Sir John Betjeman (1906-1984), poet, broadcaster and architectural historian, was the son of E. E. Betjeman and was educated at Marlborough College before going up to Magdalen College, Oxford in 1925. He married Penelope Valentine Hester (ne Chetwode) in 1933, and the couple had one son and a daughter. He began publishing poetry and pieces on topography and architecture, subjects which continued to occupy him throughout his life, in the Twenties and obtained a job at The Architectural Review in 1930. Betjeman succeeded Cecil Day Lewis as Poet Laureate in 1972, and he was to hold the position until his death. He has been described as a 'national monument', the most popular poet Laureate of the twentieth-century. Certainly his poetry, including a verse autobiography Summoned by Bells (1960), reached a wide audience, and he raised the public profile of architectural history, particularly that of English Parish Churches, through his published writings and his popular television broadcasts on this topic.
Betjeman accompanied his family on holidays in Trebetherick, North Cornwall, as a boy and he retained a life-long affection for and association with the region which is reflected in his publications, including Victorian and Edwardian Cornwall from Old Photographs, compiled by John Betjeman and A.L. Rowse (1976) and Betjeman's Cornwall (1984).
An immensely well-known and well-loved public figure, Betjeman was friends with a great many poets and writers of his day, including the novelist Kingsley Amis, the writer and critic Cyril Connolly, the cricket commentator John Arlott, and the Sitwell family, as well as many younger writers, including the man who was to succeed him as Poet Laureate, Ted Hughes. Betjeman's working library includes many books gifted and inscribed to Betjeman by these, and other prominent literary and public figures of the twentieth-century. He was knighted in 1969, awarded a CBE in 1960, and a CLitt in 1968.