The Masters  
The Powell & Pressburger Pages

Dedicated to the work of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger and all the other people, both actors and technicians who helped them make those wonderful films.

A lot of the documents have been sent to me or have come from other web sites. The name of the web site is given where known. If I have unintentionally included an image or document that is copyrighted or that I shouldn't have done then please email me and I'll remove it.

I make no money from this site, it's purely for the love of the films.

[Any comments are by me (Steve Crook) and other members of the email list]

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Paul Tritton's notes for the guided tour

[We started in Fordwich Church - Steve]

Michael Powell was born at Bekesbourne in 1905 and educated at King's School, Canterbury.

With 'A Canterbury Tale' he realised an ambition to make a film in and about the Canterbury countryside, and the people who travelled along the Pilgrims Way on their way to Thomas Becket's shrine in Canterbury Cathedral.

'A Canterbury Tale' became known as Canterbury's very own film and remains so to this day.

The film contains a wealth of images and messages - some obvious, others less so - but to most of us who live in east Kent what appeals to us is that the story was filmed in places we can still find today.

The film was unusual for its time because so much of it was filmed on location.

For most of the while we are in the great outdoors, occasionally cutting to interior sequences which can easily mislead us into thinking we are in actual buildings in Canterbury and its villages.

But I must warn you that that is not the case. Indoors we are almost always in Denham Studios.

Most of the story is set in 'Chillingbourne,' a make-believe village near Canterbury where the four main characters first meet.

'Chillingbourne' was inspired by Fordwich, Chilham and several other local villages and is the fictitious town where we first encounter the villain of the story, Thomas Colpeper, played by Eric Portman.

When this film was made in 1943 Portman was an established film star and had already appeared in two Powell movies, '49th Parallel' and 'One of our aircraft is missing'.

The three other stars were making their screen debuts -

Sheila Sim (now Lady Attenborough) as Land Army girl Alison Smith

Dennis Price as a British Army sergeant, Peter Gibbs

John Sweet, a real GI, as American Army Sergeant Bob Johnson.

Three boys from Fordwich - Len Smith, Jimmy Tamsitt and David Todd were in the cast of principal characters, which means they were named in the credits;

other boys from this village and others were in the battle scene;

and many other local people had small parts or appeared as extras.

No distance at all to our first location as we are already in it.


Featured in a scene that in the story took place 56 years ago today and was filmed sometime in September 1943.

That morning Bob Johnson (played by John Sweet) had met Leslie and Terry met two gang leaders (played by Len Smith and James Tamsitt) during their battle at Chilham Mill.

He then went on to morning service and is seen entering this church as Frederick Foote, who lived at Rectory Cottages, rang one of the church's four 17th century bells.

Bell ringing ban lifted July 1943 but few bell ringing bands had reformed by then. Not sure whether you hear this church's bell or a sound effect.

John Sweet arrived at Canterbury East 56 years ago today and went straight to Chilmans Downs to start filming the scene on the hill with Dennis Price.

In the story that scene also took place on Sunday, August 29, 1943 and it was filmed on Sunday, August 29, 1943. [and we were gathered there on Sunday, August 29, 1999 - Steve] A rare coincidence.

When we come back to church for tea will have more time to look round then but meanwhile buy a guide book for £1.50.

Now into School Lane, past The Willows to High Street, turn left to top of high street.


Here from the top of Fordwich High Street, Well Lane leads on to other locations - Elbridge Farm (where Alison loads the dung cart and goes to the hop garden) and Wickhambreaux, where Thomas Colpeper lived.

Lane leads also to Trenley Park Woods, a restricted area in the war because of ammo depot and PoW camp

We're in Fordwich's Beverly Hills, home of the stars.

Primrose Cottage was the home of the Todd family.

Cyril and Winifred Todd were resident stewards at the Foresters' Hall in Canterbury until soldiers of The Buffs Regiment were billeted there after being evacuated from Dunkirk.

They then moved here. Cyril and Winifred had four sons, three of whom were Brian, Tony and David.

Brian was an extra in the river battle;

Tony worked at the George and Dragon and often saw Michael Powell there who stayed there while making the film.

Powell's wife Frankie also stayed there occasionally. They were married on July 1, 1943, a few weeks before coming to Canterbury to film;

David Todd of course was the little 'Admiral' in the boat in the river battle

David Todd was fast asleep in his bed when Michael Powell decided to make him the youngest member of the cast.

Now down high street to


This was called By the Way and was the home of Daniel Brice, JP, of Fordwich Farm, wartime Mayor Deputy of Fordwich, chairman of Bridge Blean RDC and chairman of the Fordwich Trust

Powell's father Thomas and Daniel Brice were friends or at least close acquaintances pre-WW1, both being hop farmers.

(Colpeper was a hop farmer and JP)

Powell had childhood memories of Fordwich and the Brice family and Daniel probably gave him access to the buildings.

In 1908 Michael went to one of Phyllis Brice's parties at By the Way. When he met her parents, Daniel and Edith, at the premiere of A Canterbury Tale he signed their programme and wrote 'With love and memory of a certain party when I was 3½.'

The programme is now in the possession of Daniel and Edith Brice's grandson, Tony Lawton.

Powell's memories of Fordwich indicate was one of his main inspirations when he conceived Chillingbourne.

He had Bob Johnson express surprise on arriving at Chillingbourne that what he thought was a whistle stop was a town.

The acting stationmaster (Charles Hawtrey) retorted that it had been a municipal borough since 1085.

Fordwich too was a borough in 1085, the year when the Domesday Book was compiled.

Down street to Browns Cottages


We are still in Beverly Hills, Fordwich, because here lived the two other local stars, Len Smith and Jimmy Tamsitt.

Len lived at No. 4. He was 9 years old when cast to play Leslie and lived with mother, Carrie, and sister Myrtle.

His next door but one neighbours at No 6 were Jimmy, who played Terry, and Charlie Tamsitt and their father, James.

Their mother, Dora, was been killed on November 18, 1941, when a parachute mine exploded above Sturry.

Charlie also appeared in the battle scene at Chilham Mill.

Now retrace our steps to Fordwich Farm

Pause to look back towards the Manor House whose entrance when the soldiers arrive for Colpeper's lecture at the Colpeper Institute and at the end of the film when more soldiers, this time with their girlfriends, go to a lecture to be given by the now repentant Colpeper.


Daniel Brice's farm,

Here the haywagon for Len's scene with John Sweet was loaded.

Bill White was offered 10s 6d a day to appear in the film but it was a time of year when we were busy on the farm and 1 didn't like the idea of having a day here and a day there. I was filmed in the farm yard, loading the hay wagon, but they cut that bit out. I helped Len get on top of the wagon.

We had to walk ahead of the wagon, to make sure the way was clear, and turn round beside the George and Dragon. The two horses pulling the wagon were led by old Jack Cannon. They were our horses - one of them was called Turps - but I think the wagon belonged to Mr Denne, who had the farm before Mr Brice.'

Through yard to footpath to George and Dragon


Came this way to George and Dragon because from here was filmed a view of the pub when its exterior became the Hand of Glory.

Saw the hay cart outside. You see the cart in the street and Leslie (Len) standing on the hay supposedly pointing to Bob Johnson in a window,

Len actually points to an upstairs window of the general stores on the opposite side of the street.

Leslie's mother was played by Mary Line, one of three sisters who ran the George and Dragon at the time Michael Powell stayed there.

The sisters' parents, Fred and Elizabeth Bailey, took on the tenancy some years before the war, moving to Fordwich from the Seven Stars Hotel in Orange Street, Canterbury, because the cathedral bells were driving Elizabeth to distraction!

When Fred Bailey died in 1940, having outlived Elizabeth by several years, three of his six daughters - Dolly and Barbara, who were unmarried, and Mary - took over the hotel.

Mary, her husband Richard, and baby son John (is he here?) moved back to Fordwich from their home in Herne Bay, and while Richard was busy running his building business and serving in Fordwich Home Guard and as a part-time firefighter in Sturry, Mary helped her sisters look after their customers.

Michael Powell wrote in his autobiography: 'I had a room over the bar where I could hear all the chat ... Bert Woodcock, my driver, came for me every morning at about eight o'clock in an enormous hired car, and I would go to wherever the call sheet directed me. It was a hermit's life ...'

Bert worked for Skam's taxis in Canterbury and was on duty almost daily driving the cars to the locations and as Michael Powell's personal driver.

His daughter Janet is here and I'll ask her to show you the badge that Bert always wore at that time.

The car park was the football field seen during the closing credits.

Now to corner of King Street and High Street and the Manor House


Manor House was originally Manners House, after family who lived there.

Here the crew set up a platform from which they filmed the view of Chillingbourne High Street that you see a few moments before Sgt Johnson gets out of bed.

You see a herd of cows approaching from Fordwich Farmyard which we visited earlier

Brian Todd remembers seeing the Hand of Glory sign suspended from the platform to create the illusion that the view is from the inn's window.

This is what Brian told me and the film units first days in Fordwich:

'Lenny casually took a Cox's Orange Pippin apple from his pocket and began enjoying it. Believe me he had quite a munch. It was glorious! Apple juice, spats and peel and bits miniature would fly, teeth would glisten, eyes squint. One of the film crew noticed and was absolutely bowled over. Then, Michael Powell was told. We were in like Flynn!

Soon we found ourselves outside Mr Boys' sweet shop, opposite the George and Dragon, walking beside a haycart - Charlie, me, Mrs Line and Dolly and Barbara Bailey. Mrs Line was our first 'nanny' during the film.'

When you see Leslie and Bob (John Sweet) having their conversation at the open window of the Hand of Glory you see a photographic background consisting of picture of the Manor House alongside a picture of Dick Lucy's butchers shop in Wingham.

You'll remember that John Sweet looks out of his bedroom window and waves to a shopkeeper - Dick Lucy. This shot was filmed from a window of the Red Lion, the second pub to become the Hand of Glory.

However when the three boys come to the Hand of Glory on the Sunday afternoon with Mr Holmes' account book they were filmed from the platform here and you have a clear and real view of the Manor House in the background.

The house behind us is Watergate House.

The Manor House was the inspiration for the Colpeper Institute although all you see of the actual building is its exterior.

The Manor House was the home of artists Alfred Palmer and his wife Mary (née Croom) and Francesca, their daughter.

Francesca played the cello and became a recitalist and music teacher after the war.

The family moved to Swanage in 1940 and the Manor House was requisitioned by the Army.

Leonard Smith, Charles and James Tamsitt and their pals called it 'Dracula's House' and always crossed to the opposite side of the road when passing by!

Francesa Palmer: 'At the beginning of the 1900s the Baileys of the George and Dragon used the Manor House as an annexe, and that is how it was when my father bought it in 1910.

As his studio, he used what later became my music room, but it had direct sunlight so he turned the stables, which had north light, into his studio.

The model for the lecture hall was a first floor room - at one time a music room - in the Manor House.

The house has been restored recently after a fire and the windows on the first floor blocked up.


You may think that you see the Town Hall in and after the chase sequence at the beginning of the film, but the real Town Hall never appears in the film.

Its exterior and Court Room were recreated at Denham Studios.

The vestibule seen early in the sequence, and the adjoining passages which the policemen search, are completely fictitious: the front door to Fordwich Town Hall opens directly on to the stairs leading up to the Court Room; on the ground floor there are a tiny jail, the jailer's quarters and a storeroom.

At the head of the stairs, Sgt Bassett ducks under a beam inscribed 'Love and honour the truth.' In real life the court's pleading bar, where prisoners stood while on trial, is at the head of the stairs. It does not obstruct anyone entering the room, nor bear an inscription - though the motto 'Love and honour the truth' is prominent under King Charles II's Coat of Arms, displayed on the ceiling above the panelled rear wall.

The panels are rectangular, whereas those in the film are square. The Coat of Arms are reproduced in the set, as are the Tudor Rose and Cinque Port Arms (the town having been a 'limb' of the cinque port of Sandwich) displayed alongside it.

We also see copies of the Court Room's Elizabethan table (Colpeper's desk); the jurors' bench and chief magistrate's seat (in which Bob sat for a moment while talking to Colpeper); and the south window (whose blackout curtains Colpeper adjusted when warned by Brooks that he is showing a light')'

As in the film, the court's ducking-stool hangs from the roof's tie-beam. The stool was used to punish scolds and women suspected of sorcery, and was an ideal 'prop' to help Michael Powell create a sinister atmosphere with suggestions of witchcraft.

This cupboard is actually a tiny room and was the jury's 'retiring room' until 1886.

The badges on the Army greatcoat that Alison finds in the cupboard are those of 'KT 3,1 the 3rd Canterbury Battalion, Kent Home Guard.

In 1943 the Fordwich platoon was on duty every night in Trenleypark Wood, patrolling a vast ammunition dump that was being built up in preparation for D-Day. There was a German PoW camp on the edge of the wood.

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