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Wednesday July 17th 2024

Accident | 1967

Cool observation rules in one of the major Harold Pinter/Joseph Losey/Dirk Bogarde collaborations of the Sixties, as the car-crash death of aristocratic student William (Michael York) triggers off a series of flashbacks charting the status games played on a university campus. It was filmed largely around Oxford University, though the site of the titular accident is miles to the south in Surrey.

Accident location: St John's College, Oxford
Accident location: the Oxford college: St John’s College, Oxford

The university locations include Oxford’s St John’s College on St John’s Street, where mousy don Stephen (Dirk Bogarde) experiences a bout of mid-life angst. The quads here are open to the public, usually on weekday afternoons, but check in advance for opening times. The entrance to Stephen’s rooms can be seen at the southeast corner of the elaborately gargoyled inner Canterbury Quad.

In the grounds of Magdalen College (for non-Brits, it’s pronounced ‘Maudlin’) you can see the bridge where William invites Stephen for an ultimately humiliating punt along the River Cherwell. The entrance is on the High Street toward Magdalen Bridge (admission charge).

Accident location: Syon House, Brentford, Middlesex
Accident location: the football game: Syon House, Brentford, Greater London

Being a Pinter adaptation, the boys have to play their little games, and here it’s a bizarre ‘football game’, which must still give the film’s insurers nightmares. The rough and tumble – roughly based on the Eton Wall Game – was shot in the classical grandeur of Robert Adams’ Great Hall of Syon House, Brentford, where Stephen keeps goal in front of the cast of a Dying Gladiator (even in 1773 this bronze copy cost a cool £300 when bought in Rome).

Syon House, set in grounds landscaped by Capability Brown, is on the north bank of the Thames, eight miles west of London, off the A4 between Brentford and Isleworth (tube/ rail: Gunnersbury Park). The Great Hall is open to the public. You can see more of its elegant rooms and corridors in The Madness of King George and in the 1998 film of cult TV series The Avengers.

Stephen’s house, scene of the accident, is Norwood Farm Hall, on Elveden Road north of the Esher bypass, Cobham, Surrey (rail: Oxshott). Please note that this is a private home.