Kent Reeling in the Film Credits
The lush rural landscape and striking coastline of Kent boasts a history just as rich – and many of our important local attractions have inspired countless stories, today providing the backdrop to television and film versions of real-life tales…
Leading the way is the Tudor dynasty, with its stories of political intrigue and tempestuous relationships, starring Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, Thomas Cromwell, and Edward VI – and now the Kent County Council Film Office, working with Visit Kent, has produced a brand new Tudor-themed tourism trail of film and TV locations that have appeared in or inspired big and small screen period productions, as well as some of the county’s spectacular Tudor heritage sites.
Titled The Tudor(ish) Trail, this journey across Kent highlights the county’s role during this turbulent time in history as well as eight destinations which have featured in a dozen films and television projects set during the Tudor period.
The first Tudor-based production to film in Kent was the 1979 film Anne of the Thousand Days, starring Richard Burton. The production chose to film at the real life seat of the Boleyn family, Hever Castle, as well as Penshurst Place, once owned by Henry VIII.
Penshurst Place has made frequent appearances in Tudor-related productions, including the much-hyped second BBC series of The Hollow Crown. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Richard III as well as Dame Judi Dench, Hugh Bonneville and Sophie Okenedo, The Hollow Crown aired in May and was filmed at Leeds Castle, Dover Castle and Penshurst Place.
The Medieval and Tudor manor house, with its formal Elizabethan gardens, again provided the setting for the 2008 big screen version of Philippa Gregory’s bestselling novel, The Other Boleyn Girl, starring Scarlett Johansson as the one-time mistress of King Henry VIII (played by Eric Bana) and Natalie Portman as Anne, who became the monarch’s ill-fated second wife.
The estate also played host to last year’s hit British drama Wolf Hall which charted the meteoric rise of Thomas Cromwell in the Tudor Court, from his humble beginnings as a blacksmith’s son as he navigates the corridors of power in the Tudor court to becoming Henry VIII’s closest advisor.
Based on Hilary Mantel’s Booker Prize-winning novels, Wolf Hall, the BBC series starred Mark Rylance, Damian Lewis, Claire Foy, Mark Gatiss and Jonathan Pryce. Dover Castle, one of the most iconic of all the English fortresses, guarding the gateway to the realm for nine centuries, doubled as The Tower of London for the scenes of Anne Boleyn’s execution.
Caught on Camera
The 17th century manor house, gardens, woodlands and lake at Groombridge Place provided the ideal location for the 2005 big screen version of Jane Austen’s popular novel, Pride and Prejudice, masquerading as Longbourn, home of the Bennets.
The film boasted an A-list cast, with Keira Knightley as Elisabeth Bennet and Matthew Macfadyen as Mr Darcy. Austen herself was born in Hampshire but her father George’s family had links to Kent and, later in life, Jane and her sister would visit their brother Edward at his home, Godmersham Park, between Ashford and Canterbury, and references to Kent appear throughout in Pride and Prejudice.
The small village of Pluckley in Kent hosted the 1991-93 ITV production The Darling Buds of May which followed the life of a boisterous family living on a small holding in 1950s rural Kent. Adapted from H.E.Bates’ novel of the same name, the award-winning series starred David Jason and Pam Ferris as Pop and Ma Larkin, and their daughter Mariette, played by Catherine Zeta Jones. As well as in Pluckley, production took place in Tenterden, Folkestone, the Shepherd Neame Brewery and at the isolated St Thomas A Becket Church near Fairfield, on Romney Marsh (also used in the 2011 movie of Great Expectations).
Chatham’s Historic Dockyard makes numerous appearances in Cameron Mackintosh’s big screen musical version of Les Misérables, based on Victor Hugo’s classic novel. Set in 19th century France, it tells the story of Jean Valjean (played by Hugh Jackman) who breaks his parole after 19 years in the galleys and is hunted by ruthless policeman, Javert (Russell Crowe).
Haunted by his past he is forced to make decisions that will transform his life forever, and spread over eight acres, the Georgian and Victorian streets, terraces and alleyways of the old Dockyard provide the perfect backdrop. Valjean’s factory was re-created in the dockyard’s Tarring Yarn House, and the confrontation between Valjean and Javert – where he almost recognises his old nemesis – was filmed in the cockloft of the ropery.
The same location was also transformed into the 1950’s East London Poplar Dock for the hugely popular BBC saga Call the Midwife, which follows a newly-qualified midwife and her fellow midwives and nuns at a nursing convent, as they face medical dramas and struggles in a deprived area of London.
Featuring Pam Ferris, Miranda Hart and Vanessa Redgrave, a variety of locations around the Dockyard replicated the streets of East London. Such was its popularity that visitors to the Dockyard can now explore the areas used in the much-loved TV show in guided tour groups, led by a costumed midwife! (Visit www.thedockyard.co.uk)
The World’s Most Famous Spy
St Margaret’s Bay on the beautiful East Kent coast is where James Bond creator, Ian Fleming, bought White Cliffs, his beloved house on the beach in 1952. It became his weekend and holiday home for the crucial decade in which he conceived and wrote the James Bond books, looking out over the English Channel. His books not only feature numerous references to places in the area, but the ‘007’ tag even came from the number of the London to Dover coach, now a National Express service. The Pines Garden Museum at St Margaret’s Bay has an exhibition of Ian Fleming memorabilia and his association with the area.