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Follow in the footsteps of Keira Knightley as Anna Karenina at Ham House

Keira Knightley as Anna Karenina at Ham House
Keira Knightley as Anna Karenina at Ham House | © © Focus Features

Ham House features in Anna Karenina, the 2012 big-screen adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s great novel. Visitors can soak up the decadent setting of the movie, set in 19th-century Russia, but filmed in London.

Bringing Tolstoy’s tale to life

Starring Keira Knightley in the title role, with Jude Law playing her husband Aleksei Karenin and Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Count Vronsky, Anna Karenina was directed by Joe Wright who worked with Knightley on Pride and Prejudice and Atonement.

Ham House’s red-brick mansion, on the southern bank of the River Thames, is transformed into Vronsky’s grand apartments in this classic tale of love and adultery in Moscow and St Petersburg’s high society.

Situated within the M25, Ham House is close to Shepperton Studios (where almost all of the film was shot), so it was a privilege to be one of the few real locations in the film.

'The Long Gallery on the first floor of the house with its opulent Baroque decor, all gold-gilded wooden panelling, fine oil paintings and parquet floor meant it was picture-perfect to play the role of Vronsky’s grand but empty apartments in 19th-century St Petersburg,' says Sarah McGrady, Senior Collections and House Officer. 'Eight scenes with Keira Knightley and Aaron Johnson were filmed over two days with several set changes.'

The crew spent three days setting up, including frosting the outside of our second-storey windows and hiding all the modern light fittings.

A quote by Sarah McGradyNational Trust Senior Collections and House Officer, Ham House
Costumes from Anna Karenina at Ham House
Costumes from Anna Karenina at Ham House | © NTI/Focus Features

Ham House in the movies

Ham House has frequently been used by the filming industry, and has also featured in The Young Victoria, starring Emily Blunt; dystopian movie Never Let Me Go, starring Carey Mulligan; and Disney’s science fiction action film John Carter.

But it’s not just visitors that benefit, as any film location fees earned at National Trust places, go in their entirety to maintain that specific site, to care for it in the future.

Thanks to Ham’s role in Anna Karenina we’ve been able to replace the underlay beneath one of our oldest and most precious carpets – a really important piece of conservation work that we wouldn’t have been able to carry out for some years.

A quote by Sarah McGradyNational Trust Senior Collections and House Officer, Ham House

Supporting special places

As well as showing off beautiful locations, filming directly benefits the places in our care that star in the production. The income from location fees goes straight back into conservation work to care for historic houses and landscapes, so that we’ll all be able to see them both on screen and in real life for years to come.

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