'Father Brown's' adviser on Songs of Praise

Ann Widdecombe with Fr Tony Nye SJ in Blockley
Ann Widdecombe with Fr Tony Nye SJ in Blockley

The fourth series of Father Brown starts on BBC1 next week – and the Jesuit who advises on Catholic authenticity in the 1950s detective drama is featured on next weekend’s Songs of Praise.

Presenter Ann Widdecombe visits the Gloucestershire village of Blockley where Father Brown is filmed and goes behind the scenes to meet some of the team responsible for bringing G.K.Chesterton’s characters and stories to the small screen.  As well as meeting Mark Williams, who plays the title character, she also uncovers the lengths the production goes to in ensuring the series is religiously accurate for its viewers. The priest charged with this is Fr Tony Nye SJ from the Mount Street Jesuit Community in central London – one of the team of clergy at Farm Street Church.

This will be the second series of Father Brown with which Fr Nye has been involved and he says he has been pleasantly surprised that working through the 25 scripts has not taken as much time as he expected. “My main role has been to keep an eye open for inauthentic words or phrases for Catholicism in the 1950s,” he explains. “This sometimes involved doing some research into the right Latin formulae or the Douai version of Scripture.” And for this he found the Mount Street Archives particularly helpful.

Adapting the local village churchMark Williams and the cast of 'Father Brown' on location

Fr Nye’s role as religious adviser also took him on location during filming, which was particularly important since the church used in the TV drama is in fact an Anglican church, with its origins in the Norman period. The foundations of St Peter and St Paul Church date back to 1180, although the church was restored and the north porch was added in 1871. “I went a couple of times to see filming on set in the West Country,” explains Fr Nye, “especially to make sure that the local village church they were using was sufficiently adapted to become RC.”

Since retiring from politics at the 2010 General Election, Ann Widdecombe has concentrated on writing and television presentation. A convert to Catholicism since 1993, she had to turn down an offer to be Britain's next ambassador to the Holy See, due to a detached retina. In 2013, she was made a Dame of the Order of St Gregory the Great by Pope Benedict XVI for services to politics and public life. “Ann asked just the right questions,” says Fr Nye, “and was so much at home in TV that she easily subdued any ‘stage fright’ on my part.” He also considered her a “stimulating lunch companion” over bangers and chips in the local village café.

Songs of Praise from the set of Father Brown will be broadcast on Sunday 3 January. Series 4 of Father Brown starts on BBC1 on Monday 4 January and will be shown daily at 1.45pm for two weeks.

Photos courtesy of the BBC.