Ben Jonson’s Walk on Film

Over the last year we’ve been putting together a series of five short films about Ben Jonson’s walk from London to Edinburgh in the summer of 1618 (about which you can read more here). Rather than tackle the story of the whole adventure, we decided to focus just on one stretch of the journey – the perambulation taken by Jonson and his companion through the English midlands. So what made us choose that section?

We chose this part of the itinerary not only because it takes Jonson away from the Great North Road – much of which is now the not entirely walker-friendly A1 – but also because it gave us the chance to showcase the different kinds of places that Jonson visited along the way. We have stately homes and parks at Belvoir, Rufford, Welbeck and Worksop, the architectural curiosities of  Bolsover Castle and Hodsock Priory, the bustling ‘thoroughfare town’ of Newark, and the pretty village of Bottesford.

More than that, it gave us the chance to tread in Jonson’s footsteps and show you just how much of what he saw and visited can still be seen today – church monuments, inns, interior decorative schemes, and so on. While plenty of what he saw – Newark Castle, for example – is now in a ruinous condition, there have been some surprising developments elsewhere: the Lady Chapel at Worksop Priory, which was open to the elements in 1618, is now an integral part of the priory building once again.

But you can see all this for yourself – as a special Christmas treat, the project team are releasing a film per day all this week, over on the project website. And I’ll be adding the films here too.

1: Setting Out

In the course of his epic walk from London to Edinburgh, Ben Jonson took a memorable detour through the English midlands. This film introduces viewers to Jonson, to the walk, and to the landscape through which he journeyed in 1618.

2: Noble Memorials

In which Ben Jonson and his companion visit Belvoir Castle, the seat of the Earl of Rutland, are bibulously entertained at Bottesford, and find something extraordinary in the village church…

3: The Pleasures of the Town

In which Jonson and his companion find their way to the ‘thoroughfare town’ of Newark-upon-Trent, check in to the famous White Hart inn, and experience the best of midlands hospitality…

4: A Family on the Rise

In which Jonson and his companion encounter the Cavendish family at Rufford and Welbeck, are treated to a tour of the fabulous Little Castle at Bolsover, and are given work to do in the church…

5: Seeing the Sights

In which Jonson enjoys a visit to the amazing Worksop Manor, an antiquarian tour of the nearby Priory, and ends his midlands diversion in the splendid surroundings of Hodsock Priory…


The films were produced by Top Story Media for the University of Edinburgh, with the generous support of the University of Edinburgh Knowledge Exchange fund.

Published by James Loxley

Researcher, teacher and writer based in Edinburgh.

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