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How Cliveden inspired Disney’s Cinderella

Close up of one of the 16 triangular flowerbeds that make up the Parterre at Cliveden, Buckinghamshire. The bed is surrounded by a neatly cut box hedge and filled with neatly planted colourful flowers and shrubs. In the background the large, grand Cliveden House can be seen, raised above the Parterre.
The Parterre in July at Cliveden | © National Trust Images/Hugh Mothersole

Disney's 2015 Cinderella movie wouldn’t be the same without a cameo by Cliveden in Berkshire. Fans of the classic fairy tale can learn how the garden’s clocktower and grandiose fountain played an important role in the film.

Cliveden’s garden on the big screen

A number of features in Cliveden’s 375-acre garden caught the imagination of the team behind Disney’s latest incarnation of the classic fairy tale.

The Fountain of Love, which sits at one end of the estate’s drive, became the inspiration for the water feature in front of the royal palace in the story.

Meanwhile, Cliveden’s gilded clock tower features as the all-important clock that strikes midnight, sending Cinderella fleeing from the ball.

Seeking inspiration

Disney's art department paid several visits to Cliveden’s gardens to study and photograph the Fountain of Love, before recreating a giant shell fountain several times the size of the original on set. In the film, the shell fountain sits in the gardens of the royal palace and provides the backdrop for Cinderella’s arrival at the ball in her golden ‘pumpkin’ coach.

Similarly, the 30-metre clock tower with its four golden faces was photographed in detail – although a little bit of modern technology helped to create the dramatic midnight chime.

Historical masterpieces

The Fountain of Love was commissioned by William Waldorf Astor and still forms a dramatic focal point on the approach to Cliveden House. Designed by Thomas Waldo Story in 1897, the Sienna marble shell was constructed from 11 pieces of marble while 13 jets send water arcing into the mosaic bowl below.

The Clock Tower was built years earlier, in 1861, for the Sutherland family – the estate’s owners at the time. Its primary function was to serve as a water tower and the tanks continue to provide water to the house today.

A favourite fairy tale

Inspired by the classic fairy tale, Disney’s Cinderella brings to life the timeless animation from Disney’s 1950 film through actors, playing fully dramatised characters.

The story follows the fortunes of young Ella (played by Lily James) who finds herself forced to become a servant to her new stepmother and her daughters, who spitefully rename her Cinderella.

When Ella meets a dashing stranger in the woods, unaware that he is really a prince (Richard Madden), she believes she has finally found a kindred soul.

Ella’s hopes of encountering the charming stranger at the royal ball are dashed when her stepmother forbids her from attending.

But, help is at hand. A kind beggar woman steps forward and, armed with a pumpkin, a few mice and a magic wand, changes Cinderella’s life forever.

Supporting special places

As well as showing off beautiful locations, filming directly benefits the places that star in the show. 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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