Film & TV locations around England
Visit Hollywood and, apart from Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, in front of which the hands, feet and other reminders of stars are imprinted on the sidewalk, the excellent Universal Studios Tour, or a chance encounter with a ‘celeb’ on Rodeo Drive, one of the major attractions is the Homes Of The Stars Tour.
While the UK is not Hollywood and parking outside stars’ abodes is not really the done thing in St George’s, Weybridge, England does possess a wealth of film and television set locations that have become immensely popular for visitors from the UK and abroad. Of course London has provided a backdrop to innumerable movies and television shows over the years and Hollywood stars have seldom been averse to plying their trade in the nation’s capital.
The latest ‘The Sweeney’ movie, featuring the British actor, Ray Winstone, and talented pop-singer, Ben Drew (aka. Plan B), was filmed almost entirely in London, although Surrey received a break, at the Chobham Test facility. Also known as Longcross, it is not far from Woking and you can gain access to it, should you participate in any of the commercial track days taking place there (www.trackdays.co.uk), at which you might also gain the full-on high-speed driving experience.
A vast number of driving scenes are shot at Chobham/Longcross, especially for TV series such as ‘Eastenders’ and ‘Hustle’, because necessary ‘set-ups’ for car crashes and the like can be carried out there, in complete privacy, off public roads. While contemplating driving venues, another private test facility, at Millbrook (www.locationmillbrook.co.uk), near Bedford, has been used extensively by the James Bond 007 movie franchise.
Many car stunts have been carried out on the venue’s various routes, which include the much-viewed Aston Martin crash, at the start of ‘Casino Royale’, which earned its place in the Guinness Book of Records for the most number of rollovers completed (seven!). The facility also has hills, fields and woodland used widely by TV and film producers.
History plays its part in the UK. For the costume drama or period film, an immense range of classical settings, mostly devoid of modern tell-tales, such as telephone cables and electricity pylons, are manna from heaven for the typical locations manager. Hever Castle, in Kent, was actually home to the Boleyn family and has been seen on screen recently, in ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ and also the film ‘Elizabeth: The Golden Age’.
You could easily create your own driving tour of Kent, as the village of Pluckley, as well as being regarded as one of the UK’s most haunted places, was also home to the early-1990s TV series, featuring the inimitable David Jason and Pam Ferris in its starring
roles, ‘The Darling Buds Of May’. Six miles south of Canterbury is the lovely hamlet of Chilham, with its half-timbered houses and village green. It has provided a suitable location for films like the 1944 classic, ‘A Canterbury Tale’, as well as a backdrop for 1965’s ‘The Amorous Adventures Of Moll Flanders’, starring Kim Novak and Leo McKern. More recently, it provided a home to 2009’s BBC adaptation of the Jane Austen novel, ‘Emma’, as well as some episodes of ‘Miss Marple’ and ‘Poirot’.
Of course, Brighton’s coastal fame is the stuff of legends and The Grand Hotel, a prominent venue on the promenade, received some unwelcome attention, when it was attacked by the IRA during a Conservative Party political conference held in 1984. However, rock artist, Sting (Gordon Sumner), played the role of ‘Ace’, the hotel concierge in the classic mod movement film, ‘Quadrophenia’. Have a look up East Street Alley, where messages from fans cover the walls liberally.
Accompanied by the music of rock band, The Who, the film used several locations around Brighton and Hove, as did another British actor, Bob Hoskins, in the 1986 weepie, ‘Mona Lisa’. Two versions of the movie, ‘Brighton Rock’, the 1947 original featuring Richard
Attenborough and Hermione Baddeley and the 2010 alternative with Sam Riley in the starring role, supported by Helen Mirren, also featured both The Grand and Brighton Pier.
While The Grand offers a great place to stay, any one of the fashionable boutique hotels, such as Hotel du Vin, Nineteen, Seaspray and Hotel Una will provide ample proof that Brighton is as chic as most of its attractions.
Of course, zipping back to London might take you to Notting Hill, not least to 280 Westbourne Park Road, the blue door of which featured heavily in the 1999 film of the same name, starring Hugh Grant, Julia Roberts and Rhys Ifans.
We shall talk Harry Potter in a moment but London has been focal to film and TV fans for many years. The 1993 biopic about The Beatles, ‘Backbeat’, descended on The Dome, at Tufnell Park, which doubled for Hamburg’s Top Ten Club. However, the 1989 film, ‘Batman’, relied on the disused Acton Power Station for the scene in which Jack Nicholson (The Joker) plunged into a chemical bath. The same venue was home to both Ridley Scott’s ‘Alien’ and James Cameron’s ‘Aliens’ movies.
There are few international TV fans that remain unmoved by the Julian Fellowes-penned fictional drama about Lord Grantham, played by Hugh Bonneville, and ‘his family’, who reside at ‘Downton Abbey’. The spectacular stately home is actually Highclere Castle, near Newbury, in Oxfordshire. It remains the home to the Earl of Carnarvon, whose ancestor found the tomb of King Tutankhamen. The quaint village of Bampton, also in Oxfordshire, is used for many of the outdoor scenes for the series, which purports to be based somewhere in Yorkshire. Local hotel, The Vineyard, features a Michelin starred chef and one of the most extensive wine lists in the UK. Its luxurious rooms are exceptional and, as a useful base for travelling the area, it is less than 10 minutes away from Highclere.
Venture into the High Peaks district of Derbyshire and you will encounter the charming village of Hadfield, which provided a home to BBC TV’s League of Gentlemen and their wacky, off-the-wall humour. It was renamed ‘Royston Vasey’ for both the series and the
subsequent film production. Popular TV series, ‘Peak Practice’, was filmed at Crich, in Derbyshire. ‘Middlemarch’, a TV adaptation of the George Eliot novel, was shot at Sudbury Hall, in the county. A luxurious spa hotel, Losehill House, is not far from the lovely village of Hope and, as a ‘best kept secret’ it would make a fine place from which to visit film and TV locations in the area.
Close to the town of Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, is the village of Holmfirth, popularised by Norah Batty and her ‘wrinkled stockings’, after which a local cafeteria is named. The long-running comedy series, ‘The Last Of The Summer Wine’, enjoyed a fantastic relationship with the village but it is no longer produced. Yet, re-runs of the shows are repeated constantly on TV and the beautiful scenery of the local area remains a huge attraction.
Meanwhile, Heath Ledger and Kate Hudson shot the film, ‘The Four Feathers’, about cowardice and courage during the turn of the 20th century, in Rutland, England’s smallest county, which was also at the receiving end of Eric Idle’s comedy in the series, ‘Rutland Weekend Television’. Also in the vicinity is Belton House, near Grantham, Lincolnshire, which provided a stately home base for ‘Pride And Prejudice’, while both Grimsthorpe Castle and the nearby historic town of Stamford, in Lincolnshire, have played host to several TV costume dramas. The famous George Hotel at Stamford is a welcoming and first-class residence for any trips around this part of England. For an even more exclusive stay, you could try the stateliness of Stapleford Park, near Melton Mowbray, with its individually styled and furnished rooms, excellent use of local produce and one of the best English breakfasts ever.
While in the area, Belvoir Castle, on the Nottinghamshire/Lincolnshire border, was used extensively in the 1999 spine-tingling thriller, ‘The Haunting’, which featured both Catherine Zeta-Jones and Liam Neeson as its stars. Lincoln Cathedral shared the billing with Winchester Cathedral for their roles in the movie version of the Dan Brown novel, ‘The Da Vinci Code’, which also used the famous wartime airfield of Biggin Hill, in Kent.
Should you happen to be in the vicinity of Ely Cathedral, Cambridgeshire, a magnificent place that does not need a movie location to justify a visit, bear in mind that it was used as a stand-in for Westminster Cathedral. Several scenes of the much-lauded 2010 Colin Firth oeuvre, ‘The King’s Speech’, were shot inside the historic building.
Scottish actor, Robert Carlyle, has an affinity for the Midlands area, having not only starred in 1997’s ‘The Full Monty’, which was based on the town of Bolsover, near Chesterfield, but also in ‘Once Upon A Time In The Midlands’ (2002), which gave the City of Nottingham some much needed fame, considering that it was once the home to the ITV soap, ‘Crossroads’. Again, Losehill House is ideally located for overnight stays but there are also some delightful country-style hotels near Sheffield, including Mosborough Hall and Whitley Hall Hotel.
Fans of the Harry Potter film dynasty, apart from enjoying the movie experience at Leavesden, on the north side of the A41, near Watford, Hertfordshire, can also indulge their fantasies in the north of England. Goathland Station, which serves as a stopping point for the fictional town of Aidensfield, in the TV series ‘Heartbeat’, was also transformed into ‘Hogsmeade’ for the first film of the Harry Potter series. A little further north, Alnwick Castle in Northumberland provided its wonderful stone ramparts for several Harry Potter films, although the venue was also selected by Hollywood for the Kevin Costner blockbuster, ‘Robin Hood, Prince Of Thieves’, as well as the Disney fantasy, ‘The
Spaceman And King Arthur’.
Castle Howard, just off the main York to Scarborough road (A64), was home to the film and TV cast of ‘Brideshead Revisited’, which also used the wonderful art deco interior of London’s Eltham Palace, to recreate the ‘Ocean Lounge’ for the series. That same location was also used in ‘The Gathering Storm’, ‘High Heels, Low Lifes’, ‘Bright Young Things’ and TV’s ‘Hustle’.
Kettlewell, on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales, was the setting for the delightful film, ‘Calendar Girls’, featuring Helen Mirren, Julie Walters and John Alderton, among a stellar cast. Popular children‘s film, ‘The Railway Children’ used locations around the Yorkshire town of Keighley and the Worth Valley Railway, while the long-running North Yorkshire veterinary TV series and film, ’All Creatures Great And Small’, were shot around Thirsk, Malton and Pickering, all in North Yorkshire.
The village of Esholt, near Shipley, just north of Bradford, West Yorkshire, used to be the home to the long-running ITV soap, ‘Emmerdale’, although a new purpose-built ‘village’, which is a closed set, was established within the Harewood House Estate (www.harewood.org), just south of Harrogate, in the early-1990s. The same venue has been used by ‘Heartbeat’, ‘A Touch Of Frost’, ‘At Home With The Braithwaites’, ‘The Royal’ and ‘Lost In Austen’. Should you be seeking pleasant overnight accommodation, the Hotel du Vin and The Old Swan Hotel are among a wide selection of places to stay in historic Harrogate.
The actual list of films and TV series that have been shot in England is immense and we have not managed to touch on Scotland, Wales, the South-West and Ireland, which we shall save for future issues.
Film and TV locations facts
While travelling around England and spotting the various film and television locations, finding a decent local hotel could be useful. The following venues are mentioned in the story and their web-site addresses are noted here:
All prices and details were correct when published in tlm - the travel & leisure magazine, please check before you visit.