What would Jonathan Swift (1667-1745) have thought about shrinking Blenheim on the big screen in order to make a backdrop for Mr Lemuel Gulliver in the new 3D film, Gulliver’s Travels, to be released on Boxing Day?

Probably he would have enjoyed the firework display of special effects showing off just what can be done these days with new technology — in much the same way as Lewis Carroll might have enjoyed the pastiche of his Alice in Wonderland, directed by Tim Burton and released earlier this year.

After all, both books offer irresistible opportunities for Hollywood to make actors (in the case of Gulliver, Jack Black) larger than life.

But Mr Swift was well used to watching impressive but useless scientific pyrotechnics at the Royal Society — founded 450 years ago this year at the instigation of the Warden of Wadham College, Oxford, John Wilkins. Indeed, in a satirical swipe at the Royal Society of his day, the flying island of Laputa, which Gulliver visits in the third part of the account of his travels, is portrayed as a kingdom inhabited by people who know much about music and mathematics but are entirely unable to put their knowledge to any practical use whatsoever.

In the new film, directed by Rob Letterman, an American Gulliver hurtles through the Bermuda Triangle and then somehow manages to meet up with British Lilluputians — one twelfth Gulliver’s size — in the shape of comedians Billy Connolly and Catherine Tate. He then sets about recreating Times Square for them — calling himself President Awesome.

As it happens, the original Lemuel Gulliver, though of course a figment of Jonathan Swift’s imagination, came from an Oxfordshire family. A Note to the Reader in the front of the book, published in 1726, states: “Although Mr Gulliver was born in Nottinghamshire, where his father dwelt, yet I have heard him say his family came from Oxfordshire; to confirm which I have observed in the church-yard at Banbury in that county, several tombs and monuments of the Guyllivers.”

Swift may even have written part of Gulliver’s Travels at Cokethorpe Park where he was a frequent guest of Lord Harcourt. The school occupying the mansion now has named one of its houses after him.

He was a member of the Scriblerus Club, a group of thinkers and writers — mainly satirists — which included Alexander Pope (who translated much of the Illiad at another Harcourt house at Stanton Harcourt), and Robert Harley, the Earl of Oxford and Mortimer (1661-1724), who became Queen Anne’s chief minister when the Marlboroughs fell from favour.

Both Oxford and Harcourt were educated at a remarkable school in the village of Shilton, near Burford, run by the Rev Samuel Birch, a former vicar of Bampton, ousted from his living for being a non-conformist. No fewer than 14 of his pupils went on to occupy high Government office.

Curiously enough, the Harcourts feature again in the story of Gulliver.

A later Viscount Harcourt employed landscape gardener and author of the influential book Remarks on Forest Scenery and Other Woodland Views, William Sawrey Gilpin (1762-1843), to lay out the arboretum at Nuneham Courtenay; and Gilpin’s father was already famous for his illustrations of Gulliver’s Travels.

As for Swift’s opinion of Blenheim, depicted in the new film as the Royal Palace of Lilliput, we know only what he thought of its architect Vanbrugh — whose house in Whitehall (now destroyed) he described as resembling a Goose-pie.

Certainly he poked fun at the very idea of Vanbrugh being commissioned to design the palace.

Doubtless he would have chuckled at the mock epitaph to the architect by fellow satirist and chaplain of St John’s College, Oxford, Dr Abel Evans (1679-1737): “Lie heavy on him, earth! for he/ Laid many heavy loads on thee.”