Southern Way, Wadebridge, PL27 7BX
Tel: (01208) 812392
The John Betjeman Centre is sited in the main building of the old railway station at Wadebridge. The last train left Wadebridge at 17.20 on the 28th January 1967. A total of £300,000 was raised from voluntary contributions in order to refurbish it and extend it's size. It took six years to complete and was accomplished in 2 phases. Firstly the old building was converted from its derelict state and opened on the 1st of April 1989. In the second phase the additional rooms were added.
When it was officially opened by Viscountess Falmouth on the 29th May 1991, she remarked. How lovely it would be if every town had such a comfortable centre as the John Betjeman Centre. There is a memorabilia room dedicated to Sir John Betjeman. On display are various personal effects, academic honours and furniture which belonged to Sir John. Families are welcome to visit. Coaches parties must make prior arrangements.
Although we do not have a curator, it is possible to arrange for someone to give a short talk to student groups explaining Sir John's life as a poet and his association with North Cornwall. There are many of his books, videos, post cards and mementoes on sale.
Sir John Betjeman is buried at St. Enodoc's Church, Trebetherick. His grave is located near the south side of the church. The church itself is approached via the 10th fairway of the golf course. Betjeman died in Trebetherick on 19th May, 1984. He had a lifelong love of Cornwall and in particular North Cornwall.
At a time when many others poets were experimenting with free verse - Betjeman stuck firmly to traditional verse forms and rhyme schemes. However, the subject matter of his poetry was modern and accessible and it proved popular with the general reading public. His witty tone often led to him being dismissed by the critics as 'light-weight' - but beneath the surface his poems are often profoundly serious.
The ancient church of St. Endoc at Trebetherick, Polzeath was at one time almost entirely covered by sand, but was reclaimed and restored. Sir John Betjeman wrote a poem about the church he loved, entitled Trebetherick.
"It began when a boy from the London suburbs was taken by horse and cart on his first holiday to Trebetherick on the north Cornish coast before the first world war, and finished yesterday when Sir John Betjeman Poet Laureate and the Wordsworth of Suburbia, was laid to rest by the light of of lamps in the Norman village church of St. Enodoc on the Camel estuary".
That horse and cart would have met him at Wadebridge Station and taken him to Trebetherick after he had arrived by steam train all the way trom Waterloo Station in London. In his autobiography `Summoned by Bells', he evokes the joy and excitement when:
"On Wadebridge station what a breath of sea
Scented the Camel valley Cornish air,
Soft Cornish rains, and silence after steam
As out of Derry's stable came the brake
To drag us up those long familiar hills,
Past haunted woods and oil lit farms and on
To far Trebetherick by the sounding sea."
Then on the next morning, rising early, with what excitement
"Before breakfast down towards the sea
I ran alone, monarch of miles of sand
I walked where only gulls and oyster-catchers
Hod stepped before me to the water's edge
The morning tide flowed in to welcome me back!"
In 1984, Wadebridge railway station had not been used since the Beeching cuts and was in a sorry state. A group of local friends and enthusiasts launched an appeal, and today, the old station has been splendidly renovated and enlarged, and contains a Memorabilia Room with many items of interest about the poet and his happy times spent in Cornwall.
Sir John Betjeman Wadebridge