One of the many things that I love to do is to visit the historic stately homes that are scattered through the English countryside. Whether these are privately owned or operated by organisations such as the National Trust, I can’t help but imagine what life was like, if only the walls could talk, I’m sure they have lots of secrets to share. What better places to bring to life the romance and intrigue of past centuries. If you are a true romantic, like myself, then you may have seen some of these houses being used in films and period dramas. Here are a few of my favourites:
Chatsworth House, Derbyshire,
Pride and Predudice (2005), The Duchess (2008) and Death Comes to Pemberley (2013)
It’s been quite a few years since I visited Chatworth and I think this year might be the time to revisit. Chatsworth is the home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, and has been the family home of the Cavendish family since 1549. Standing on the east bank of the River Derwent, Chatsworth looks across to the low hills that divide the Derwent and Wye valleys. The house which is set in expansive parkland contains a unique collection of priceless paintings, furniture, Old Master drawings, neoclassical sculptures, books and other artefacts. Chatsworth has been selected as the United Kingdom’s favourite country house several times. It was named in the Pride and Predudice novel as one of the estates Elizabeth Bennet visits before arriving at Pemberley. Represented Pemberley, Mr Darcy’s home in the film adaptation of Pride and Predudice.
Claydon House, Buckinghamshire,
Far from the Madding Crowd (May 2015)
Claydon House will appear on the silver screen this spring in the latest adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s classic novel Far from the Madding Crowd. Starring Carey Mulligan as Bathsheba Everdene and Michael Sheen as William Boldwood, the crew spent ten days at Claydon, which doubles up as Mr. Boldwood’s mansion. Fans of the novel won’t be disappointed with the dramatic Christmas party scenes, which saw Claydon lavishly dressed with Christmas trees, mistletoe and garlands. Hardy’s Cottage in Dorset where the novelist was born and wrote Far from the Madding Crowd is also looked after by The National Trust as well as the home he designed in 1885, Max Gate in Dorchester. And just last year Slepe Heath, a magical heathland in Dorset which inspired Hardy was also acquired.
Ham House, Surrey,
Anna Karenina (2012)
Ham House has been on my ‘to visit’ list for a couple of years now, so I really must plan a trip soon. In Anna Karenina, Joe Wright’s adaptation of the classic tale of love and adultery, Ham House, in Richmond-upon-Thames was transformed into grand Russian apartments. The Long Gallery on the first floor of the house with its opulent Baroque decor, fine oil paintings and parquet floor meant it was picture-perfect to play the role of Vronsky’s grand but empty apartments in nineteenth century St Petersburg. Ham House is regarded as one of the best-kept secrets in the British film industry with location managers appreciating its versatility and directors seduced by its good looks. Recent shoots include Disney’s John Carter, Never Let Me Go and The Young Victoria.
Highclere Castle, Oxfordshire,
Downton Abbey (current ITV series)
I visited Highclere over three years ago but everytime I watch Downton Abbey I remember it like it was yesterday. It is exactly as it is in the drama series and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. Highclere is still in the private ownership of the Carnarvon family, having been at the castle since 1679. In 1838, the 3rd Earl of Carnarvon brought in Sir Charles Barry to transform his home into a grand mansion which would impress the world and epitomised the confidence and glamour of the Edwardian period in the first few years of the twentieth century. During the First World War, Almina, the 5th Countess of Carnarvon, transformed the Castle into a hospital, and patients began to arrive from Flanders in September 1914. The Castle returned to a private home and in 1922 the 5th Earl of Carnarvon and Howard Carter discovered the tomb of Tutankhamun, the first global world media event.
Kedleston Hall, Derbyshire,
The Duchess (2008)
Designed to impress and amaze, Kedleston is a stunning example of eighteenth century architecture and it comes as no surprise that it was chosen as one of the major locations for the period blockbuster, The Duchess. Starring Keira Knightley, the film delves into the life of Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire, who lived a life of political and romantic intrigue in the eighteenth-century. Filming at Kedleston spanned four weeks and at least six different rooms in the property were used.
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011), The Other Boleyn Girl (2008)
The cast and crew from Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows came to Knole, transforming the stone court into the courtyard of a Swiss castle for the arrival of Professor Moriarty, arch-enemy of Conan Doyle’s famous detective. Geoffrey Rush came to film crucial scenes for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. While in 2008, it took centre stage for the adaptation of Philippa Gregory’s bestselling novel, The Other Boleyn Girl, the story of the Boleyn sisters, Anne and Mary, as they competed for love of King Henry VIII. In reality, Knole has a link to King Henry himself. He was so impressed by the beauty of Knole that in 1538 he asked Thomas Cranmer, his Archbishop of Canterbury, to hand the property over to him.
Lacock Abbey, Wiltshire,
The Other Boleyn Girl (2008), Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (2009), Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002), Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone (2001)
The Abbey at the heart of Lacock Village has experienced its fair share of the limelight. Founded in 1232 and converted into a country house in the 1540s, the atmospheric monastic rooms include medieval cloisters, a sacristy and chapter house. The Abbey’s cloisters and side rooms were transformed into the magical classrooms of the famous ‘Hogwarts’, while the village was a backdrop for outdoor scenes with Harry and Dumbledore. The Abbey was also immortalised as the beautiful chambers of Catherine of Aragon for filming of The Other Boleyn Girl.
White Edge Lodge, Derbyshire,
Jane Eyre (2011)
This holiday cottage made its way to the silver screen in Cary Fukunaga’s adaptation of Jane Eyre. Surrounded by wide expanses of open heather moorland, this cottage has breathtaking views in all directions. The lodge has many interesting and original interior features including a kitchen in the former game cellar and a beautifully designed bathroom with a fine moorland view from the bathtub.
I can’t wait to visit some of these amazing places this year and indulge my romantic side.
In association with the National Trust.