The recent runaway success of TV shows such as Downton Abbey and the Harry Potter films has once again reignited the love of Britain’s many stately homes, castles and mansions. In this article we take a look at a group of movies which showcase the finest castles and houses that the UK has to offer.
1. Harry Potter
Northumbria’s Alnwick Castle has gained worldwide fame as the scene of many of the exterior filming shots for the Harry Potter franchise. Over the course of the first two films, the public saw Alnwick’s impressive walls, turrets and courtyards used to great effect.
Remember the iconic scene in the “Philosopher’s Stone” where Harry and classmates first learn to fly or the crash-landing of the Weasley’s Ford Anglia at the start of the Chamber of Secrets? Alnwick has provided ideal sites for a host of other period films such as Ivanhoe, Elizabeth and Kevin Costner’s take on the Robin Hood legend.
2. Sense and Sensibility
Emma Thompson’s 1995 screenplay of the Jane Austen classic earned her an Academy Award for her writing, yet in many ways it is the backdrops and locations that steal the movie. The film showcases a number of National Trust properties and stately homes including Devon’s Saltram House and the impressive Montacute House in Somerset, a Grade I listed building.
The iconic wedding scene was filmed in the spectacular village church at Berry Pomeroy, close to Totnes in Devon.
3. Gosford Park
Downton Abbey has become beloved worldwide for its recreation of life at a stately home in the early Twentieth Century, focusing both on the upper class family who own it and the array of servants, cooks, butlers and assorted staff who run the estate. Yet a decade before Downton hit our screens, series creator Julian Fellowes wrote and helped produce Gosford Park.
Set in 1932, it follows the fortunes of aristocrat William McCordle (Michael Gambon), his friends and family and their servants, all of whom are caught up in intrigue and suspense surrounding the family fortune. A number of key movie locations were used for principal filming including Hall Barn in Buckinghamshire, employed as the home of Maggie Smith’s Lady Trentham, and Syon House.
4. The Young Victoria
Based on the years immediately preceding and following her coronation in 1837, this tale of Queen Victoria and her romance with Prince Albert is filled with lavish locations and impressive buildings.
Whilst it was not possible to gain access to the real Buckingham Palace for filming, a range of royal residences and palaces were incorporated into the production, including Hampton Court Palace and the magnificent Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire. Lincoln Cathedral makes an impressive substitute for Westminster Abbey for the coronation scenes, while Arundel Castle is also used for both interior and exterior shots.
5. The Duchess
Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire, was a popular figure in the 18th Century, and her part-triumphant yet often-tragic story was brought to life in 2008, with Keira Knightley in the title role.
Whilst featuring many scenes shot in and around London, it is again the stately homes and mansion houses of Georgian and Elizabethan England that are used to best effect – Derbyshire’s Chatsworth House was a regular spot for filming, and other locations used in the movie include Somerset House, Clandon Park and Bath’s noted Georgian houses.