In: Simon Townley (ed.): a History of the county of Oxford. Volume 18. Woodbridge, Suffolk 2016. P. 393-421.
        • NN: Ready for a big chess match. In: New York Times (11/03/1894).


        Further information

        The full documentation of Kasparov’s game versus the world: Here you will find not only the recommendations of the four young chess geniuses, but also the moves that were on the ballot and their results. And that for all moves.


        Recommend my website or give some feedback

          I would like to point out that this is an unofficial fan site. I am not connected to Bentley Productions, ITV or the actors.




        • Midsomer Murders History Header Albert Plummer‘s Relish

          Albert Plummer in India

          (Caution: Contains spoilers for Episode: 08×07: Sauce for the Goose)


          Sam Hardwick guides a small group through the Plummer’s Relish factory where he worked until his retirement – past the desks and assembly lines where the work is done. He tells us that Albert Plummer was a young man in the Punjab when he discovered and fell in love with a relish. When he returned in 1851, he had the recipe for the relish with him and made it. It became a big hit.

          It is not known how Albert Plummer came up with the recipe for this delicious relish, which Tom Barnaby also enjoyed. The only clues we have are the year 1851 and the region of Punjab.

          It is possible that Albert Plummer was a soldier in the Second Sikh War. Or he was a trader who expanded his network there immediately after the conquest of the Punjab and came across the relish. Or he was both: a soldier who later discovered the relish and noted it down to make some money back home in Little Upton.


          India as a British colony

          Second Sikh War
          A short history of the Sikhs by Payne, C. H. (Charles Herbert) Publication date 1915?]. Public Domain.

          India had been a colony of the British Empire since the 18th century, administered by the East India Company. The Company’s expansion took two forms: First, the outright annexation of Indian states and the subsequent direct administration of the underlying regions, which collectively became British India (including Punjab, North-West Frontier Province and Kashmir, following the Anglo-Sikh wars of 1849-1856).

          Second, Indian rulers recognised the company’s hegemony in return for limited internal autonomy.

          The Punjab, a region that is now part of India and part of Pakistan, maintained an uneasy alliance with the East India Company until the mid-19th century. But after the death of Punjab’s Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1839, his empire fell into disarray and the East India Company began to build up its military strength on Punjab’s borders.

          Rising tensions eventually led the Sikh army to invade the East India Company’s land. As a result, Patrick Vans Agnew of the Civil Service and Lieutenant William Anderson of the Bombay European Regiment were ordered to Multan, where they were killed by insurgents in the spring of 1848. Both the Governor-General of India, Lord Dalhousie, and the Commander-in-Chief, Sir Hugh Gough, felt that the British East India Company’s forces lacked sufficient transport and supplies, and delayed revenge for a few months.

          The war lasted from November 1848 to March 1849 and resulted in a British victory and the fall of the Sikh Empire, which was annexed by the East India Company. Albert Plummer could therefore have lived in the Punjab for a maximum of two years, as it was not yet part of the colony.


          Cultural transfer of flavours

          Economically, the British Empire and its colony in India were closely linked. British goods were sold in India without tariffs and duties, but domestic Indian products were heavily taxed. Heavy taxation also applied to imports of Indian products into the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, but not to raw cotton. This was imported, processed in British factories and then sold on. The colony was thus both a supplier and a market for cotton resources.

          The same was true of food, since British food was very bland and India had many spices unknown in Europe. Yes, the conquest of India as a colony was not primarily for the land, but for direct access to flavours and spices, and thus to new sources of trade.

          British people – whether they came to India as traders, troops or officials – learned about the culture and the food. Sometimes they settled and traded from India, or brought new spices and recipes back to the British Isles after a few years in South Asia. Like Albert Plummer.

          These included curries, but also chutneys and relishes. These canned mixtures of onions, brown sugar, spices and fruit or vegetables were a way of livening up their own unexciting cuisine. The difference between the two is that chutney is a jelly-like sauce, while relish is more like mustard.


          Film locations

          Branston Pickle
          A spoonful of Branston Pickle Relish, which looks very similar to Plummer’s Relish. Photo by LearningLark: Branston Pickle, 2013. CC-BY SA 2.0.

          Branston Pickle, a popular condiment in Britain, may have been the inspiration for Plummer’s Relish. But the film was actually shot in a fruit canning factory. The Plummer’s Relish factory has two locations, as the exterior scenes were shot at The Maltings in Amersham, Buckinghamshire, and the interior scenes at Tiptree, Essex. Both buildings are typical 19th century factory buildings.

          The Britannia Fruit Preserving Company in Tiptree was founded in 1885 by Arthur Charles Wilkin and two other men. Their idea was to make jam without glucose, colouring or preservatives, but with all the flavour. They were successful. The company’s success was boosted by the rail link between Kelvedon and Tollesbury via Tiptree. I can’t find any reference to the interior, and it may well have been heavily modified for the filming of the episode.

          The Maltings is, as the name suggests, a malt house founded in 1818. The two-storey, rubble-brick and slate-roofed building was built in 1829. But exactly 100 years later the brewery had to close. The building has been on the National Heritage List since 17 May 1984 and is used alternately as shops and offices. In 2021, a new owner was sought for the building, according to several websites, but it is also in need of renovation.


          The real secret

          Albert Plummer’s carefully guarded recipe in the safe actually has a story of its own. Anselm Plummer admits that he was looking for the Plummer’s relish recipe in the safe. But what he doesn’t know is that it’s worth nothing, because the relish Albert Plummer created poisoned his housemaid. It was not he who created the recipe, but his cook.

          And after all that has happened, even the new recipe for Plummer’s Relish is inedible for Tom Barnaby.


          Read more about Midsomer Murders & History

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          • Midsomer Murders History Header Tuberculosis

            Not Dead But Sleepth

            (Caution: Contains spoilers for Episode: 13×04: The Silent Land)


            Joyce and Cully Barnaby attend a concert by a tenor singer and a pianist. While Joyce listens with enthusiasm and devotion to Ben John’s rendition of “Drink to me only with thine eyes”, Cully is visibly bored. Later, on the drive home to Causton, the two discuss the style of music, for Joyce has not had enough and listens to more singing on the car radio – much to the displeasure of Cully, who eventually falls asleep from boredom in the passenger seat as they pass the March Magna village sign.

            Smiling affectionately at her daughter, Joyce Barnaby turns down the radio. She may have taken her eyes off the road for a second, and when she looks back, she is startled. An adult is crossing the road in front of her. She tried to avoid the person, skidded and crashed into a tree on the side of the road.

            Thank God, the women in the car are unharmed except for a terrible scare. But Joyce is very upset because she is sure that someone was there. She tells her husband Tom this when they go to the scene the next morning. There was no blood, so she had not run over the person.

            But someone was there.

            Maybe she just grazed him, and he or she dragged on a few more yards, only to die there?

            Tom Barnaby’s heart goes out to him when he is called to a dead man in the old cemetery in March Magna, and Joyce, for all her grief, feels vindicated and expects the worst.


            Saint Fidelis

            Tom Barnaby meets his colleagues at the cemetery. After examining the crime scene, he turns to historian Ian Kent, who found the body and called the police.

            Fairmile Hospital
            Fairmile Hospital by Bill Nicholls. CC-BY SA 2.0.

            Ben Jones, who has been looking at the gravestones in the cemetery, has a pressing question for the historian: Why are the deceased in this cemetery all so young? Because patients from the old hospital are buried here, he learns.

            While Constable Gail Stephens seems well informed about the local situation, her two male colleagues have more questions for the historian. But Ian Kent seems to have little interest in discussing local history.

            This is exactly what Tom Barnaby does next, finding Faith Kent alone at home. She leads him into her study and the Chief Inspector discovers three photographic prints of a large building on the wall – two exterior views and one interior view. He immediately realises that it is this old hospital, which includes the graveyard where the latest murder victim was found.

            It was called St Fidelis, he learns from the local historian, and it was a sanatorium for tuberculosis patients, an incurable disease at the time – hence the many young dead in the hospital cemetery.


            Fair Mile Hospital

            Saint Fidelis Hospital was filmed at the Fair Mile Hospital between Moulsford and Cholsey in Oxfordshire. However, it was not a hospital for tuberculosis patients, but an institution for the in-patient treatment of people with mental illness. Every county in the United Kingdom was required to do this by 1845. So this building, with its red brick, blue tile detailing and slate roof, was built in the late 1860s.

            In 1870 it became the County Lunatic Asylum for Berkshire, as Cholsey was still part of that county until 1974 when it became part of Oxfordshire. The name was soon changed to Moulsford Asylum and in 1915 to Berkshire Mental Hospital. In 1948 it became part of the National Health Service and Fair Mile Hospital, which closed in 2003 due to declining use.

            It later became a private school, then a visitor centre until the 1980s, when it fell into disuse and decay.

            The buildings, which are substantially complete, have been on the National Heritage List since 1986 and have been used as a housing estate since 2011 (i.e. shortly after they were used as a filming location for Saint Fidelis).


            Not dead but sleepth

            R. Cooper: A sickly female invalid sits covered up on a balcony overloo. CC-BY SA 4.0.

            Tuberculosis was also known as “English consumption” in the British Isles at the time, although the then incurable disease killed a quarter of all adults across Europe in the 19th century. At the end of the 19th century, the mortality rate was still 80 per cent. More than a third of people aged 15-34 died of tuberculosis. Among 20-24 year olds, it was even half.

            Among them was the woman on whose gravestone the body was found. The strange thing is: Gerald Ebbs, the murdered man – who, incidentally, was not killed by Joyce but on the spot with a piece of the grave border – was not from Midsomer County. So why was he at the grave of Carolina Maria Roberts, placing flowers there?

            That’s what Ben Jones and Gail Stevens are trying to find out at Gerald Ebbs’ flat. Just then Tom Barnaby arrives and learns that the victim had collected a great deal of information about March Magna and Sutton-on-the-Hill in Derbyshire, both in the 1870s. The two places carved on the gravestone where the body was found. A relative?

            Gail Stephens sits at Ebbs’ laptop at the crime scene, monotonously clicking through the many photos he has recently saved there. One of the photos suddenly catches Tom Barnaby’s eye.

            Gail Stevens stops clicking and Tom Barnaby reads the bottom line of the gravestone inscription.


            “‘Not dead, but sleepeth.'”

            The full inscription on the gravestone reads:


            in the Memory of

            The old graveyard in Dorchester-on-Thames, June 2023. By Petra Tabarelli. Public Domain.

            CAROLINA MARIA



            SUTTON ON THE HILL


            who passed away

            June 25th 1875

            in her twentieth year

            NOT DEAD BUT


            Tom Barnaby goes back to Faith Kent to talk about St Fidelis and is told about the suicide of a young patient in the late 18th century on a large wooden staircase in the hospital, which has since been cursed and the scene of serious accidents.

            Back at Gerald Ebbs’ flat, Tom Barnaby talks to his colleagues. Ben Jones is sitting at his laptop and has just found out that there has been a suicide at Saint Fidelis Hospital. But he knows more than his boss and shows him a scanned page from an old newspaper on the laptop. At the same time, Ben has discovered the name of the woman who committed suicide: Caroline Maria Roberts. This is the woman Gerald Ebbs was so interested in.

            In the scene, the newspaper report is only shown briefly, but you can read most of it:

            Young Ladies Suicide.

            Caroline Maria Roberts – Sutton on the Hill committed suicide by throwing herself from the staircase of The Saint Fidelis Hospital for Diseases of the chest. March Magna, Midsomer, the court heard yesterday. Unfortunately it proved to be too true.

            The name of the newspaper is not mentioned.


            Dust and bad air

            Following his initial encounter with Faith Kent, Tom Barnaby embarked on a solitary journey to St Fidelis. Upon arriving, he found himself before a towering brick wall adorned with various tools, including a lengthy ladder propped against it. Undeterred, he ascended the ladder, peering over the wall to unveil the imposing structure of the expansive house beyond.

            Subsequently, he meticulously laid out a map detailing the hospital’s layout on the hood of his car. With a determined expression, he traced his finger along the map’s intricate pathways before pivoting his attention to scrutinize something specific on the adjacent wall:

            There is an entrance marked on the map, but it is no longer there.

            Tom goes to the spot and bends the hedge there. He finds it there – but it is bricked up and quite low. He has to bend down to get his head level with it.

            Bad Air
            American satirical cartoon featuring the grim reaper following a maid brushing off a trailing skirt shown as a carrier of germs, including consumption. By S. Ehrhart, c. 1900.
            Public Domain.


            The Mystery of the Old Entrance

            On a second visit to the local historian, he asks her about it: This is where the old entrance was, bricked up around 1920. An entrance for hospital staff who, for reasons of hygiene, were not allowed to use the main entrance through which the patients passed.

            Until then, tuberculosis patients had been degraded and defamed as ‘untouchables’ because it was not really known where the disease came from and how it spread. It was thought to be spread by dust and bad air. So people ventilated, cleaned and paid a lot of attention to hygiene.

            In 1869, the physician Jean Antoine Villemin showed that tuberculosis was an infectious and not a hereditary disease; thirteen years later, the epidemiologist Robert Koch discovered that the “tubercular dust” was nothing more than a bacillus; and another thirteen years later, the physicist Wilhelm Röntgen invented a device to detect and track the progress of the disease. However, it was another half century and a year before we finally had a drug to treat and even cure tuberculosis, thanks to the development of the antibiotic streptomycin.


            A romantic disease

            The bacteria that causes tuberculosis (under microscope). Public Domain.

            Tuberculosis is a very insidious disease that initially has no symptoms and is not contagious. It takes weeks or even years for the disease to intensify, develop symptoms and become infectious.

            The body becomes increasingly weakened by the disease, which can lead to death if left untreated. In the 19th century, the disease was mostly incurable.

            Today we are amazed that in the Romantic period some people wished to have incurable tuberculosis. In fact, many artists and educated people had these thoughts, because in the Victorian era, fragility meant sexual attractiveness. The pale appearance, the weak body was something that many people were very envious of.

            That is why healthy people powdered their skin as white as possible and were not afraid to use toxic substances such as arsenic. The physical symptoms of tuberculosis and the Victorian ideal of beauty inspired and interacted with each other: beautiful were women with a narrow waist, pale skin, red cheeks and a feverish glow. (Bizarrely, sunbathing on the veranda of a sanatorium as a treatment for tuberculosis led to the development of the tan.


            A creeping disease

            Classic symptoms include chest pain, night fever, cough, fever and severe weight loss – even spitting up blood. A classic treatment in the 19th century was to collapse the lung and allow it to heal.

            “Fading Away”, a photo by Henry Peach Robinson, 1858. Public Domain.

            But this does not work in all cases, and in the late stages of the disease it does not work at all.

            Those who could afford it spent their last weeks or years in a sanatorium. These institutions spread very quickly throughout Europe with the peak of tuberculosis in the second half of the 19th century. In the beginning, they were always at least 500 metres above sea level, because it was thought that the high altitude air could cure the heart and lungs. Later, sanatoriums were built at lower altitudes. However, the principle of airiness, of living in the air, remained the central element.

            The sanatoriums were built with many balconies, verandas and terraces so that patients could do as much as possible in the fresh air, including sleeping.

            Other elements were a healthy diet and light exercise. Patients who were not yet bedridden should be able to move around as individually and independently as possible. But this required separate rooms or entrances for patients and medical staff. This was because it was still believed that there was a kind of tuberculosis dust through which the disease spread.

            For this reason, the corners were rounded as much as possible to prevent the accumulation of dust. And the linoleum floor and pegamoid wallpaper made it possible to clean with steam.


            “It’s… nothing”

            At the end of the episode, Tom and Joyce Barnaby drive home in the pouring rain. Both in their own cars, Tom Barnaby in the front. He glances at his wristwatch, then looks up at the street to see a woman in a wide coat over a dress with a crinolette – typical of late 19th century fashion. She is walking leisurely across the road, very close to his car.

            Tom is startled and slams on the brakes. The woman, however, continues to walk towards the wall of Saint Fidelis, becoming more and more transparent. Tom watches from the car as she disappears through the wall. Joyce has somehow managed to brake in time and is still in the car watching her completely puzzled husband get out of his car and walk to the spot where the woman disappeared.

            Joyce gets out and asks if everything is all right. He does not react, but looks at the hedge on the wall and pulls the branches apart. Behind it, he can see another walled-up entrance – just like the one he discovered in another place. Exactly the same style. Joyce asks worriedly once more. This time, Tom turns to her and you can see that he has realised that he has seen a ghost.

            But of course he doesn’t show his face to Joyce and goes back to his car. Joyce also gets back into the car.


            Read more about Midsomer Murders & History

            The Chronology of Midsomer County by Year or by EpisodesDeep Dives into Midsomer & History.

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            Further readings

            • Wheeler, Ian: Fair Mile Hospital: A Victorian Asylum. Cheltenham 2015.



            Recommend my website or give some feedback

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            • Midsomer Murders History Header Francis Galton

              Francis Galton

              (Caution: Contains spoilers for Episodes 13×05: Master Class, and a bit for 14×06: The Night of the Stag)


              The Fieldings’ manor, Devington Hall, is currently hosting auditions for Sir Michael Fielding’s Master Class. The manor is a 19th century country house, the grounds of which belonged to the Knights Templars several centuries earlier and has been built on since at least the 14th century. Its real name is St Katharine’s Convent and it is situated in the little hamlet of Parmoor, Buckinghamshire. A very detailed documentation of the house, which has been on the National Heritage List since 22 January 1986, can be found on the Buckinghamshire Gardens trust site.

              Tom Barnaby is sitting in the last row of the Fieldings’ concert hall, with whom he had come into contact shortly before. A young woman, Zoë Stock, had reported that a blonde woman of about the same age had drowned in the nearby river. After a thorough search, no body was found, but the case continues to haunt the DCI. Unlike Zoë, he knows that about 20 years earlier a woman of her age actually drowned here.

              And so it’s no surprise that he doesn’t sit still, but improves the shining hour and does some snooping around the manor.

              Almost unnoticed, he makes it out of the room towards the end of Orlando’s Guest audition. Only Francesca Sharpe’s father notices him, but is still irritated by Francesca’s announcement that he should leave her alone and doesn’t wonder about Tom for more than a second.

              Tom Barnaby takes the first room on the right as his first port of call and ends up in the library. With his hands in his suit pockets and an interested, sniffing expression, he takes a few steps into the room and looks around.


              Tom’s discovery in the library

              Francis Galton
              This photograph by Francis Galton hangs in Fielding’s library. It was taken around 1865.

              Meanwhile, Francesca Sharpe is now having her audition in the concert hall, Joyce Barnaby notices that her husband is no longer in his seat. She works as a volunteer for the Fieldings and helps to organise the auditions. Annoyed, she goes in search of her husband and also leaves the hall. He is still in the library. Does he want to miss the performance of wunderkind Zoë Stock’s? Oh, no, of course not!

              He is about to leave the library when his gaze lingers on a small portrait framed in dark wood. He bends his upper body forward to see better. It is a photograph on a red-painted passepartout and shows a man with a whisker standing frontally in a room with a commode and lamp. His left leg is placed in front of his right and he is holding onto the dresser with his left hand. it is in sepia colours.

              Joyce has noticed that Tom is not following her and asks what’s going on. Tom points to the photo and recognises Sir Francis Galton. Joyce has never heard him, while Tom is thrilled. Francis Galton! The man who discovered that every human being has an individual fingerprint. He revolutionised police work.

              Joyce is not quite so enthusiastic about Galton, and doesn’t want to be late for Zoë Stock’s audition. She urges Tom again to come to the concert hall, which Tom finally does. But not without thinking about why a pianist has a photo of Francis Galton hanging on the wall of his library.


              The all-measuring man?

              Fingerprint Faulds
              A page from Henry Fauld’s book “Guide to finger-print A page from Henry Fauld’s book “Guide to finger-print identification” from 1905.

              Now it is not really the case that it has only been known for a good 150 years that every human being has differently pronounced skin ridges. Think of the method of palmistry – it was already known in the early advanced civilisations, for example Babylonia, Assyria or in ancient Egypt.

              Sir William James Herschel was the first to use it to identify people. He was the Secretary of the Board of Revenue of the British Raj, the civil service in the British colony in India. Building on this, Dr Henry Faulds was the first to propose its potential use in forensic work in 1880. Both were the first to propose the introduction of fingerprints to identify criminals.

              However, it was Francis Galton who was commissioned by the British colonial government in the British Raj in 1888 to develop an uncomplicated personal recognition system – wrote Galton. I don’t yet know whether this is really true. I am sceptical because Galton is not supposed to have mentioned at all that the idea and the first research on this did not come from him, but Herschel and Faulds. Nevertheless, Galton published three books between 1892 and 1895 on this subject: Finger Prints (1892), Decipherment of Blurred Finger Prints (1893), and Fingerprint Directories (1895).

              But we have now read so much Galton’s name, who was he anyway?


              Mostly yes

              Oh, that’s not so quick to answer because Francis Galton was very inquisitive and wanted to explore everything possible himself – a bit like his 13-year older cousin Charles Darwin. He simply measured everything that could be measured and is listed as a

              • Naturalist
              • Writer
              • Geographer
              • African explorer/tropical explorer
              • Meteorologist
              • Polymath
              • Statistician
              • Sociologist
              • Psychologist
              • Anthropologist
              • Inventor (for example, the Galton whistle, instrument for generating extremely high tones in the ultrasonic range), and a
              • Psychometrician.

              Quite a lot.


              Galton’s education

              Initially on a medical career path, Francis Galton, urged by Charles Darwin, paused his medical studies for rigorous mathematical training at Cambridge. Both being affluent, the Darwin and Galton families had the luxury of not depending on employment for a living. Charles, recognizing that the medical field wasn’t suitable for Galton, encouraged him to pursue his own course.

              Embarking on an expedition to unexplored African territories from 1850 to 1852, Galton authored “Art of Travel” in 1855—a practical guide for bush exploration. This expedition, coupled with the biases evident in his findings, influenced by Darwin’s “Origin of Species” (1859), shifted Galton’s life trajectory.

              Galton, now convinced of the heritability of talent and character, examined the family backgrounds of judges, military leaders, and lord chancellors. Discovering that their sons often followed similar paths as more distant relatives, he dismissed objections about eminent fathers facilitating opportunities for their sons. Nicholas Gilliam, in “Cousins: Charles Darwin, Sir Francis Galton, and the Birth of Eugenics,” noted Galton’s refusal to fully consider the role of environment.

              Despite prevailing views of his time, Galton faced skepticism and rejection during his lifetime. His bias-driven experiments aimed to legitimize his hypotheses rather than aligning with common sense in Victorian-period science. Galton’s pursuits reflected a determined individual trying to substantiate his own ideas, challenging the norms of his era.


              More than a fingerprint man

              Apparently Joyce Barnaby finds the man on the wall in Devington Hall not so uninteresting after all because a little later she is reading a biography of Sir Francis Galton in bed. The clock on Tom Barnaby’s bedside table shows half past ten. Tom comes out of the bathroom in dark blue pyjamas with a white towel in his hand. He switches off the bathroom light and asks what book Joyce is reading. At first he is delighted that she is now also interested in Galton. But Joyce already knows more than her husband. Tom Barnaby looks incredulous when she mentions with a critical eye that Galton’s biggest fans were the Nazis.

              The DCI now wants to know more about this. Joyce hands him the book, wishing him good night. As she switches off her lamp, Tom flips the book, reading avidly all night.


              A disgusting man

              Francis Galton
              The watercolour painting by Octavius Oakley shows the young Francis Galton, 1840. Public Domain.

              The next day, Tom Barnaby also knew that Francis Galton’s only interest was genetics. Galton, however, did not use the term genetics, but introduced “eugnics” as a new term in English science in 1883, borrowed from the Greek word “eugenes”, which actually means nothing other than “well-born”, but was used by him in the sense of “good inheritance”. Here, his two-part paper “Hereditary Talent and Character”, published in “Macmillan’s Magazine” in 1865, should be mentioned in particular.

              Galton’s disgusting notion asserts that intelligence and personality are largely hereditary, suggesting specific measures to enhance the English population.He was desperate to find personal and psychological identification elements to support his hypotheses. He was by no means objective.

              The certain measures were, for example, a ban on the reproduction of people who were not talented. Galton also described this very clearly in his novel Kantsaywhere („Can’t say where“), which he finished in 1910, shortly before his death.

              The novel describes his notion of a eugenic utopia: The Eugenics College of Kantsaywhere determine the fate of its people based on a test. Those who fail were segregated into labour colonies where having children was a crime, others were encouraged to emigrate. Those who pass the test pass it with an equivalent of a degree or with honors.


              The ideal age

              In Kantsaywhere, Galton sets the ideal age to form a reproductive alliance at 22. Why 22? Well, according to Galton, this allows the production of four generations of superior people per century, provided they all pass the test.

              And the same was probably on Sir Michael Fielding’s mind when he impregnated his daughter Molly. Apparently, despite her medication, she was potentially on the side of those who passed the Kantsaywhere talent test.

              About 21 years later he wants to impregnate his daughter Zoë and that she has talent, well, no test is needed. We know Zoë’s age at least from the picture in Jonas Slee’s bar: Molly was still alive in autumn 1990 and we are now in autumn 2010.

              Tom Barnaby notices Zoë looking rooted that framed photo on the wall with Molly.

              The picture is shown in close-up. There are eight people in it, six men, two women. It was taken in front of this building. They are all estimated to be between 20 and 50 years old. They are all smiling or laughing when the photo is taken, only the woman Zoë is referring to is looking melancholy. At the bottom of the photo is a small note with the date “Autumn 1990”.

              As the DCI was investigating the case at the time, he knows it’s Molly. But how can Zoë know? She was an infant at the time? Well, we later learn that Molly is Zoë’s biological mother and that she witnessed the scene under a bush.


              The Stag and the Queen Bee

              Stag Fight
              Whitetail deer bucks locking their stags during late rut in Cades Cove. Great Smoky Mountains of Blount County, Tennessee, United States. By Brian Stansberry, 2013. CC-BY SA 3.0.

              Almost exactly a year after the events of Fielding’s Kantsaywhere, John Barnaby, cousin of Tom Barnaby, engages in a peculiar conversation with his wife Sarah in their kitchen. Initially, the discourse involves John and the family dog, Sykes, revolving around a honey loaf. The queen bee’s strategy: a thin maiden flight to maximize distance and mate with drones from other hives.

              While Sarah sits amidst papers with her laptop and a glass of red wine, she interjects, mentioning that locals also adopt similar practices. Intrigued, John is perplexed, prompting Sarah to clarify. Rising from her seat, she approaches John by the toaster, taking a nearly empty wine glass and a bottle to refill it. She enlightens him about the historical prevalence of incest risk in highly rural areas. Small villages with limited opportunities for mobility and few newcomers created conditions conducive to inbreeding. Economic hardship forced many to migrate to urban areas, diminishing the population and exacerbating the risk.

              In hamlets, a tradition formed: men, on a designated day, moved between locations to mate with women from different areas, Sarah explains. This tradition, she reveals, is the root of customs like Stag Night and rutting fights.


              Why some old traditions should remain forgotten

              John Barnaby’s expression becomes very thoughtful. Sarah is irritated by John’s petrified expression, but he just understands the context of the Stag Night cult in Midsomer Abbas and Midsomer Herne and also why Peter Slim had to die. To verify his assumption, he asks Sarah what day that one day of the year was. And is confirmed: It’s Beltane. (Note: It should actually be 1 May because the stag cult is connected with Beltane).

              The connection between Midsomer Abbas and Midsomer Herne by the Frost in 1370 was not the only one that existed. For decades, centuries, the men of the two villages went across the valley to the other village to mate in order to avoid the risks and consequences of incest. However, this should be a tradition among the local villagers. Not a new arrival like Peter Slim.

              This tradition that had not been practised for 60 years (i.e. since around 1951). Thank goodness, one has to say, but the two village leaders, among others, see it differently and want to revive the tradition so that it does not perish and fall completely into oblivion.

              It is possible that this tradition already existed in 1370. And is the reason why Midsomer Herne naturally helped out the starving inhabitants of Midsomer Abbas.


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              The Chronology of Midsomer County by Year or by EpisodesDeep Dives into Midsomer & History.

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              • Bulmer, Michael: Francis Galton: Pioneer of Heredity and Biometry. Baltimore 2003.
              • Gilliam, Nicholas: Cousins. Charles Darwin, Sir Francis Galton and the birth of eugenics. In: data mine (2019). P. 132-135.
              • Kritische Psychologie Marburg: Sir Francis Galton. Begründer der Differenziellen Psychologie, Begründet der Eugenik. In: Kritische Psychologie (2007).
              • NN: Francis Galton, about 1865. In: DNA Learning Center.
              • NN: A Brief History of the House. In: St Katherine’s Parmoor.
              • The Buckinghamshire Gardens Trust Research & Recording Project: St Katherine’s, Parmoor. In: Understanding Historic Parks and Gardens in Buckinghamshire (December 2014).



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              • Header Midsomer Murders History Dantean Anomaly

                The Dantean Anomaly

                (Caution: Contains spoilers for Episodes: 14×06: The Night of the Stag)

                On a colourfully decorated village square, a very well-attended, joyous fete takes place. There are stalls and plenty of alcohol to drink. We are at the Midsomer Abbas May Fayre, which is celebrated jointly by residents from Midsomer Abbas and Midsomer Herne – always on the first of May. Malmsey wine is served in a sweet version (= the well-known sweet Madeira wine) and in a tart version. Now, a man, Reverend Conrad Walker, enters the wooden platform and speaks into a microphone and welcomes the crowd.

                There is vigorous applause as the two aldermen, Samuel Quested from Midsomer Abbas and Will Green from Midsomer Herne, come on stage. The Reverend meanwhile leaves the podium. Samuel Quested takes the floor and reminds the crowd of the spring of 1370, when there was a disastrous frost that froze all the apple blossoms and the inhabitants of Midsomer Abbas faced famine. The apple harvest was the main source of income for most of the inhabitants. But help came from neighbouring Midsomer Herne, who oddly seemed not to have had problems with frost, even though they live in the neighbouring valley.

                They gave away their apples and established a friendship between the two villages.

                The audience is cheering as Samuel Quested symbolically hands Will Green a basket of apples and the Reverend re-enters the stage and takes the microphone.


                The Micro Famine?

                In 1370 there were indeed crop failures in England, coupled with a new outbreak of the bubonic plague epidemic in 1369 – for the second time in England in the 1360s – and this during the Hundred Years’ War between England and France.

                Well, apparently 1370 was not only a year in the middle of the Hundred Years’ War between England and France (1337-1453), but also a year with an even more amazing microclimate because the frost apparently stopped at the valley. (Both villages were apparently spared from the bubonic plague epidemic of that year. At least it is not mentioned).

                However, the crop failure of 1370 is hardly mentioned in literature or even in contemporary sources. This is not so surprising because the plague of bubonic plague was probably many times worse. It was also apparently not as devastating as the Great Famine period of the 1310s, as the Dantean Anomaly is also called.


                Dante Alighieri’s “Inferno” – a field report?

                Dante Alighieri
                Sandro Botticelli: Dante Alighieri, circa 1495. Oil on canvas. Public Domain.

                Dantean Anomaly – this term was coined by Oxford geophysicist Neville Brown in his 2001 book History and Climate Change.

                “Dantean” refers to the Italian author Dante Alighieri and his work “Inferno”, which has at least become world-famous since Dan Brown’s book of the same name.

                In the last years of his life, Dante Alighieri experienced the Great Famine in Italy, which peaked there in 1310-1312. At the same time, he wrote his work for which he is still famous today: La Divina Commedia, the Divine Comedy. Researchers disagree on exactly when he began the work, but it was probably in the 1300s.

                The first part of the Divine Comedy, the aforementioned “Inferno”, contains passages that seem like a result of his exuberant fantasy and fatalism, but were probably nothing more than his way of handling his real experiences:

                “I am in the third circle, filled with cold, unending, heavy, and accursed rain; its measure and its kind are never changed. Gross hailstones, water gray with filth, and snow come streaking down across the shadowed air; the earth, as it receives that shower, stinks.“ (Inferno: Canto VI)


                Crash weather events due to climate change

                These extreme weather conditions occurred roughly from 1300 to 1325 and were by no means limited to England, the British Isles, or Italy. Rather, a total of 30 million people were affected throughout northern, central and, in some cases, southern Europe.

                The 1310s in particular were a drastic climatic anomaly.

                In the century before, an increase in solar radion and decrease in volcanic activity led to a warming and prosperous society throughout Europe with strong population growth, many new settlements and technical improvements in agriculture that made it possible to feed the population. This century of progress was then followed by periods of partly too much rain and partly too little rain from 1300 to 1325, leading into the Little Ice Age. The Dantean Anomaly was therefore nothing other than a sign of the blatant climate upheaval – which at that time led to an Ice Age.

                Today we can only dream of that, although the weather events do not differ. Only we cannot expect the escapades of the climate to calm down again. The “Dantean Anomaly Junior Research Group“, a Europe-wide research project, is investigating the prehistory, development and effects 700 years ago and can already say: the weather events of the 1290s and around 2020 are damn similar. Then, as now, they were locally occurring weather events that could also differ greatly. For example, a Dominican monk from Colmar, Alsace, noted that the winter of 1303/04 was exceptionally cold in Rome, but much warmer than usual in Alsace. On the other hand, a year earlier the winter in Alsace was too cold and in Rome too warm.


                The Dantean Anomaly in England

                So what was the weather like during this climatic transition period in England? And can any references be made to the local weather of the filming location?

                Filming took place in Oxfordshire, namely in Stanton St. John (Midsomer Herne) and Sydenham (Midsomer Abbas). Unfortunately, in the few weather records that have survived to the present day, location information is very rare. Therefore, I cannot say whether Sydenham or Oxfordshire in general was affected by a bad harvest in 1370, nor how the village or county fared during the Dantean Anomaly.

                But let’s look at the weather of the years in England. I am mainly using a compilation of sources on the weather in England compiled by historian Katheryn Warner.


                Dantean Anomaly
                The consequences of the Dantean Anomaly for England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland.


                The consequence: The Great Famine

                Hansel and Gretel
                Arthur Rackham: Hansel and Gretel, 1909. Public Domain.

                This frequent alternation of too hot and too dry, too wet and too cold weather led to massive crop failure, especially in 1314 and 1315. In 1315, floods destroyed one-third or one-half of the harvest. Famine was inevitable. Even King Edward had to go without food when he travelled to St Albans, as he had done so often before: There was simply no bread. It was not until 1317 that the harvest in England returned to normal, but food stocks were not fully replenished until 1322.

                Across Europe, about 5-12% died in the two or three decades. Many animals also died of a highly virulent disease called murrains, which weakened the animals inexorably to the point of death – probably a kind of food-and-mouth. But people couldn’t even preserve the dead animals for their food, because salt was damp from the rainy season and also very expensive.

                Parents gave their children away – not because they had a better chance of survival elsewhere, but parents only had a chance of survival if they didn’t still have children to feed. They needed the little food themselves in order not to starve. The world-famous fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel very likely originated during the Great Famine: the parents send the children off into the world, hoping they will never come back. Eventually they go to the house of a woman who is apparently so starved that she has become a cannibal.


                Inflation and disease

                However, it was not only the famine that caused concern, but also the political and social destabilisation of society and an inflation. The aristocracy had to watch the value of its domains collapse.

                Illustrated transcript from Dante Alighieri’s Inferno, Canto VI: The Gluttons. Northern Italy, end of the 14th century. Public Domain.

                Land had to be sold, often at severely reduced prices, while many more would need to borrow to survive. Some small monasteries had to close, others sold relics to pilgrims.

                The government thought it would be a good solution to install price controls and to import food from Southern Europe. Well, the rationing and regulation of food prices was a slight improvement for the consumers, but for the farmers it meant ruin because their businesses were no longer viable – and they could no longer support themselves. Therefore, the government lifted the price controls a few months later. This led to inflation and an eightfold increase in prices.

                If it was “only” an outbreak of small-pox in England in 1305, the immunocompromised population throughout Europe was followed by the great plague epidemic, which occurred again and again locally until the 18th century. As elsewhere, it cost many lives immediately after the Great Famine because their immune systems had become weak from hunger. In England, the plague epidemic of 1349 alone cost 30% of human lives and was followed by others – five in the 14th century alone (1360, 1361, 1369, 1375, 1390).


                The Papal Edict that Never Existed

                Remember the Reverend Norman Grigor and his family’s appearance at the Midsomer Abbas May Fayre at the Domesday-like admonishing words he speaks?

                He refers to the horn dance, a Beltane cult in which competing men with deer antlers go at each other to determine the strongest, most willing mate among themselves. Reverend Walker reassures us, however: this dance was toned down in the 1880s and is no more than a folk dance. We also see this in the episode.

                John Barnaby later approaches Reverend Conrad Walker about these lines and Walker says they are part of a papal edict of 669 with which the Pope tried to put a stop to the pagan Beltane cult.

                It should have been by Pope Vitalian at that time, but this edict does not exist. There was no edict in 669, nor was there ever an edict with this content. So it was only invented for dramaturgical reasons for the episode. But let’s be similar: it could very well have existed because there were numerous attempts at that time, as well as a thousand years later, to make the pagan cults absolete.


                Read more about Midsomer Murders & History

                The Chronology of Midsomer County by Year or by EpisodesDeep Dives into Midsomer & History.

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                • Bauch, Martin: The “Dantean Anomaly” Project. Tracking Rapid Climate Change in Late Medieval Europe” (27/08/2016). In: Historical Climatology.
                • Bauch, Martin/Labbé, Thomas/Engel, Annabell/Seifert/Patric: A prequel to the Dantean Anomaly. The precipitation seesaw and droughts of 1302 to 1307 in Europe. In: Climate of the Past 16 (2020).
                • Brown, Neville: History and Climate Change. A Eurocentric Perspective. London/New York 2001.
                • Buttery, Neil: The Great Famine (1315-1317). In: Climate in Arts & History.
                • Frank, Robert Worth: Agriculture in the Middle Ages. Philadelphia 1995.
                • NN: 10 Things to Know About the Great Famine. In:
                • NN: The Great Famine 1315-1317. In: British Food. A History (09/09/2020).
                • Pribyl, Kathleen: The Climate of Late Medieval England. Reconstruction and Impacts. Lecture at the Town Close Auditorium, Norwich Castle Museum, 2 November 2013. Based on: Kathleen Pritbyl, Rihard C. Cordes, Christian Pfister: Reconstructing medieval April-July mean temperatures in East Anglia, 1256-1431. In: Climatic Change 113 (2012). S. 393-412.
                • Sharp, Buchanan: Royal paternalism and the moral economy in the reign of Edward III. The response to the Great Famine. In: Economic History Review 66 (2013), pp. 628-647.
                • Storey, R. L.: England. Allgemeine und politische Geschichte. Das Koenigtum im Konflikt mit Adelsgruppierungen. Der Hundertjaehrige Krieg. In: Lexikon des Mittelalters 3. Darmstadt 2009. Col. 1946-1958, here col. 1951.
                • Warner, Katheryn: And Your Weather Forecast For The Early Fourteenth Century Is… In: Edward II (10/09/2009).


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                • Midsomer Murders History Header Railways

                  Midsomer’s Old Railways

                  (Caution: Contains spoilers for Episode: 08×01: Things That Go Bump in the Night)

                  Railways Britain
                  Map of the London and North Western Railway and Caledonian Railway systems, about 1900. Public Domain. (Click to enlarge it.)

                  Joyce and Tom Barnaby are guests of Elizabeth Key in Fletcher’s Cross. They go out of the cottage into the garden. Elizabeth Key carries a tray with three cups and saucers, sugar bowl and creamer. Joyce carries the teapot in her hand. The two women walk side by side in front, Tom Barnaby with his hands in his trousers behind.

                  The Barnabys admire the garden and the location and Elizabeth Key enlightens them that back then in Victorian times, there was a railway just behind a row of trees near the house. Joyce is startled and apparently imagines express trains. But back then they were only steam locomotives, of course. However, the line was later closed.

                  Now, the railway is to be partially restored and Fletcher’s Cross Station reopened. We learn later at the railway inauguration festival that it is mainly thanks to James Griss! But he is not quite respected in Fletcher’s Cross because he is a bit of a show-off.

                  Barnabys and Elizabeth Key sit down at a small table and set it and talk about Elizabeth’s parents and the upcoming meeting of the Spirit of Friendship Group. Just before the scene change, you hear the rattle and toot of a steam locomotive, but you don’t see it.

                  A steam locomotive is also seen in Great Worthy in another episode (14×03: Echos of the dead), but without any further information about the railway system there.


                  Fancy a travel through time and Midsomer?
                  Midsomer’s Old Railways is just a glimpse into the full history of Midsomer – want to see the full chronology?

                  Then click here.


                  Old, new railway stations

                  The episode takes up a rather topical theme – both at the time of filming and the first broadcast and today. In the 19th century, the construction of railways was booming, even in rural areas, but in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, many of these railways were closed down because they were no longer lucrative enough.

                  Especially since the turn of the millennium, there have been repeated initiatives to reopen these disused stations. Though the plans always fail to materialise because demand remains too low or costs too much to open. And that is also the difficulty in Fletcher’s Cross. That’s why James Griss is talking to potential investors.

                  Some former railway stations become museums – like Quainton Road Railway Station, now Buckingham Railway Centre. Fletcher’s Cross station was filmed there. The name of the village is Old English for Queen’s Estate. It presumably refers to the estates of Edith, who was the wife of King Edward the Confessor.

                  A good 800 years later, in 1860, the Aylesbury and Buckingham Railway Company was founded and the line opened 8 years later. Initially it only connected the Wycombe Railway (Maidenhead-Abingdon) in Aylesbury to the south and the Verney Junction of the Buckinghamshire Railway (Bletchley-Banbury-Oxford) to the north. In 1899 a junction was added to the north just beyond Quainton station, linking the line with the Great Central Main Line (Sheffield-London).

                  Unlike the connection from Fletcher’s Cross to Causton, the Aylesbury and Buckingham Railway had no connection to Wallingford, 30 miles (about 50 km) away, which is known to be the filming location for Causton.


                  Quainton Road Railway Station

                  Buckinghamshire Railway Centre
                  Ravenseft: Quainton Road Railway Station, Buckinghamshire, 2008. CC-BY SA 2.0.

                  Quainton Road Railway Station was one of six stops on the Aylesbury and Buckingham Railway. Although it opened in 1868, it was not worthwhile in this underpopulated area and yet it was probably the most important stop on the line. It had a special status because the Brill Tramway started here – or ended here, depending on which way you were travelling.

                  The Brill Tramway’s main purpose was not to transport people, but goods. The Dukes of Buckingham were all interested in railway construction and this new means of transport. Their new estate, Waddesdon Manor, was being planned and was to have its own railway station nearby. Because of lobbying, the planned line was extended to Brill.

                  The tramway overcame a first financial decline of the line due to newer and faster connections to London and the north of England, as it was modernised and the trains now travelled 7.5 mi/h (12 km/h) instead of 4 mi/h (6.4 km/h). This meant that goods were now taken from Brill to Quainton in 40 minutes.

                  The tramway became part of the London Metropolitan Railway. Therefore part of the London Underground even as late as 1933, although 40 mi (64 km) from London and this train route was anything but underground. But two years later it was over. When the last train left Brill Station on its way to Quainton on 30 November 1935, hundreds of people watched and some members of the Oxford University Railway Society travelled from Oxford to get a last ticket.


                  A new life as a museum and well-known film location

                  After the Brill Tramway was closed, Quainton Road Railway Station also lost its importance. However, the station was closed to passengers in 1963 and to local goods in 1966. Three years later the Quainton Road Society was formed with the aim of preserving the station and started The Buckinghamshire Railway Centre as a museum. In 1971 the London Railway Preservation Society took over its collection of historic railway equipment, which included many locomotives, and passenger and non-passenger rolling stock.

                  Thanks to the society, Quainton Road is one of the best preserved railway stations in England. It is also still part of the railway network and can be booked for special events. As a film location it was not only used for Midsomer Murders, but also for Doctor Who and other films and shows.


                  Read more about Midsomer Murders & History

                  The Chronology of Midsomer County by Year or by EpisodesDeep Dives into Midsomer & History.

                  If you would like to honour my effort and passion, I am happy and thankful for every donation.

                  Further readings

                  The Rail Map Online maps historic transport maps and lists the so many railways in the UK, most of which no longer exist today. See:



                  • Oppitz, Leslie: Lost Railways of The Chilterns. Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire & Hertfordshire. Newbury 2017.


                  Recommend my website or give some feedback


                    I would like to point out that this is an unofficial fan site and I am not connected to Bentley Productions, ITV or the actors.