Hampshire has such lush and varied scenery it is no wonder it has been the backdrop to so many films and TV series that we know and love. While special effects and clever lighting may play a part, the majesty of the county is often the greatest appeal to both producers and holiday-makers alike.
The films are as varied as the county they are set in, from historical dramas to futuristic and dystopian fiction. Whether you are in Hampshire to explore its historic roots or indulge at one of its many food festivals, you won’t be able to help stumbling on one film location or another, so densely are they scattered. So wherever your holiday cottage in Hampshire is, read on to find out which screen features were filmed nearby.
Laura Davies from Film Hampshire has seen a rise in interest in the county in recent years, and she puts this down to one television series. She says: “ever since the debut of Downton Abbey in 2010 it could be said that Hampshire was put on the map as a desirable location for filming. However, Hampshire’s many attractive locations have been featured in many films before ITV broadcasted the Crawleys at Highclere Castle – and continues to be popular amongst location scouts worldwide.”
She continues, “The filming industry in Hampshire is unreeling at tremendous levels; the list of blockbuster films made in our county is practically endless, and in 2016 alone the film business generated £1.9 million in comparison to £1.2 million in 2015. Additionally, the continuing growth has contributed massively to local businesses which have a direct link to the industry, namely studios and location managers.”
This grade 1 listed Jacobethan stately home is most well-known for the historical period drama Downton Abbey. Six series saw Downton Abbey become one of the most widely watched TV dramas in the world, and as a result, the show was graced with a variety of awards. However, before Downton, Highclere Castle was the location for other films including Misselthwaite Manor in The Secret Garden, a 1987 film directed by Alan Grint and based on the Frances Hodgson Burnett novel. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves was also partially filmed at the castle, which was released in 1991, directed by Kevin Reynolds and starring Kevin Costnor.
It has also been the setting for a collection of other period dramas and historical films. These include 1998’s A Handful of Dust, a film directed by Charles Sturridge based on the Evelyn Waugh novel, which idolises ‘the cult of the English country house’. The 1990-1993 series, Jeeves and Wooster was also filmed at the castle, a typical English setting for an iconic British comedy featuring Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie.
Lady Carnarvon feels that Highclere is distinct from many other film locations in the area. She comments: “of all the locations, Highclere is open to the public and that makes a difference. People can enjoy the set and the area.” Another aspect that has added to the success of Highclere is Lady Carnarvon’s blog, which makes the castle much more relatable, and has led to her recent book At Home at Highclere: Entertaining at the real Downton Abbey. The triumph of the book is blending the real life stories of Highclere with the history of this magnificent house.
This town has long been a settlement, being mentioned as early as the Doomsday Book of 1086 and more recently associated with aviation. Many films have made good use of both these aspects of the location, with a multitude of films set in the town itself and locations surrounding it. Both the 2010 sci fi thriller Inception, written, co-directed and produced by Christopher Nolan, and 2008’s Quantum of Solace, produced by Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, found Farnborough Airport to be the perfect setting for parts of their action-packed thrillers.
The small village of Hawley just outside Farnborough has also played host to some Hollywood giants. 2015 Marvel film The Avengers - Age of Ultron had scenes filmed in Hawley Woods, while Breck Eisner’s 2005 film, Sahara, made fantastic use of the lake.
Minley Manor, built in the 1850s in the style of a French Chateau and located a few miles out of Farnborough, has seen its fair share of limelight. Both Stardust (2007) and 2002’s Die Another Day, the twentieth spy film in the James Bond series, put Minley to good use, utilising the incredible house and extensive grounds.
With its magnificent cathedral and illustrious history, it is no surprise that so many films have sought the grandeur of this city. After a stint as the capital city, Winchester retained some prominence with the wool trade, but after this it began to fall in to obscurity. Winchester Cathedral is still notable as one of the largest cathedrals in Europe, boasting the longest nave and overall length of all gothic cathedrals in Europe.
Winchester Castle has been the backdrop to many films and historical dramas, most recently The Hollow Crown: The War of the Roses, a 2016 TV series based on Shakespeare’s historical plays. It was also the set of scenes in 2016’s The Riot Club and Wolf Hall, a 2015 TV series based on novel by Hilary Mantel. These among others have used the last portion of the castle that remains, known as The Great Hall.
Winchester Cathedral, in all its glory, has also attracted some star studded visitors. 2006’s The Da Vinci Code even used Winchester Cathedral instead of the Vatican for some scenes. Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007) starred Cate Blanchett and revelled in the historic majesty of the cathedral, while Wolf Hall uses it for interior shots.
The historic docks are now featured in the iconic opening scene of the 2012 film Les Miserables, directed by Tom Hooper and starring Hugh Jackman – though the working dock had to be fitted out with wave and rain machines to achieve the desired effects. Oscar and Lucinda (1997) found another nautical backdrop within Hampshire in the form of HMS Warrior, which serves as the ship for the relevant parts of the film. 1975 Rock Opera Tommy famously set fire to South Parade Pier during filming costing half a million in damage. Lots of other scenes of the rock opera are set around Portsmouth.
As Lady Carnarvon says “It’s an amazing county, and very big and mostly not cut up by electric pylons, so the countryside is timeless.” It’s no surprise, then, that Hampshire has graced so many screens and lured so many stars.