• 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.


    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.


    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.


    Read more about Midsomer Murders & History

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

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    • The Dissolution of the Monasteries in Midsomer Murders

      (Caution: Contains spoilers for Episode: 04×01: Garden of Death, 07×06: The Straw Woman, and 11×07: Talking to the Dead)

      Tom Barnaby and Ben Jones are in Monks Barton with the Reverend Wallace Stone in his drawing room. The clergyman is standing in front of a mirror in a cassock, getting ready for the next service, while he tells the two detectives what he thinks of the legend of Monkbarton Wood: It’s about the monks of Monks Barton Abbey, slaughtered in the nearby forest by mounted men in the name of Cromwell and his Dissolution of the Monasteries. A horrific event and their screams and moans of their ghosts can still be heard in the woods, the locals say.

      A legend or a true story? For the clergyman, the matter is clear and he detests the many ghost hunters and others, whom he calls fanatics and freaks.


      A cunning move for the Royal Treasure Chests

      Henry VIII
      King Henry VIII. Painted by Hans Holbein the Younger, after 1537 and during the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Public Domain.

      The Dissolution of the Monasteries was a cunning move by Thomas Cromwell to fill the bankrupt royal coffers richly.

      Cromwell’s idea was by no means new, only unparalleled in its scale. During the Hundred Years’ War, Henry V had already ordered the closure of all monasteries with French mother monasteries and thus filled the state coffers in order to be able to continue financing the war against France. Even shortly before the dissolution, Cardinal Wolsey received royal permission to close 40 small monasteries in order to raise enough funds to open Christ Church College in Oxford.

      Now, in the mid-1530s, King Henry VIII had declared himself head of the Anglican Church and renounced the Pope. Furthermore, he had enacted the Act of Restraint of Appeals, which allowed the Catholic clergy to appeal to foreign tribunals (means: Rome). Any resistance was treated as treason and church property confiscated. But King Henry feared war coming from Catholic continental Europe: He was completely bankrupt and on the other side were the richest in the land, namely the monasteries. Through this cunning move, Cromwell was able to ensure that the royal coffers were filled at the expense of the richest: Through a large-scale secularisation of the monasteries, which always had a reputation of partiality against the English king anyway.

      In 1535 the visitations began, the results of which were compiled in the Valor Ecclesiasticus – a kind of modern Domesday Book, which contained all the goods, other possessions, but also misdemeanours of the monasteries. Very thoroughly the three royal visitators recorded the physical, moral and financial status of the monasteries and it is not surprising that among the hundreds of monasteries there were some failures: For example, the lack of chastity, obedience, charity, monastic discipline, but also money-making with false relics.


      Dissolution of the Monasteries in Midsomer County

      Thomas Cromwell
      Thomas Cromwell. Painted by Hans Holbein the Younger, 1532-1533. Public Domain.

      The plan of Thomas Cromwell – now appointed “viceregent of the King in all his ecclesiastical jurisdiction” – was not initially to close all monasteries, but only those with an annual income of 200 pounds or less (roughly equivalent to the purchasing power of about 170,000 pounds or about 148,000 euros (reference value: 2019 ). The Suppression of Religious Houses Act affected a total of 376 monasteries.

      Lewes Priory became a precedent in 1537: the monks were offered pensions but not the option to move to another monastery. This increased the pressure on the monastic superior to agree to the dissolution.

      Henceforth, the clergy of dissolved monasteries were only offered a pension, while former employees and alms recipients did not receive anything at all. But even the royal pension was far too little to survive on and caused unemployment, which was already high at the time, to rise to a striking level. This fuelled the people’s anger against the regime. Revolts broke out in several places in the kingdom, some of which Cromwell was only able to quell with great difficulty.

      King Henry VIII was furious with the revolts and eventually had all the monasteries in the kingdom secularised. First, in 1538, all monasteries that had taken part in one of the revolts, and between 1538 and 1540, all others – some with unrelenting severity. It argues that Monks Barton Priory was forcibly dissolved in these last years of the decade. Perhaps the heinous harshness also stemmed from the fact that the monks had joined a rebellion?

      In 1540, only the abbey churches of the cathedrals remained. Any further monastic property now belonged to King Henry VIII, who gifted his favourites with the former monastic property or kept it for himself.


      Inkpen’s Manor – a royal gift?

      Manor House Long Crendon
      Inkpen’s Manor also known as Long Crendon Manor, Buckinghamshire. – Rob Farrow: The Manor, Long Crendon. CC-BY SA 2.0.

      Well, it is not explicitly stated in the Garden of Death episode that the Inkpen family in Midsomer Deverell got their estate as such a gift – they also could have been granted the manor otherwise as Henry VIII’s favourites. But it is relatively likely that it was through secularised church property and certain that they were favourites of Henry VIII.

      On the Open Day in 2000, Joyce and Tom Barnaby visit the garden of Inkpen’s Manor, which is so popular that it once again causes half a traffic chaos in the local street, in which Barnabys have also got caught. While Joyce is already looking around delightedly and reading the booklet “The Inkpens have been here since the Reformation“ to her husband, Tom is still grumbling about the car park situation. (But that has nothing to do with the dissolution, it’s just funny.)


      In the chapel of love

      There is also a brief mention of the Dissolution of the Monasteries in Midsomer Parva: here the chapel of Parva Manor probably previously belonged to an abbey and then came to the Clifford family through dissolution. Unfortunately, however, there are no longer any records of this transaction in the 16th century, and this provides fuel for debate.

      On one side are the Reverend Jim Hale and Alex Deakin, the curator of the church parish. On the other side is the non-religious nightclub owner and pornographer, Alan Clifford.

      Tom Barnaby and Dan Scott are going to interview him after the death of Alex Deakin, curate of the local parish. The murdered man had visited Alan Clifford only the day before and it was not a friendly conversation. The two detectives are interested in what the argument was about: The church’s ownership of Clifford’s estate, of course. Alan Clifford wants to make it a chapel of love, and the clergy are disgusted and insist that the church belongs to them. Clifford cannot prove that the estate was given to him during the Dissolution of the Monasteries because the records have not survived.

      But now Alex Deakin has been murdered. Agnes Waterhouse replies to Tom Barnaby with a certain snappiness in her voice that the manor was dissolved at the time of Henry VIII and therefore before the first church records were created. Unfortunately, it is not clarified whether this is true.


      The consequences of the Dissolution of the Monasteries

      By 1540, most of the former monasteries had been sold or burnt, about 12,000 people were without work and alms and a good 8,000 religious were without a home or a task. About 100 former monastery churches became parish churches or cathedrals. In a few areas where there was no great need for building material, they fell into disrepair over the centuries and are now a tourist attraction as ruins.

      Cromwell’s plan worked: The dissolution brought £1.5 million into the state coffers during Henry VIII’s lifetime. But his family also came into great prosperity. And among other things, he gave his nephew Richard seven abbeys with an income of 2,500 pounds – this was the origin of the fortune of Thomas Cromwell’s great-grandson Oliver, who a good hundred years later was one of the leading forces in the Civil War and eventually appointed himself Lord Protector. A phase of English history that also left a great many traces in Midsomer.


      The filming locations: Two manors…

      You remember that a recent example of Cromwell’s dissolution was the closure of 40 small monasteries to allow Cardinal Wolsey’s Christ Church College to open?

      It says that in every place where St Frideswide’s church stood. In Midsomer, Waverley Abbey was used as a filming location for St Frideswide’s former abbey and it is this very ruin that is used for the exterior shots of Monks Barton Abbey. On one hand, Monks Barton Priory (with the Iron Lady in the entrance, whose door Tom Barnaby slammed so carelessly), on the other hand, was filmed at Nether Winchendon House, which was also used as a location in Garden of Death, but not for Inkpen’s Manor.

      Confused? Well, add to that the fact that Nether Winchendon House (Monks Barton Priory) and Long Crendon Manor (Inkpen’s Manor) are only four miles apart in Buckinghamshire and very close to the Chiltern Hills – so they share common history. This commonality, however, does not concern the Dissolution period, but rather the Norman period: both locations were given by King William I to Sir Walter Giffard, Lord of Longueville, new Earl of Buckingham, and William’s right-hand man, immediately after the Battle of Hastings. As such, both buildings are also listed in the Domesday Book.

      Walter Giffard’s grandson of the same name endowed the Augustinian Canons’ Abbey of Notley in 1162 and a few years later gave the abbey two very nearby manors, Nether Winchendon Manor and Long Crendon Manor. They remained in their possession until the Dissolution in 1538 . All three buildings were inscribed on the National Heritage List on 25 October 1951. While Nether Winchendon House is open for visiting a few days a year, Long Crendon Manor is a B&B and the only surviving remnant of Notley Abbey – the abbot’s lodging converted to a farmhouse – is a wedding venue. From 1945 until their divorce in 1960, the farmhouse belonged to film stars Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh.


      … and two abbeys

      Waverley Abbey
      Waverley Abbey in June 2023, by Petra Tabarelli. Public Domain.

      The Dissolution of the Monasteries in Waverley and Notley proceeded differently. While Waverley was dissolved in 1536 because its annual income of 174 pounds (1535) fell below the threshold, Notley was dissolved in December 1538. Notley’s holdings were much higher, with £318 of ecclesiastical estates and £177 of temporal estates, and her influence considerable. She was already subject to the King from 1535 anyway, after the murder of her patron, the Duke of Buckingham.

      While Notley Abbey was transferred to Sir John Williams, Waverley Abbey came to Henry VIII’s treasurer Sir William FitzHerbert , was largely demolished and used as a quarry, mainly for Loseley Park. This served, among other things, as the supposed inspiration for Baroness Orczy’s Scarlet Pimpernel in They Seek Him Here, as well as Morchard Manor, where the boxing match between Hennan and Sayer took place in 1860.

      As different as the dissolution of the two abbeys was, the Giffard thread runs through them. Waverley was founded in 1128 by William Giffard, son of Walter (William’s right-hand man), as the first Cistercian foundation in England. (You will already read more about the history of the abbey later in St. Frideswide’s article).


      A little creepiness at the end

      Let’s go back to the beginning of the episode in Monks Barton.

      Tom Barnaby and Ben Jones have just arrived at the crime scene at the Goodfellow’s home, which is being investigated by George Bullard. The postman found no one at the Goodfellows’, but found some blood and has alerted the police. George tells Tom about a past case: Peter Thomas, son of the missing Molly and Colin. He went missing and was found a few days later in Monks Barton Wood. He was completely hypothermic and could no longer speak properly, only making eerie noises. He died shortly afterwards. Hypothermia is the official explanation of his death. But is this true?

      At the end of the episode, Tom and Joyce Barnaby walk through the misty Monks Barton Wood in everyday clothes and dressed a little warmer as before. Tom wants to show his wife that the wood is not haunted at all.

      Seconds later, Joyce is frightened at Cyrus LeVanu, who – scared to death – is leaning against a tree trunk. Scared to death, that’s what George Bullard later says when he has it on the table, but calls it a parasympathetic rebound and explains: This is an automatic calming of the metabolic system in response to shock, which can work so well, however, that you calm down so much that instead of beating more slowly, your heart simply stops beating at all.

      The message of the episode is clear: Peter Thomas and Cyrus LeVanu were both frightened to death in Monks Barton Woods – whether both were caused by hypothermia or something else scary… who knows.

      Whereby I find the seemingly crazy Stanley Goodfellow the real scary thing of the episode. Together with Honoria Lyddiard, he is one of the only two people in Midsomer who really scare me the most.




      Further readings

      • Clark, James G.: The Dissolution of the Monasteries. A New History. New Haven 2021.
      • Youings, Joyce: The Dissolution of the Monasteries. London 2021.


      Read more about Midsomer Murders & History

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

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      • Header Midsomer Murders History ATA White Walham

        ATA – Anything To Anywhere

        (Caution: Contains spoilers for Episode: 16×04: The Flying Club. With a bit of 13×01: The Sword of Guillaume, and a little bit of 10×01: Dancing with the Dead)

        A murder has occurred at Finchmere airfield. John Barnaby interrogates the Darnley family who own the airfield and looks at old photographs in the family’s home. The Darnley family home was filmed at Penn House, Amersham, Buckinghamshire, which has been in the family since 1222. However, the photos John Barnaby is looking at are from the annual festival held at White Waltham.

        John Barnaby notices a photo of a Spitfire among the many photos and asks Molly Darnley, with a certain recognition in his voice, whether she used to fly one of these famous planes. The elderly lady launches straight into the story: She didn’t fly in the war as a soldier, but was part of the ATA that transported the planes between the factories and the airfields. Without radios and guns.

        She also flew a Lancaster back then. One of them flew it here to Finchmere and caused admiration and love with one of the soldiers, Henry Darnley, who later became her husband but has since died.


        The ATA was founded

        White Walham
        West London Aero Clubhouse at White Waltham Airfield, 2012. By Stuart Logan. CC-BY SA 2.0.

        “Anything to anywhere” was the unofficial motto of the ATA, a British civilian organisation founded in February 1940. Its mission was to fly aircrafts from one place to another – be it factories, airfields, transatlantic delivery points, or anything else. (Well, “anyway” is not completely right because they did not deliver to naval aircraft carriers.)

        The idea of using civilian pilots as support was much older to the RAF than the founding of the ATA. For the civilians needed no combat training, no combat equipment. They only needed the knowledge to fly different aircrafts. This could also be done by older, or physically disabled men – and of course also women, who were not drafted as soldiers either. In total, 10 % of the ATA pilots were female and they even received the same pay as their male colleagues.

        Commander Pauline Gower was ordered to form a female group for the ATA on 14 November 1939. The first eight were accepted into service at the beginning of 1940. Originally their task was only to transport personnel, mail, and medical supplies, but as the war progressed the RAF now needed more personnel to transport aircraft.

        The ferrying of aircraft started from No. 1 Ferry Pool at White Waltham on 15 February 1940, the ATA’s Command HQ during World War 2. Within a few weeks, the ATA took over transporting all military aircraft from factories to maintenance units to have guns and accessories installed and a year later, in the summer of 1941, took over all ferrying jobs.

        The ATA was an important cornerstone throughout the war and was only disbanded at the end of November 1945.


        White Waltham Airfield, Midsomer

        It is one of the few times when the history of the film location and the history of the Midsomer village meet and intertwine. The episode was filmed for Finchmere Airfield just inside the ATA No. 1 Ferry Pool at White Waltham, in Berkshire.

        There was also an airfield here before the war, set up in 1928. The de Havilland family bought it for their de Havilland School of Flying to teach students for the RAF Reserve from 1935. In 1938 it was taken over by the British government for the same purpose and became RAF’s Central Flying School. This remained on site for a year after the formation of the ATA, but then it became so cramped and busy that EFTS 13 was given a new site.

        After World War 2 White Waltham Airfield remained under RAF ownership and control until 1982. Since then it has been a private airport.

        So it would be all too plausible that Molly Darnley would have worked here as a pilot and found the love of her life.


        The tragedy around Ellie Wingate

        Another woman at the ATA was Ellie Wingate, with whom Molly was probably close friends. She was also there when Molly flew the Lancaster to Finchmere Airfield and Henry Darnley saw her for the first time.

        But not only Molly, Ellie also fell in love with the soldier, who ultimately decided in favour of Molly and proposed to her.

        The day after the engagement, all ATA flights were cancelled due to a storm, including Ellie’s flight. Despite everything, she flew into the storm – and never returned. She presumably took her own life out of lovesickness, but for decades Molly didn’t dare tell this truth to her grieving little brother Duggie. She preferred to live with his contempt, because he believes she deliberately sent Ellie into the storm to have Henry for herself.


        With Spitfires from Midsomer County

        Dorchester on Thames
        Photo of Dorchester-on-Thames and the estuary of the River Thame into the River Thames, May 1945. Trolley Mission. Public Domain.

        Away from the tragedy of Ellie Wingate’s decision and Molly Darnley’s reluctance to tell Dougie the truth, we learn that Ellie could also fly a Spitfire.

        I had already written that from August 1941 the ATA pilots flew all types of aircraft. Also the women and also big machines like Spitfires – like Molly Darnley and Ellie Wingate in Finchmere.

        The Spitfires were a fighter aircraft used as interceptors due to their good manoeuvrability. Between 1938 and 1948 a total of around 20,000 were tried out in three factories in England. These were: Westland Aircraft in Yeovil, Somerset, Supermarine Aviation Works Limited, Hampshire, and Castle Bromwich Assembly in the West Midlands. The factory Ellie Wingate was supposed to fly to before her mission was cancelled – and she flew anyway.

        However, Supermarine Aviation Works Limited in Hampshire could also have links to Midsomer County. About three years earlier, it was still Tom Barnaby’s term in Causton CID, Mayor David Hicks reported to the Town Council about the reunion between Causton and Brighton that Spitfires were built on the doorstep of Midsomer County.

        How the reunion between Causton and Brighton went… well, that was another idyllic murderous episode:

        And… in Morton Fendle, Rosemary Wood probably still puts food and fresh clothes on the edge of the airfield every night. It could be that Ralph will return after all, after 80 years.


        Read more about Midsomer Murders & History

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

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        Header: Supermarine Spitfire XVI at Duxford, September 2006. By Chowells. CC-BY SA 2.5.


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