Lavish locations to celebrate English Period Drama’s contribution to tourism
June 2022: Films and TV series are powerful motivators for travel, and the incredible impact of ‘The English Period Drama’ on tourism has led to it being crowned with the Outstanding Contribution to Tourism accolade on 8 June at the VisitEngland Awards for Excellence 2022, presented by Clare Balding CBE.
Popular shows like Bridgerton and Peaky Blinders take viewers on a journey through iconic English countryside, coastlines and cities, whilst also shining the spotlight on our culture, history and heritage. With almost a third of potential visitors to the UK keen to visit locations used in filming and seen-on-screen, film and TV tourism is an increasingly valuable part of our global tourism offer, often taking visitors to less explored regions and boosting local economies.
From Downton Abbey and The Crown to Peaky Blinders and Poldark, here are some must-visit sites for period drama aficionados.
Bridgerton, Royal Crescent, Bath, Somerset
With its wonderful Georgian architecture, Bath was a natural choice for the filming of the Netflix regency drama series Bridgerton. Following the release of the first season, the City of Bath noted that at least £1.5 million [Source: Visit West, 2021] will be generated for the local economy due to the success of Bridgerton, one of Netflix’s most watched series of all time. Fans of the sumptuous series can visit its Bath filming locations on a ‘Bridgerton Experience’ walking tour led by an experienced guide who also provides insights into the history of the area and life in the early 1800s. The outside of the Featherington household – whose members include Penelope (Nicola Coughlan), Eloise Bridgerton's best friend – was shot on the iconic Royal Crescent in Bath, lauded as one of the greatest examples of Georgian architecture anywhere in the UK. No.1 Royal Crescent is the name of the crescent’s townhouse museum, which invites visitors to step beyond the famous Palladian façade and see what life was like for the wealthy and their servants in eighteenth-century Bath. And for those who wish to stay overnight, The Royal Crescent Hotel and Spa has occupied houses No.15 and 16 on this famous street for the last fifty years. The hotel won the gold VisitEngland Awards for Excellence 2022 Large Hotel of the Year Award, and offers a luxury spa, beautiful bedrooms, fine dining and an acre of carefully tended gardens.
Peaky Blinders, Birmingham
The global phenomenon that is Peaky Blinders returned in 2022 for its final series. Figures show Peaky Blinders has helped draw a record number of visitors to Birmingham as well as inspiring theme nights, tours and street art. In 2018, a record 131 million people visited the West Midlands, which the West Midlands Growth Company attributed in part to the “Peaky effect”. With its 26 acres of reconstructed shops, pubs and houses, Dudley’s Black Country Living Museum, which recently benefitted from a £30m upgrade, is one of Peaky Blinders’ key sets. Visitors can explore the open-air living museum and meet historic characters who demonstrate what it was like to live and work in one of the first industrialised landscapes in Britain. Blue plaques highlight key locations from the series and the museum hosts special ‘Peaky Blinders Nights’ to follow in the footsteps of the show’s biggest stars whilst experiencing the roaring nightlife of the interwar years with live music and entertainment. The next Black Country Living Museum’s Peaky Blinders Nights will take place on 16, 17, 23 and 24 September, and 18 and 19 November 2022.
The Crown, Belvoir Castle, Leicestershire
The no-expense-spared Netflix series The Crown features some of England’s most regal locations, all providing a lavish backdrop for the story of Queen Elizabeth II’s early years. Proudly stood on a hilltop in the Vale of Belvoir, the interior rooms of the 19th century Belvoir Castle were used to replicate Windsor Castle in The Crown. After meandering through the castle’s formal gardens and getting lost in its opulent galleries and rooms, visitors to this Leicestershire icon can take in a bird’s eye view of the surrounding landscape. The Belvoir estate also offers a number of homestays and glamping spots for overnight stays. This summer the castle will host events including the Belvoir Castle Flower & Garden Show (16 – 17 July), English Civil War Weekend (23 – 24 July), Napoleonic Re-enactment Weekend (6 – 7 August) and Medieval Weekend (3 – 4 September).
Downton Abbey, Highclere Castle, Hampshire
With all that drama playing out in such a grandiose setting, it’s no wonder Downton Abbey has become an international TV hit. Highclere Castle in Hampshire (aka Downton Abbey) has been home to the Carnarvon family since 1679 and was designed by Charles Barry, the same architect who constructed the Houses of Parliament and stately homes such as Bowood House and Harewood House. Highclere Castle welcomes visitors to tour the castle, visit the Egyptian Exhibition and explore the surrounding grounds and gardens. Due to the Downton Abbey-effect, in 2014 Highclere Castle introduced overnight stays in a Georgian Grade II-listed gatehouse known as London Lodge. Upcoming events taking place at the castle include an evening of hampers, champers and fireworks at the Battle Proms Concert (30 July) and the 1920s-themed Magic of the Movies spectacular (19 – 20 September).
Pride & Prejudice, Chatsworth House, Peak District
The 2005 film adaptation of Pride & Prejudice saw Chatsworth House taking the leading role as the iconic Pemberley. It is also believed that Jane Austen may have based her idea of Pemberley on Chatsworth House and written the novel while in the nearby town of Bakewell. Visitors may recognise the grand staircase and ceiling of the Painted Hall where Lizzie Bennet (Keira Knightley) and the Gardiners start their tour of Pemberley. Meanwhile, the Sculpture Gallery was used in the scene where Lizzie sees the bust of Mr Darcy (Matthew Macfadyen). Today, Chatsworth House is renowned for the quality of its art collection which spans 4,000 years. Visitors can see works of art from ancient Roman and Egyptian sculpture, and masterpieces by Rembrandt, Reynolds and Veronese, to pieces by outstanding modern artists, including Lucian Freud, Edmund de Waal and David Nash. Currently on display in Chatsworth’s 1,000-acre park is ‘Radical Horizons: The Art of Burning Man’ (until 1 October) which showcases 12 sculptures from the famed festival which takes place in the USA’s Black Rock Desert every year. Events taking place alongside the free exhibition include mindful walking sessions and family art in the park workshops using the sculptures as inspiration.
The Favourite, Hampton Court Palace, Surrey
Yorgos Lanthimos's period comedy The Favourite brings to life the story of Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) and the power struggle between her two court darlings, Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz) and Abigail Hill (Emma Stone). Queen Anne spent time at Hampton Court Palace during her reign, and the historic palace in Richmond upon Thames provided several sets for The Favourite during filming in 2017. Key filming locations included Henry VIII's Kitchens, which date from the Tudor period; the Cartoon Gallery, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, and Fountain Court, the palace's last great courtyard. Each of these locations are open to the public and included in a general admission ticket. The palace has an exciting summer ahead, with upcoming events including the Platinum Jubilee Blooms (now – September) which is a more intimate version of the Tower of London’s Superbloom, and RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival (4 – 9 July), as well as Luna cinema outdoor film screenings (11 – 14 August).
Set in 18th-century Cornwall, the BBC’s adaptation of Winston Graham's much-loved Poldark novels explores family, love, ambition and jealousy, all set against a dramatic backdrop of moors and coastal clifftops. Many of the Poldark filming locations in Cornwall are places cared for by the National Trust, including beaches, headlands and historic mines which helped to bring the series to life. Fans of the series can visit these National Trust locations including the Botallack Mine in St Just, which provided the perfect stand in for the Poldark family mines of Wheal Leisure; the stunning Porthcurno Beach, which featured in a dream sequence in series two, and Chapel Porth in St Agnes, where many of Poldark’s famous gallops along the rugged Cornish clifftops were filmed. Gunwalloe in Helston is well known for its history of shipwrecks, so it’s apt that Poldark's dramatic wreck scene was filmed here at Church Cove.
The Secret Garden, Helmsley Walled Garden, Yorkshire
The 2020 movie adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s beloved children’s classic The Secret Garden captured the imagination of adults and children alike. The film follows orphaned Mary Lennox as she explores her uncle’s mysterious Yorkshire home and discovers the so-called secret garden. Filming took place around the North York Moors, including Helmsley Walled Garden, the Duncombe Park estate, Rievaulx moor and the North York Moors heritage railway. Sitting beneath the imposing ruins of Helmsley Castle, the five-acre Helmsley Walled Garden was built in 1759 and has welcomed visitors to explore its vibrant flower displays, glasshouses and apple orchards for the past 25 years. Guests can enjoy a delicious lunch or coffee and homemade cake at The Vine House Café and attend seasonal exhibitions, open-air theatre events and art workshops including botanical illustration and flower arranging.
Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Sudeley Castle, Cotswolds
The 2008 mini-series Tess of the D'Urbervilles was the BBC's first-ever adaptation of Thomas Hardy's novel and follows the story of Tess Durbeyfield (Gemma Arterton), a low-born country girl whose family find they have noble connections. Visitors to Sudeley Castle in the Cotswolds, which played host to the BBC series, can walk in the footsteps of some of history’s most notable characters in the castle’s private rooms and its 10 magnificent gardens, each with its own unique style and design. With royal connections spanning a thousand years, Sudeley Castle has played an important role in the turbulent and changing times of England’s past. Today, Sudeley Castle remains the only private castle in England to have a queen buried within the grounds – Queen Katherine Parr, the last and surviving wife of King Henry VIII – who lived and died in the castle. This year the castle is hosting a number of events including the Fantasy Forest Festival (15 – 17 July), an outdoor theatre production of As You Like It (21 July) and the Spectacle of Light (25 November – 30 December).
www.sudeleycastle.co.uk / www.cotswolds.com
Gentleman Jack, Halifax, Yorkshire
Set in the 1830s, Gentleman Jack is a BBC drama about the eventful life of lesbian diarist Anne Lister, played by Suranne Jones. Many scenes were shot in Anne Lister’s home Shibden Hall, near to Halifax in Yorkshire. Over 600 years old, this Grade II listed building is open to the public and offers a fascinating journey through the lives of the people who lived and worked here, including Anne Lister. Following on from the recent conclusion of Gentleman Jack series two, the Bankfield Museum in Halifax has welcomed a new exhibition (running until 24 December) showcasing many recognisable garments and accessories created by Gentleman Jack’s renowned costume designer Tom Pye. A Museum since 1887, Bankfield tells the story of Halifax and Calderdale, using its rich and diverse permanent collections of art, toys, military history, jewellery and textiles from around the world. Calderdale Labour Councillor Jenny Lynn said that the costume exhibition along with other events were "helping to keep Anne's legacy alive and are having a remarkable impact on our visitor economy as Calderdale recovers from the pandemic".
Upcoming English period drama releases:
15 July 2022
In the upcoming Netflix film adaptation of Jane Austen’s Persuasion, the writer’s oldest heroine Anne Elliot (Dakota Johnson) finds herself at age 27 living with her insufferable relatives and pining after a lost love. Filming took place in Bath, where Austen lived from 1801 to 1806 and Lyme Regis.
The Railway Children Return
15 July 2022
Inspired by one of the most beloved British family films of all time, The Railway Children Return is an enchanting adventure for a new generation bringing a contemporary sensibility to a classic story and combining a British cast with stunning locations. The film will take audiences on an exciting and heart-warming journey, in which a group of children are evacuated to a Yorkshire village during World War 2, where they encounter a young soldier, who like them, is far away from home. Filming took place in Yorkshire, with key locations including Haworth, The Brontë Parsonage and Oakworth station.
Enola Holmes 2
Enola, played by the talented Millie Bobby Brown, is the younger sister of Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes. When their mother, Eudoria, disappears, Enola takes it upon herself to find her. Enola was filmed at locations across the UK, including the Greenwich Old Royal Naval College, Ashridge Forest, and on the Severn Valley Railway. Stately homes in Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Surrey and Shropshire appear in the Netflix adventure too.
A biopic exploring the life of renowned Yorkshire novelist Emily Brontë, the author of the classic Wuthering Heights, is being filmed in the village Haworth, with some scenes taking place in Bradford. Sex Education’s Emma Mackey will star as Brontë in the film.
Notes to editors:
To download accompanying images please follow this link and register for the VisitBritain asset library.
‘The English Period Drama’ was presented with the Outstanding Contribution to Tourism Award at the VisitEngland Awards for Excellence 2022. Lady Carnarvon, chatelaine of the iconic Downton Abbey setting Highclere Castle, gave a virtual acceptance speech and the award was collected by Andrew Lovett, CEO of the Black Country Living Museum, a key filming location for Peaky Blinders.
For more ideas read VisitEngland’s literature, film and TV locations articles.
For the full list of VisitEngland Awards for Excellence 2022 winners see VisitEngland Awards for Excellence 2022 puts tourism industry winners centre stage.
For more detail and to receive further information on TV and Film tourism please contact the VisitEngland PR team:
Louise Ferrall / Josie Self