One of the country's many celebrations honouring the late John Betjeman centenary was the unveiling of a Blue Plaque at Garrards Farmhouse, Uffington, where the poet lived from 1934 until the outbreak of the Second World War.

Appropriately, the unveiling was carried out by poet and broadcaster Pam Ayres, who read out her own poetical tribute to Uffington before drawing back the velvet curtain to reveal the new plaque.

Betjeman's association with Uffington and the Vale of the White Horse inspired some of his most evocative and nostalgic poetry. But his most famous work, Summoned by Bells, captured his student days at Oxford, as well as his London childhood.

Its title has been borrowed for a special exhibition at the Bodleian Library, which focuses on the poet's Oxford links through displays of original manuscripts, books and artwork.

He was born at Parliament Hill Mansions, near Hampstead Heath, London, on August 28,1906. His acquaintance with Oxford began ten years later when he became a boarder at the Dragon School in Bardwell Road, Summertown.

Even at this tender age, he began to show an appreciation of the architecture and countryside - two passions that would shape his career as architectural writer, broadcaster and campaigner, and influence much of his poetry. Church architecture held a particular fascination for him, and he would cycle around the local villages to admire the distinctive features of the different churches.

In 1925, he became an undergraduate at Magdalen College, where he took an instant dislike to his tutor, Narnia creator CS Lewis. The two men were as opposite as they could be; Lewis, according to his disparaging student, was a "breezy, tweedy, beer-drinking" man, while Betjeman became one of the aesthetic set, cultivating the friendship of other poets such as WH Auden and Louis MacNeice.

Auden was at Christ Church, which attracted the kind of well-to-do young men that Evelyn Waugh captured so effectively in Brideshead Revisited. Later, Betjeman wrote appreciatively: "There was always an atmosphere of leisure surrounding Christ Church undergraduates. They gave the impression they were just dropping in on Oxford on their way to a seat in the House of Lords."

Betjeman embraced student life enthusiastically, relishing the opportunities for socialising and for pursuing his ever-growing interest in architecture. His literary talents flourished, too. He became editor of the University magazine Cherwell, and contributed poetry to another, Isis. He was renowned for carrying his teddy bear, Archie, wherever he went, and Evelyn Waugh is believed to have used Archie as the model for Sebastian Flyte's bear, Aloysius, in Brideshead Revisited.

Sadly, Betjeman's antics led to him failing his Divinty exam, and he left Oxford in 1928 without a degree. But the city always held a special place in his affections, and found its way into much of his later poetry. He was particularly fond of North Oxford, with its "gabled-gothic houses", "lace curtains" and "sundry old Professors".

More significantly, the city inspired much of the autobiographical verse epic Summoned by Bells, published in1960. One of the most poignant sections captures his despair at failing to obtain his degree, while also beautifully evoking Oxford's charm and traditions: "Failed in Divinity! O, towers and spires!

Could no one help? Was nothing to be done?

No. No one. Nothing. Mercilessly calm, The Cherwell carried under Magdalen Bridge Its leisured puntfuls of the fortunate Who next term and the next would still come back.

Could no one help? I'd seen myself a don, Reading old poets in the library, Attending chapel in an M.A. gown And sipping vintage port by candlelight."

Betjeman may have left Oxford a failure, but within two years he had become Assistant Editor of the Architectural Review, and quickly established a reputation for his expertise on architecture. He was a particular admirer of Victorian architecture, and began to champion a revival of the Gothic style, as well as campaigning vigorously for the survival of threatened buildings. His most notable published works in this field were Ghastly Good Taste, or the Depressing Rise and Fall of British Architecture (1933) and his series of Shell Guides to Britain. He was also later to become a distinguished broadcaster, producing several documentaries on the state of British architecture.

Betjeman's work as poet, journalist and broadcaster was recognised with a knighthood in 1969, and he became Poet Laureate in 1972.

His final collection of poems, A Nip in the Air, was published in 1974. Sadly, he was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease soon after, and he also suffered a series of strokes. He died on 19th May 1984 at his Cornish home of Trebetherick, and he was buried at St Enodoc Church.

Over two decades later, he is still held in widespread esteem for his lyrical, witty and gently satirical poetry, which so evocatively captured an English way of life that is fast disappearing. The range of events being held countrywide to celebrate his centenary is testament to the affection his work still inspires.

Local Centenary Events Summoned by Bells: John Betjeman and Oxford. Centenary exhibition at the Bodleian Library, Oxford. Open Mon-Fri 9am-5pm; Sat 9am-4.30pm, until 28th October 2006. Admission free. Tom Brown's School Museum Exhibition, Uffington. Exhibition of personal artefacts and letters relating to Betjeman's Uffington days. Open weekends and Bank Holidays, 2pm-5pm, until 29th October 2006. Admission free. Further Afield British Library Exhibition, London, focusing on Betjeman's literary output. Open daily until 8th October. Admission free. Sir John Soane's Museum, London. Exhibition focusing on Betjeman's work as architectural author and campaigner, with previously unseen artefacts and video footage. Open Tues-Sat, 10am-5pm, until 30th December 2006. Admission free. The John Betjeman Gala is at the Prince of Wales Theatre, London, on Sunday, September 10, 2006, in aid of Sane. Variety performance with star-studded line-up. Box office: 0870 850 0938; For further details of these and other events, visit