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Top film locations at the National Trust

A large camera on the shoulder of a person during the filming of Wolf Hall at Montacute House in Somerset
The filming of Wolf Hall in progress at Montacute House | © National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

Ever wondered how your favourite National Trust places end up as locations on the big and small screens? Each month sees an average of nine film or TV drama shoots happening at places in our care – all of which are overseen by our two filming and locations managers: Harvey Edgington and Lauren Taylor. Discover some of their top filming locations and where you can find more tales from behind the scenes.

National Trust on screen

Since 2003, the National Trust’s filming and location team have managed countless shoots at places in our care: from the initial call from the location scout, through to the first recce and working out where the catering truck is going to park.

For Harvey and Lauren, fielding queries about herding toads, unleashing tigers and protecting priceless artwork from fake blood are all in a day’s work.

Over the years they’ve collected enough behind the scenes tales about our top filming locations to fill a book – so they’ve written one. If you can’t wait to get your hands on a copy, here are a few of their highlights to explore in the meantime.

The most popular locations

Ashridge, Hertfordshire
With acres of woodland, rolling downland and lush meadows all within close distance of London, it’s no wonder that Ashridge has been a hit with film-makers since its first appearance in The Dirty Dozen (1967). Highlights from its extensive filmography include Maleficent (2014), Into the Woods (2015) and Les Misérables (2012). A 60m wall was also built to create a border between the village of Wall and the mysterious realm of Stormhold in Stardust (2007).Visit Ashridge
Basildon Park, Berkshire
This 18th-century manor house was rescued from demolition in the 1950s and is now the perfect location for scenes such as the Netherfield ball in Pride and Prejudice (2005). This remains one of the biggest filming projects we’ve ever had, involving 10 days, 200 supporting artists, horses, carriages, a scissor lift and a whole lot of dancing. Much of Downton Abbey’s 2013 Christmas special was shot here too, when Basildon became Grantham House.Visit Basildon Park
Frensham Little Pond, Surrey
Created in the 13th century as a fishing lake, in more recent years Frensham’s twice welcomed Chris Hemsworth for the filming of Snow White and the Huntsman (2012) and The Huntsman: Winter’s War (2016). Having built a whole village over the lake, the crew then proceeded to burn it down in order to create one of the film’s biggest battle scenes. Strict planning and monitoring ensured there was no damage to this Site of Special Scientific Interest.Visit Frensham Little Pond
Fountains Abbey, North Yorkshire
The remains of this 12th-century abbey are no stranger to being films, having appeared in fan favourites such as The History Boys (2006) and Death Comes to Pemberley (2013). Built using stone from the abbey, the mansion of Fountains Hall is said to have inspired Misselthwaite Manor in the novel The Secret Garden – so it was fitting that it played the Manor in the 1993 film. Continuing the tradition, the ruins also appear in the 2020 adaptation of the children’s classic.Fountains Abbey stars on-screen
Great Chalfield Manor, Wiltshire
With its Arts and Crafts garden, ponds and unspoilt countryside surroundings, it would be difficult to find a more romantic country house. Largely unaltered since the 15th century, the manor has proved popular as a location for period dramas such as Wolf Hall (2015) and The Other Boleyn Girl (2008). For Poldark (2015-19) the manor and gardens stood in for Killewarren, home of Caroline Penvenen and her husband Dr Enys.Visit Great Chalfield Manor

Tranquil, atmospheric and romantic: Great Chalfield Manor has to be my favourite location. Luckily film-makers feel the same way so I’ve spent many a happy day there seeing Poldark arrive for a ball, Henry VIII set off for a hunt and Thomas Cromwell make it his home. Who knows who’s coming next?

A quote by Lauren TaylorNational Trust Film and Locations Manager
Boxes, ladders and furniture in the garden at Lamb House, East Sussex, during a tv shoot
Mapp and Lucia being filmed at Lamb House | © National Trust Images/James Dobson
Ham House, London
Nestled on the banks of the Thames, Ham’s interiors were used for several scenes in Anna Karenina (2012), The Young Victoria (2009) and Victoria and Abdul (2017). Ham also turned its hand to sci-fi for Never Let Me Go (2010), when it was transformed into a sinister boarding school. Several of the rooms were used as interiors, and the gardeners got a holiday from mowing the lawns to give the grounds an air of neglect.Visit Ham House
Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire
Built in the 1500s, Hardwick Hall is known for its huge number of windows, which were very costly at that point in the 16th century. In the right light all that glass can look somewhat sinister, which made Hardwick an ideal stand in for Malfoy Manor in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 (2010). The makers of Mary Queen of Scots (2019) also used the house and grounds to represent Hampton Court.Visit Hardwick Hall
Lacock, Wiltshire
This quintessential English village looks much like it did 300 years ago, with its higgledy-piggledy stone and timber-framed cottages. Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle knew it as Meryton during the filming of Pride and Prejudice (1995), while more recently the real Royal Artillery paraded through the village during the filming of Downton Abbey (2019). Lacock has also been a mainstay of the Harry Potter universe.Lacock's starring roles
Montacute, Somerset
The Tudor interiors at Montacute were used in Wolf Hall (2015) as Greenwich Palace and its parkland hosted a spectacular joust. For The Libertine (2004), the mansion became home to the notorious 17th-century rake John Wilmot, but things were a bit more serene in 1995 for Sense and Sensibility. Alan Rickman memorably charged his horse down the tree-lined west drive on a quest to help the gravely ill Marianne.Visit Montacute
Osterley Park, London
Osterley’s red-brick mansion, lakes and parkland made their debut in The Grass is Greener (1960) with Cary Grant. More recently, the interiors were used to represent Wayne Manor in The Dark Knight Rises (2012) and the stable block was transformed into an 1800s army barracks for Vanity Fair (2018). The latest adaptation of The Secret Garden (2020) used the kitchens to stand in for those of Misselthwaite Manor.Visit Osterley
Tredegar House, Newport
A window through time, Tredegar was the ideal location for 11 episodes of Doctor Who between 2005 and 2009 – which explains the Dalek you might encounter in the stables. The sweeping parkland at Tredegar later played the part of a First World War British army base for Journey’s End (2018), with the Stable Hall as a convincing army general’s office.Visit Tredegar

My most surreal experience was being trapped at the end of a corridor at Osterley, unable to leave because Sir Michael Caine and Christian Bale were rehearsing at the other end. Second was a long discussion about the thickness, speed and mist effects of spurting artificial blood when cutting off a leg. You really can learn something new every day.

A quote by Harvey EdgingtonNational Trust Head of Filming and Locations
Close-up of filming equipment and monitor at Quarry Bank in Cheshire
Film equipment at Quarry Bank | © National Trust Images/James Dobson

Fascinating facts

With so much filming going on, plenty of quirky facts have built up over the years. From working out which actor has done the most shoots at locations in our care, to the longest-running production, here are a few that might surprise you.

It is a truth universally acknowledged…
…that we love Jane Austen. We’ve appeared in adaptations of each of her six main novels, plus a spin-offs like Sanditon (2019), Death Comes to Pemberley (2013) and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016).
A little more action please
It’s not all period dramas. James Bond visited Stowe for The World is not Enough (1999) and Holywell for Die Another Day (2002). We also saw stars when Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) filmed over Derwentwater.
Keira Knightley can’t stay away
So far she’s filmed at five places over four films, including Anna Karenina and Never Let Me Go (Ham House) and The Duchess (Osterley, Kedleston and Basildon Park).
The ‘reel’ thing
Places that have played themselves include Chartwell as Winston Churchill’s home in The Darkest Hour (2017) and Petworth, which inspired Mr Turner (2014) as far back at the 1800s.
Waiting for Spielberg to call
Some big-name directors have roamed locations in our care. Tim Burton visited Antony for Alice in Wonderland (2010), Ridley Scott wandered Freshwater West and Ashridge for Robin Hood (2010).
Writer’s block
Two locations have been used in adaptations of novels written by the authors who once owned them. Greenway for Agatha Christie’s Dead Man’s Folly (2013) and Lamb House for EF Benson’s Mapp and Lucia (2014).
Long service award
This award goes to Poldark (2015–2019) and Downton Abbey (2011–15 and 2019). The former used Botallack Mine in Cornwall for all five seasons, while the latter visited various locations over four series and a film.

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.

The 'National Trust on Screen' book shown next to a blank film clapper board

National Trust on Screen

Looking for more locations and behind-the-scenes stories? Treat yourself to a copy of Harvey and Lauren’s book. Stuffed full of anecdotes about the filming of big-screen blockbusters and classic TV dramas, it’s the perfect guide to help you walk in the footsteps of the stars.

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