Nevil Shute Norway Foundation

"Oxford Reunion"
May 2006

A report by John Anderson

On Saturday the 13th of May some 20 Shutists gathered in Oxford for our re-union weekend. The group included 3 from the USA, 2 from Australia and 1 from the Netherlands.

We were delighted to welcome new members who had not been to this type of event before. We had planned this as a kind of walking tour taking in the places that were significant to Shute as well as some that feature in his books.

First stop was at 55 Park Town, formerly the home of the Sturt family with whom Shute lived when he was at the Dragon School. It is literally just behind the school and we were warmly welcomed at the Dragon by Miss Gay Sturt who is their archivist and looks after the School Museum. She is also the niece of Shute's school friend Oliver Sturt.
55 Park Town Home of the Sturt family and where Nevil Shute lived
Gay showed us round the School, still very much thriving, described how the School would have been in his day and she had also put up a fascinating array of exhibits from their Archives, including photographs and extracts from editions of the Draconian, the school magazine.
Main entrance to the
Dragon School
Old School building Miss Sturt talks about
the School history
The display of archive material

In two groups we looked at the museum where they have Shute's star globe in its wooden box. They also have his sextant but this is being repaired at the moment, so was not on display. From the atmosphere and philosophy of the School we appreciated how it influenced the young Shute's values and outlook. We also realised how much the School appreciates its distinguished former pupils who include Leonard Cheshire VC, John Betjeman and Sir John Mortimer amongst many others.

Nevil Shute's Star globe The Library as it is now . . . . .the hall as it was
in Shute's time

We visited the Library which was the main hall in his time and then sat down to an excellent buffet lunch.

Our visit to the Dragon was certainly a highlight of the weekend.

Our walk continued into Oxford with a short detour via Crick Road (where Janet Prentice lived in Requiem for a Wren ) and Norham Gardens (where the Lockwoods lived in An Old Captivity ). On the way we passed the Jenkin Building, the original building of the Engineering Science Department and in which Shute would have studied during his time there.

With a passing glance at the grand old Randolph Hotel, we moved on to Balliol College, where, thanks to their archivist, the normal entrance fee was waived for the group.
The sun shone as we took group photographs in the quad and explored the grounds before entering the magnificent College Chapel.
Group photograph
in Balliol courtyard
Balliol inner courtyard

Taking the opportunity to sit down for a short break and admire the interior, we were unexpectedly treated to the Chapel organist practising a couple of pieces, perhaps for Evensong.

From Balliol it is a short walk past the Bodleian Library to look at the Radcliffe Camera and see the parapet where Helen Riley and Stephen Morris had their meeting.

Finally on to Longwall Street where a small window display commemorates William Morris' garage there in the 1920s.

We then made our own way back to our hotel, some by bus, the more energetic on foot.

Our re-union dinner was at the Cherwell Boathouse restaurant, close by the Dragon School and on the banks of the Cherwell river. A good dinner in excellent company.

After a leisurely breakfast Laura brought us up to date on the planning for the Alice Springs event next year and describing her trip to Alice earlier this year.

Those who were interested had the opportunity to look at some of the archive material I have collected including the correspondence from Arthur Norway and Nevil about his admission to Balliol in 1919.

Finally we repaired by cars to the Trout Inn at Godstow, a busy English pub, and mentioned in Pied Piper. Indeed after lunch we did as Charenton requested of Howard "drink a pint for me..sitting on the wall and looking at the fish in the pool, on a summers day"

And what of the tea and scones, traditional at these events? Well the eight of us who later on Sunday made the trip to nearby Bladon to visit the grave of Sir Winston Churchill found the perfect English teashop in the village, which served freshly made tea and scones.

It only remains for me to thank all those who came and hope they enjoyed the weekend as much as I did.