You may remember one of my first articles about “Famous Filming Castles You Can Visit”. Well now it’s time to look at some of the grandest residences in the United Kingdom where many a period drama programme and film have been shot. As the upkeep on these homes, just as with castles, can be pretty expensive, many are open to the public to raise revenue necessary for their maintenance. So, whether you want to pretend you’re a valet on Downton Abbey or hope to see Mr. Darcy walking the lawn in a wet shirt, here are some more places to visit.
1. Mentmore Towers
Built in 1855 for Baron Meyer Amschel de Rothschild, the house’s architect, Joseph Paxton, had previously designed the Crystal Palace for the Great Exhibition of 1851. Following his death in 1874 and his wife’s in 1877, the house passed to their daughter Hannah Primrose, the Countess of Rosebery, and her husband Archibald, the Fifth Earl of Rosebery and future Prime Minister. After the Sixth Earl’s death in 1974, the home went through a series of owners, ending up in the hands of the Rueben Brothers in 2009 with plans to develop it into a hotel. During World War II, it housed the Gold State Coach to protect it from the German bombing. As a film location, it has appeared in numerous pictures including “Brazil”, “Eyes Wide Shut”, “Quills”, and “The Mummy Returns”. It’s most famous recent film use is as Wayne Manor for “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight Rises”. While the house’s status as a hotel is still being worked out, the Mentmore Golf and Country Club exists on the grounds nearby with available memberships.
2. Hatfield House
This great manor home was built in 1611 by Robert Cecil, the First Earl of Salisbury and Chief Minister to King James I. Cecil’s grand Jacobean house joined with the previously built Hatfield Palace that was home to Mary I and Elizabeth I early in their lives. The Elizabeth Oak on the grounds is reportedly where she found out that Mary died and she had become queen. Hatfield also has many film credits including as the interior of Wayne Manor in Tim Burton’s “Batman”, “V for Vendetta”, “The King’s Speech”, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”, and more. The gardens also played host to the model village in “Hot Fuzz”. Additionally, the House has a farm that visitors can tour. Visitor season runs from March 30 to September 29.
3. Knole House
Thomas Bourchier, the Archbishop of Canterbury, built the house sometime around 1456. Later on, it became a Royal Tudor residence in 1532 after Henry VIII acquired it and was altered as a Jacobean country house in 1605. It was then leased to the Sackville family and part of the home is still a residence for the Sackville-Wests. The rest of the house is in the care of the National Trust and is available to tour every day of the week except Mondays. The Beatles filmed videos for “Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields Forever” there. Films made at Knole include “The Other Boleyn Girl”, “Burke and Hare”, “Hysteria”, “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows”, and “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”. In January 2012, the National Trust began a campaign to restore portions of the house, and sections of it are still covered in scaffolding as repairs continue.
4. Lyme Park
Another home in the care of the National Trust, the house was built sometime in the late 15th century. Located in Cheshire, numerous additions over the centuries have led it to have a combination of Elizabethan, Palladian, and Baroque styles. In addition to the gardens for which most manor homes are known, Lyme also has a deer park where red deer and fallow deer graze alongside cattle. Its most famous media appearance is as Pemberly, Mr. Darcy’s estate in the BBC mini-series “Pride and Prejudice”. Though the interiors were filmed in another home, riding up to Lyme Park can still imbue a sense of wonder to visitors as it did to Elizabeth Bennett. Additionally, it was used in the 2011 horror film “The Awakening” and the sci-fi series “Red Dwarf” in the episode “Timeslides”. The house itself is closed on Wednesdays and Thursdays, but the garden and park remain open seven days a week.
5. Highclere Castle
Not really a castle, this stately home is most recently famous as the estate of the Crawley family in “Downton Abbey”. Originally, the site of Highclere was an Anglo-Saxon castle and was recorded in the Domesday Book. Later, another house stood on the site before Sir Charles Barry renovated in 1838 at the request of the 3rd Earl of Carnarvon. The real family that resides within are the Herberts, who have been the Earls and Countesses of Carnarvon since 1793. The Fifth Earl, George Herbert, was the chief financial backer for Howard Carter’s excavations, including King Tut’s tomb, and the estate offers an exhibition of many Egyptian artifacts. Besides “Downton Abbey”, Highclere Castle has been seen in “The Missionary” starring Michael Palin, as the fictional Totleigh Towers from ITV’s “Jeeves and Wooster”, and “King Ralph”. The interior saloon has appeared in “Eyes Wide Shut” and “The Four Feathers”. The Castle, Exhibition, and Grounds are open from July 14 to September 18. Pre-bookable tickets are already sold out, but the website recommends trying your luck as there always tend to be some walk-up tickets available.
Which ones have you been to? Let us know in the comments!