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Is Grantchester Based on a True Story?

June 11, 2020
3 min read

With detective fiction, a plain police inspector often proves to be too generic, thanks to the large number of stories belonging to the extremely popular genre. ‘Grantchester‘ is an ITV detective drama that finds its uniqueness in the investigators’ other profession and the period nature of the show.

The show revolves around the First Anglican Priest and former Scots Guard, Sidney Chambers. Chambers is depicted to be working with the overworked detective inspector, Geordie Keating. Reverend Will Davenport also works with Keating later. Together, the investigators explore various criminal cases, attempting to solve them with each others’ contrasting yet complementary personalities. Keating opts for a more methodological approach while Chambers possesses abilities to coax the truth out of suspects and important witnesses.

The character of Keating is played by Robson Green while that of Chambers is essayed by James Norton. Davenport, on the other hand, is played by Tom Brittney.

Is Grantchester a True Story?

Owing to the period nature of ‘Grantchester,’ several viewers of the ITV detective drama would have wondered whether it is based on true events or inspired by it. The short answer is no. The story and most of the characters of ‘Grantchester’ are fictional. However, the titular town that the series is set in is quite real. In fact, the production has also filmed a few scenes in Grantchester.

‘Grantchester’ is based on a series of short stories by James Runcie titled ‘The Grantchester Mysteries.’ The first volume of the stories was published in 2012. While the source material is completely fictional, Runcie has reportedly mentioned how the character of Sidney Chambers is modeled after his own father. For starters, Chambers and Runcie’s father were born in the same year: 1921.

Runcie’s father also fought in the Scots Guard, followed by becoming a clergyman similar to Chambers. Robert Runcie (James’ father) was the Archbishop of Canterbury for 11 years since 1980. However, the character of Chambers was based on Runcie’s father before he moved to Lambeth Place and became the Archbishop. James Runcie’s intention was also to correct the representation of clergymen which he often found to be unrealistic. “Some kind of holy fool – even the clergyman in Dad’s Army is an idiot. I wanted a more… it’s called ‘muscular Christianity’; I don’t really mean that but I wanted a vibrant, energetic, intelligent, charming, funny, witty, sexy clergyman,” he told Cotswold Life.

Chambers is not the only character in ‘Grantchester’ that is based on an actual person. The housekeeper, Mrs. Maguire plays a pivotal role on the series. It turns out that her character is based on an actual person as well. Tessa Peake-Jones plays the character in the ITV drama.

In the short stories, James Runcie bases the character of Mrs. Maguire on his father’s secretary. The real-life woman had the same name and faced a similar tragedy: her husband had deserted her as well.

Apart from the characters, the time period is also quite crucial to the story. “It was also important to set it in 1950s Britain, post-war, pre-DNA forensics, the threat of the death penalty still around, and homosexuality still illegal. The hiding of things is crucial. It’s often about what is left unsaid in these stories,” Runcie told Huffington Post.

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