Skip to content

Osterley Park and House stars in Vanity Fair

A hand closes a filming clapperboard with details of the Vanity Fair scene, with an actor in soldier's uniform in the background
Ready for action, filming Vanity Fair (2018) at Osterley Park | © ITV/Robert Viglasky

Social climbing, the Battle of Waterloo, bold red uniforms and a star-studded cast – all these came together in autumn 2018 for ITV’s adaptation of Vanity Fair. Thackeray’s classic, charting the story of cunning opportunist Becky Sharp and her best friend Amelia Sedley, played out across several locations at Osterley in west London. Staff and volunteers helped balance atmospheric scenes with protecting Osterley’s collection and interiors.

What’s the story?

William Makepeace Thackeray’s 1840s satire charts the ups and downs of Georgian high society, following the lives of Becky Sharp and her friends and relations during and after the Napoleonic Wars.

One of the story’s pivotal moments is the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, where central characters George Osborne and William Dobbin find themselves fighting Napoleon’s forces.

It’s at Osterley Park and House, a sprawling Georgian estate on the outskirts of London, that George and William are seen meeting their regiment, and preparing to do their duty for king and country.

Vanity Fair filming locations at Osterley

From making teas to mustering troops

In October 2017 almost 150 people and 12 horses descended on the Stable Courtyard – normally Osterley’s tea-room – to transform it into a bustling scene filled with soldiers, street vendors, smoke and carriages.

For Osterley’s Curator Ffion George, it was a special moment to see the stables used for filming for the first time. ‘Productions have usually focused on the interiors and exteriors of the house, so to see the stables come alive was brilliant,’ she said.

For the staff and volunteers, welcoming cast and crew adds a new dimension to their day job.

It’s amazing to see the house dressed beautifully. It gives you a real sense of what it would have been like in that period. The stableyard lends itself so well to the military scenes.

A quote by Judith EvansNational Trust House Steward, Osterley Park
Actors in red soldiers' uniforms walk through the stableyard at Osterley
Filming scenes for Vanity Fair (2018) in Osterley Park's stableyard | © ITV/Robert Viglasky

Other locations at Osterley

Alongside the stableyard, the inside of Osterley House features in the ITV production of Vanity Fair. The grand Entrance Hall, Eating Room, imposing Great Stairs and garden all have starring roles.

Protecting Osterley’s history during filming

While Osterley House in its current form is Georgian, the original house and the stables were built during the Tudor period. It’s even said that Tudor owner Sir Thomas Gresham had to extend the stables to accommodate a visit from Queen Elizabeth I.

With such an important place in history combined with complex filming requirements, great care was taken to protect the house and Stable Courtyard. Under the guidance of our staff, volunteers, conservator and curator, the film crew were able to shoot their atmospheric smoky scenes without the risk of fire and the collection and interiors were protected.

Actors in soldiers' uniforms in a scene in Osterley's stableyard, while a technician creates smoke effects
Creating atmosphere at Osterley on the set of Vanity Fair (2018) | © National Trust/Lisa Gledhill

Conservation – a location manager’s view

Location Manager Ben Mangham acknowledges both the challenge and benefits of working within a historic setting.

‘The location is just as important as the characters,’ he explains. ‘If you put brilliant characters in a brilliant space you get brilliance. It must make the work of an actor so much easier to get into character, knowing you are in a real setting.’

When we film at National Trust properties we need to make sure we get what the production needs, but also leave the house perfect. I want my grandchildren to be able to come to these houses. TV and film comes and goes, but these houses are going to be here for hundreds of years.

A quote by Ben Langham Location Manager

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.

Osterley has featured in many TV shows and films, including Batman: The Dark Knight, Dr Thorne and Miss Potter. Income has funded significant work on the West Front and West Steps, while income from Vanity Fair was put towards work on the north and south sides.

You might also be interested in

A large metal cauldron in the middle of a room at Lacock Abbey, Wiltshire

Holiday to a film location 

Fancy taking a break somewhere you’ve seen on screen? From The Secret Garden to Game of Thrones and Harry Potter, many of the places we care for have been filming locations for much-loved movies and TV shows.

Springtime at Osterley Park and House

Osterley Park and House 

A Georgian country estate in west London

Isleworth, Middlesex

Partially open today