WHEN Martine Brant and her novelist husband Michael Stewart acquired Wytham Abbey from Oxford University, they were able to make a family home in a Gothic building steeped in history, set in countryside just outside Oxford.
That was back in the early 1990s and since then the historic house inspired Ms Brant to write The Devil’s Whore, a four-part drama set in and around Oxford during the English Civil War.
- The main cast of New Worlds, from left, Alice Englert as Hope Russell, Freya Mavor as Beth, Jamie Dornan as Abe, and Joe Dempsie as Ned Hawkins
New Worlds, the long-awaited sequel to her 2008 drama series, has started on Channel 4 and the second episode was shown last night.
Set in the reign of Charles II, it is again a story of rebellion, religious conflict and a rich young woman about to get an education.
The new drama is about the legacy of the civil war, but now the action takes place on both sides of the Atlantic.
Ms Brant said: “New Worlds is the love story of four young people caught up in the timeless struggle of how to live a good life in an unjust world and how to make the world a fairer place.
“But in a way it is a love letter to Wytham Abbey. It is a wonderful place to live.”
The story begins at Fanshawe House, the fictional manor that is modelled on Ms Brant’s real life home in Wytham, where the heroine of The Devil’s Whore, Angelica Fanshawe, is now middle aged and married to a Roman Catholic.
For the first series, Dominic West, who played Cromwell, had gone along to rehearse in Wytham Abbey.
And her youngest daughter Miranda, then 15, played Princess Elizabeth, the daughter of the executed King Charles I.
- Martine’s daughter Miranda, who plays Barbara, covered in costume blood
In the new series, Miranda plays a friend of the heroine, who has to bathe her arms in the blood of a deer.
Ms Brant added: “I started work on the story back in 2008 as soon as The Devil’s Whore was completed.
“I invited some of the villagers to come and see it at the house.
“They all said they could imagine the outlaw scenes were shot in Wytham Woods.
“But it was not actually filmed here but at Great Chalfield manor in Wiltshire and Chavenage House in Gloucestershire.”
- Martine with actress Freya Mavor, who plays Beth in New Worlds
As with The Devil’s Whore, New Worlds has been co-written with Peter Flannery, creator of the successful series Our Friends in the North.
Historical characters such as Charles II, Monmouth, and Judge Jeffreys are interwoven with fictional ones.
Having read history at Newcastle University, Ms Brant completed her MPhil on wicked women in the 16th century, focusing on the ‘bad girls’ of the Restoration period.
She came to Oxford when her tutor Tim Curtis placed her with Christopher Hill, the Marxist historian of the English Civil War, who became Master of Balliol College.
A commission from the BBC will see Ms Brant working on a new drama series about the rebuilding of London after the Great Fire.