Rediscovered and soundtracked Wytham film to get world premiere at Phoenix

Days of Chivalry was directed by Hazel ffennell – the young woman whose untimely death eventually led to Wytham Woods and the surrounding countryside being bequeathed to the University’s stewardship.

The screening will take place at 7.30pm on 28 February; tickets can be bought via the University Shop. More information is available on the Wytham Woods website.

A romantic medieval fantasy, Days of Chivalry was filmed in the area around Wytham in 1928. It has been shown to small groups before, but this is the first cinema screening and features an evocative soundtrack written by local composer Sebastian Reynolds, who also performed his work with a group of other musicians. After the screening, there will be an audience Q&A session with Reynolds and local historian Mervyn Hughes.

The sample clip shown below was filmed in front of Wytham Abbey, the manor house where the ffennell family lived at the time.

This isn’t just a curio of local history, but a significant work of early cinema – the British Film Institute called it ‘one of the best examples of amateur film-making’ from the UK in this period. Days of Chivalry was made towards the end of the silent era, just a year after the release of the first feature-length ‘talkie’, The Jazz Singer. Films of this length were already made almost exclusively by large studios, and this is remarkably complex and ambitious for a project led by a single individual – albeit someone with more financial resources and ability to enlist the help of local people than most.

The soundtrack has been four years in the making and came about after a chance meeting between Sebastian Reynolds and Nigel Fisher, Conservator of Wytham Woods. Until recently very little was known of the ffennell family, who had had no contact with the University for some 75 years until Hughes started investigating and managed to trace and contact a surviving family member. Since then, he has unearthed a wealth of fascinating local history. The University’s Faculty of History is now funding a new community history project that aims to uncover more of the forgotten history of the Wytham Estate. 

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