Dorothy L. Sayers Lecture, Witham. Essex Book Festival, 26th March

The Annual Lecture, given this year by Tony Medawar, took place at Witham Library, just down the road from the former home of DLS.  The event, part of the Essex Book Festival, was sold out.  Tony's expertise in Golden Age Crime Fiction was amply demonstrated during the lecture.  Those of you who are familiar with CADS (Crime and Detection Stories), a serial publication superbly edited by Geoff Bradley, will be familiar with Tony's work.

The lecture ranged over the work of well-known writers such as DLS, Margery Allingham and Agatha Christie and those who are perhaps less  generally well-known today. A detailed report of the lecture will be available in the May issue of the members' Bulletin.

Prior to the lecture, some of those attending gathered at Gimsons (home of Seona Ford, Chair of the DLS Society and the Essex Book Festival) for supper with Tony.

Special thanks to the staff at Witham Library for their work in preparing the library for the lecture and for their warm welcome.

Witham Library, prepared for the DLS Annual Lecture

Golden Age of Crime Weekend, Southend 10th & 11th March, 2018

An enjoyable weekend was had at the Park Inn, attending the Essex Book Festival's Golden Age of Crime Weekend. Many of you will know that our Chair, Seona Ford, is also Chair of the Essex Book Festival.  

The weekend offered a celebration of Edmund Crispin, a talk by author Guy Bolton, a crime writing masterclass by author Nicola Upson and a session with writing duo Nicci Gerard and Sean French aka Nicci French.

Henry Hemming gave a riveting talk on his book M: Maxwell Knight: MI5's Greatest Spymaster.

Author, member and friend of the Society, Martin Edwards, chaired a Crime Writers' Association (CWA) panel of Christine Poulson, JM Hewitt and Paul Gitsham where the authors discussed their work, getting published, staying published and the benefits of belonging to the CWA community.

'A Criminally Good Afternoon Tea' was had by those attending the session with Nicola Upson, who talked about her latest book, Nine Lessons, set in Cambridge and featuring Josephine Tey.

It was good to catch up with members attending this event.  We look forward to returning to Southend next year.



Commemorative Plaque, Service at St Anne's, Soho and Quarter Peal at St Nicholas, Witham

A service celebrating the life and work of Dorothy L. Sayers was held at St Anne’s Church, Soho on 16 December.  Our Patron, Bishop Richard, Baron Chartres, presided, supported by the Rev’d Simon Buckley, Rector of St Anne’s and member Rev’d Alan Jesson, who prepared the service. DLS was a Church warden at St Anne’s.

Readings, music and prayers, as well as an address by our Patron, were followed by the dedication of the plaque and tea. Pippa Westoby was commissioned by the Society to carve the plaque.

The plaque is now installed in the garden at St. Anne’s (see below) where all can see it.

On Sunday, 17 December, a Quarter Peal was rung at St Nicolas Church, Witham, the town in which DLS lived for many years. Details as follows:

Ladies Guild

Witham, Essex

St Nicolas

Sunday, 17 December 2017 (15–3–12 in E)

1260 St Nicholas Bob Doubles

1        Sue Stephens

2        Wendy Godden

3        Valerie Banwell

4        Helen Webb

5        Janet Garnett (C)

6        Vanessa E Webster

Rung by members of the Ladies Guild on the 60th anniversary of the death of Dorothy L Sayers, at Witham where she lived from 1929 - 1957, in celebration of her life. Also in memory of Bernard Palmer of Witham, an enthusiastic supporter of the Dorothy L Sayers Society.

Plaque with green small.png

Service, St. Anne's, Soho, 2 p.m., 16 December

A service to mark 60 years since the death of Dorothy L Sayers will take place at 2 p.m. on 16 December at St Anne's Soho, London.  At that service, a plaque commemorating DLS's time as Church Warden at St Anne's will be dedicated.

All are welcome to attend but it is important that you signal your intention to come along by contacting Seona Ford at so that we can ensure that numbers meet capacity regulations.


Autumn Update

There’s never a dull moment in the DLS Society. Below you’ll see there is a report on our recently-held Annual Convention.  The Convention was another success with a range of talks and readings.

Most recently, members attended the presentation of our Bell Ringer’s Award to the Ladies’ Guild of Change Ringers in Thornham Magna, Norfolk.

This was followed by attendance of some members at the very successful ‘Spirit of Sayers – a village arts festival’ at St Mary’s Church, Bluntisham-cum-Earith, where DLS’s father was Rector.

A special thank-you to the International Crime Fiction Association for their kind Tweet about our website and notice of their conference in 2018:

Crime Fiction Assoc‏ @CrimeFic  Sep 17

Wonderful resource at  so if you want a paper for take a look! @DLSSoc

Annual Convention Report

The Society’s Annual Convention (11-14 August) was held at the University of Essex, Colchester campus. The Society’s new website was live for the first time and delegates were able to see the changes that had been made.  Like all websites, it is a work in progress and changes can be made at any time.

  Alison Hall

Alison Hall

There were many enjoyable talks and activities.  Society Archivist Alison Hall gave a talk entitled ‘Public Opinion -The Bishop and the BBC: Letters about The Man Born to be King.  This was a fascinating look behind the scenes at the challenges faced by DLS and the BBC in the broadcasting of the play.

Dr Jennifer Palmer then spoke to delegates on ‘The 1930s as reflected in the Detective Fiction of Dorothy L. Sayers’.  This informative talk ranged over contemporary attitudes, clothing, the status of women, politics, food, travel and the after-effects of the Great War.

Nigel Simeone gave a moving presentation entitled ‘What Passing Bells: Music in the Great War’ the focus of which was composers (British, Australian, Italian, French and German) who had been involved in the war and the music they composed: George Butterworth, Rudi Stephan, Frances Purcell Warren, Frederick Septimus Kelly, William Denis Browne, Cecil Coles, Arthur Bliss, Tulio Serafin, Ezio Pinza and Ralph Vaughan Williams. Nigel played excerpts from their music and described their service in the war and, all too often, their deaths during the conflict.

Professor Suzanne Bray gave a talk ‘Creed or Chaos: Varying the Words a Trifle’. The talk centred on the writings by DLS that made up the volume Creed or Chaos, a collection dated between 1938-1945.  Suzanne outlined DLS’s commitment to Christianity and her response to the conflict around her, giving examples of DLS’s spiritual development and her inspiration to others in troubled times.

Holy Communion from the Book of Common Prayer was held on the Sunday of the Convention, celebrated by the Reverend Alan Jesson.

In the afternoon, Claiborne Ray presented some excerpts from films involving screenplays written as adaptations of fiction by DLS.  Ealing Studio’s 1935 production of Silent Passenger as rewritten by the studio had an enjoyable bad script and the dialogue caused a good deal of merriment. We heard some excerpts from radio adaptations of fiction featuring Lord Peter Wimsey.  We were also treated to a screening of excerpts from a 1940 film of Busman’s Honeymoon, featuring Robert Montgomery as Lord Peter (sweet but dim) and Constance Cummings as Harriet (not dressed in cloth of gold but in a ridiculous headdress and veil). Some adaptations have not stood the test of time!

A rehearsed play reading of Busman’s Honeymoon then followed and it has to be said it was a lot better (and stuck more to the original) than the 1940 film adaptation.  Alan Jesson was a marvellous Lord Peter (not a bit dim) and Harriet was cleverly played by Lenelle Davis with Richard Birkett as a scene-stealing Frank Crutchley. Gillian Hill sensitively portrayed Aggie Twitterton and David Doughan, complete with excess knitwear, was Mr Puffett, the chimney sweep.  Hilary Robinson was Martha Ruddle, Chris Seymour was delightfully vague as the Rev’d. Goodacre and Carol Bagnall played Mr McBride. Our Vice President, Philip Scowcroft played P.C. Sellon, with our Chair, Seona Ford, directing.

Reading of Busman's Honeymoon.jpg

 Monday Morning began with a talk from Vice Chair, Geraldine Perriam, ‘ “The Courts or a Horsewhip”: DLS Reviewer and Reviewed’.  The title of the talk came from a quotation from historian, Professor Sir David Cannadine.  The theme of the talk was the art of reviewing with particular focus on Taking Detective Stories Seriously (available from the Society), a newly published volume of reviews written by DLS for The Sunday Times between 1933 and 1935, edited and introduced by Chair of the Crime Writers’ Association, Martin Edwards.  Also discussed were reviews of DLS’s detective fiction.  It was noted that these were largely positive until the publication of Gaudy Night when detective fiction reviewers felt that the detection was less prominent in the novels.

DLS read and reviewed three novels per week which was quite a feat during a busy, working life.  The reviews are packed full of knowledgeable critique of the genre, funny asides and a genuine understanding of what readers want from detective fiction.  This collection of her reviews is enjoyable and informative reading for anyone interested in Golden Age fiction.

The final session was a series of memories of ‘Dorothy in Essex’ read by members of the Society. Seona Ford had prepared the readings, selecting them from the Society Archive.  Seona’s father, Dr Jim Denholm, who was DLS’s GP, recalled DLS having the biggest ashtray he had ever seen.  Others described DLS’s life in Witham, where she lived with her husband Mac, her enjoyment of long baths and her dedication to completing The Times crossword.

Some delegates then returned to Witham to explore DLS’s home town.