A Call for the BBC to rerun The Shadow of the Tower (1972)

Many of you will be aware of recent television dramas The White Queen and The Tudors, two popular if historically dubious series’ which pulled in big ratings and produced large interest in the press.

The forerunner of such adaptations is the lesser known ‘The Shadow of the Tower’, charting the reign of Henry VII and broadcast on the BBC in 1972. I call on the BBC to once again show this wonderful series on one of their many channels and introduce the fascinating time of Henry VII, as intrepretated by decorated actors such as James Maxwell, to a new audience.

I recently sent this letter to the Corporation and sincerely hope for a positive review.

“I write to you regarding the 1972 BBC Television series ‘The Shadow of the Tower’. As you may be aware, the Tudor period is currently a genre enjoying great popularity in many mediums, including television. The BBC’s recent co-production of The White Queen was deemed a great success for the channel and enjoyed pleasing viewing figures for the Corporation, as did the channel’s recent syndication of The Tudors. The original Tudor drama, and perhaps in many peoples opinion the best, was The Shadow of the Tower, which featured incredible acting performances from noted thespians like James Maxwell and Norma West. Whilst television dramas from over forty years ago will never be able to compete visually with the modern technology and money available to today’s productions, the Shadow of the Tower is certainly capable of holding its own based on its strong script and great character acting.

It was a disappointment to discover this series is only available on Amazon by purchasing the Dutch version. I would urge the BBC to act on two accounts regarding this programme. Firstly, I would encourage the BBC to re-release the series on a UK-marketed DVD, something which you may find would be relatively successful in the market. I know through experience that the Dutch version does put people off in spite of the actual programme being fundamentally the same.

Secondly I would actually encourage the BBC to show the series on television once more, for example on the BBC Four channel or late night BBC Two. With adequate promotion this could be a minor success for the channel. The series currently holds a rating of 4/5 on Amazon UK based on 41 reviews whilst it holds a rating of 7.8/10 on IMDb based on 71 reviews, both positive results.

Shadow of the Tower does not deserve to be a little remembered series from over forty years ago. The story, acting and characters should be enjoyed by a new generation, eager to consume as much Tudor history as can be produced”

I look forward to your thoughts and sincerely hope you find a way to re-broadcast this wonderful gem in the BBC archive”.

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Save St Peter’s Church, Carmarthen

By Nathen Amin

The Henry Tudor Society exists to discuss and deliberate over events which happened over five hundred years ago, a process which unquestionably involves physically visiting the sites and locations in which these events occurred. Conservation of historic sites is therefore imperative to the very ethos of the Society, without which our understanding of the period would be much poorer.

The Henry Tudor Society is therefore very despondent to discover the financial burden currently being experienced by St Peter’s Church in Carmarthen, a burden which may very well cause this historic building to permanently close its doors to the public.

It has been reported that the church needs to find £50,000 to stay open next year and church leaders have said it is becoming a struggle to remain open. Falling church attendance combined with increasing costs maintaining an historic, Grade-II listed building are the chief causes. Vandalism and Anti-Social Behaviour have also been a financial burden on the church.

St Peter’s Church is particular important to the Henry Tudor Society due to its links with Sir Rhys ap Thomas, Henry Tudor’s ally and commander at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. The following is an extract from Tudor Wales by Nathen Amin, which demonstrates the substantial heritage of St Peter’s Church.

Carmarthen is one of the oldest towns in Britain, a continuation of the Roman Moridunum, and St Peter’s church remains the earliest extant building in the region that is still used for its original purpose. The exact date of foundation is unknown, but it appears to have existed from at least the early twelfth century, with today’s structure still containing elements from the thirteenth century. The prominent tower is a fifteenth century addition, while the south aisle was constructed during the Tudor period. It is this aisle which holds an acute connection to the Tudor dynasty as the resting place of Sir Rhys ap Thomas; his alabaster tomb was placed here in 1538 after the Dissolution of the Monasteries disrupted his original resting place at the nearby Greyfriars monastery.

Greatly rewarded by his distant kinsman King Henry VII in gratitude for his unyielding allegiance during the reign of the first Tudor monarch, Sir Rhys governed South Wales with a kingly assurance, which he maintained until his death in 1525. He was interred in Greyfriars, close to the king’s own father Edmund Tudor, but both tombs were removed during the Dissolution. Sir Rhys’s tomb occupies a position which is significantly less exposed than Edmund’s; it is placed in a quiet corner with two sides lamentably positioned next to a wall, which denies the visitor the opportunity to circumvent the mighty monument. The effigy is heavily weathered despite its attempted restoration by a later descendant, although the three ravens that were prominent in his coat of arms are still identifiable. The tomb bears the inscription: ‘Here lies the remains of Sir Rhys ap Thomas K. G. who fought at Bosworth Field’. Interest in Sir Rhys has certainly increased recently because of his possible role in the death of King Richard III at Bosworth Field in 1485, and there are hopes that this could result in his tomb receiving a higher degree of decorum than it has been accorded over the last century.

St Peter’s also maintains two other Tudor-era connections, which enhances the church’s status as a credible sixteenth-century location. Walter Devereux, Earl of Essex, is believed to have been buried in an unmarked grave under the chancel in 1576. Devereux had been a loyal courtier of Queen Elizabeth I, and controversially and often violently served her interests in Ireland where he had been appointed Earl Marshal. His son was Robert Devereux, who later gained notoriety as a keen favourite of the queen before his execution for treason in 1601. In 1555, the church also played a role in the trial of Robert Ferrar, Bishop of St David’s, a devout Protestant who was condemned as a heretic at St Peter’s and sentenced to death by burning. This gruesome act was carried out in Carmarthen marketplace, where a plaque today commemorates the event, a consequence of the persecution of Protestants under the reign of Queen Mary Tudor. A nineteenth-century marble plaque can also be viewed in the consistory court; it states that the bishop was burnt for ‘adhering to the protestant religion’, a reminder that the turmoil of England’s religious strife was equally felt in the heart of Wales’.

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The church’s elders are working hard in their attempts to raise funds to keep St Peter’s open, a mammoth task that they are nonetheless tackling with positivity and enthusiasm. There are plans in motion for a new group to be launched entitled ‘The Friends of St Peter’s’ where people can pay a £10 annual subscription fee to become a life member. It’s a novel way to donate funds whilst retaining an active link with the church. Furthermore there are regular fundraising events in the pipeline which you can keep up to contact with via their Facebook page ‘St Peter’s Carmarthen’.

The Henry Tudor Society feels that this church should not be allowed to close its historic doors and urges all members of the public to do whatever they can to help St Peter’s in Carmarthen. Whether its financial donations or social media sharing, small churches like St Peter’s not only provide vital services to the local community but are a source of substantial historical interest.

You can donate to St Peter’s via their Just Giving page at https://www.justgiving.com/stpeterscarmarthen