The Real Watership Down Header

Newtown Churchyard,

in March 1982.


Sorry, but this should be the Newtown Churchyard.
Newtown Church and churchyard.
High-res
From chapter 10, 'The Road and the Common':

'By moonrise they had made their way through Newtown churchyard, where a little brook runs between the lawns and under the path.'

You have just come off the road. In front of you stretches the modest but not-unattractive spire of Newtown church. As you can see from the quote, this barely rates a mention in the book though it plays a much more significant role as a film background.

Here's Newtown Church on Google maps.

Richard Adams says: “A film is not a book.
They are two distinct forms of art; and people who, when asked whether they have read a particular book, reply ‘No, but I saw the
film,’ might really just as sensibly answer,
‘No, but I had breakfast this morning.’”

Is that it? Why didn't he just say "a film" is
your man-name for morning silflay?

Blackberry knows all sorts of interesting facts about Watership Down.
This is the church of SS Mary the Virgin and John the Baptist, built in 1865 on the site of a medieval chapel. It is part of the Church of England parish of Burghclere. The tower houses a 6-2cwt ring of four bells cast by G Mears and company (now Whitechapel Bell Foundary) in 1865. I have not rung there... yet.

Sorry, but this should be the church in the film's main titles.
The church that appears in the film's main titles - definitely not Newtown church.
The rat fight was relocated to a shed in the churchyard in the film, though the film's church doesn't look much like this. The church shown in the opening titles doesn't have a spire. Also, windows that high up in a tower, as opposed to louvres to let out the sound of bells, must certainly rate as a very rare feature. I can't find any church in the area that matches this.

You may be wondering why there is no photograph of the road. The answer is it was very difficult in 1982 to find a time when the road was quiet. When Watership Down was written, the A34 was a reasonably quiet main road, in 1982 it was a busy main road. By 1997 It was practically a car park. If the rabbits had been crossing it then, the biggest problem would have been weaving between the stationary tyres and fighting for breath amid the fumes. All this has changed since the opening of the Newbury bypass in 1998 and present day Bigwigs are able to demonstrate their knowledge of the wider world in a more challenging way.


ReturnClick Bigwig here to return to select another location. It might be best to avoid his ears, his fleas live there!