Explore the film locations of Rebecca
Shipwrecks, sinister servants, a mysterious death and a sprawling ancestral estate - it’s no wonder that Daphne du Maurier’s 1938 novel ‘Rebecca’ continues to captivate audiences to this day. Lily James and Armie Hammer star in Netflix's 2020 adaptation, with four National Trust film locations adding to the drama.
We first meet the story’s young, nameless heroine (Lily James) working as a ladies’ companion in 1930s Monte Carlo. Here she encounters the enigmatic widower Maxim de Winter (Armie Hammer), who is known to have lost his wife Rebecca to a boating accident a year before.
Soon the two are married, and travel back to Maxim’s ancestral Cornish estate, Manderley. The second Mrs de Winter struggles to get to grips with her new life, but finds herself haunted by Manderley’s intimidating housekeeper Mrs Danvers (Kristen Scott Thomas), and the lingering presence of her predecessor, Rebecca.
From the novel’s famous opening line of “Last night I dreamed I went to Manderley again,” the mysterious house looms large throughout the story – almost becoming a character in itself. For the filmmakers, this meant that it was crucial to get the right look and feel for the on-screen version of the estate.
‘The way everybody talks about Manderley being so amazing, it couldn’t be one particular place,’ said director Ben Wheatley. ‘So we brought together lots of different houses across the country, including some National Trust properties.
‘It was complicated [to film]…They go out one door and appear 200 miles away in another house. But I think it was definitely worth it. It gives a feel to the house that we would never have had if we’d stayed in one place.’
Where was Rebecca filmed?
Petworth, West Sussex
Petworth is one of the few country houses in the UK to have a purpose-built art gallery, which proved ideal for a scene where Mrs de Winter explores Manderley’s labyrinthine rooms. ‘We had to move some of the collection, but many of the pieces are still in shot,’ said Visitor Experience Manager Susan Rhodes.
‘The art department brought in some prop artworks, so regular visitors might be able to spot the odd ones out in the film.’ Petworth’s historic Estate Offices lived up to their past by playing Manderley’s own offices, with a few extra touches added by the crew.
‘Many of the original items and furniture went with the Wyndham family when they stopped using the Estate Offices, so it’s magnificent to see the rooms as they might have looked in their heyday,’ said Susan.
Osterley House and Park, London
Large as Manderley is, it would probably take our heroine just a few minutes to find her way from the estate offices to the servants’ quarters. In reality the latter are 50 miles away at Osterley House, where the warren of corridors, kitchens and basements became the filming location for the ‘below-stairs’ portion of Manderley.
‘The kitchens were used for one of the biggest scenes I can remember being filmed here,’ said House and Collections Manager Ffion George. ‘It involved the servants having a party during the costume ball, with lots of extras and props. It was boiling in there during filming, although the fire in the grate was fake as it was too crowded for hotworks.’
The Servants Hall was also dressed for the occasion, with the crew adding architectural columns and furniture, along with props like crockery and food.
It wasn’t just Osterley’s interiors that attracted the filmmakers either, with the Tudor-era stable block used as a film location for a scene where Mrs de Winter goes horse-riding with Rebecca’s cousin, Jack Favell.
Beyond the realm of Manderley, Osterley also played the role of a Harley Street doctor’s surgery. The Entrance Hall served as the waiting room while the Eating Room became the surgery itself, with all the furniture replaced by medical equipment.
" At these places, you can feel the history coming out of the walls. Although it would have been easier to film it all on sets, the grandness and the scale of it would never have been the same."
Ham House is where we find Mrs Danvers’ bedroom. The Duchess’ Bathroom was transformed for scene between Mrs de Winter and the fearsome housekeeper, with fake walls known as “flattage” installed to conceal the bathroom fittings.
The Buttery, Back Parlour and West Passage were also converted into a courtroom for another of the story’s pivotal scenes.
The film features several shots of Maxim’s Bentley cruising up the long driveway to Manderley – which in reality were filmed at Waddesdon Manor. The French Renaissance-style château also made the perfect stand-in for parts of the Monte Carlo hotel at the start of the film.
The Breakfast Room, Dining Room, Conservatory and East Gallery were transformed for the filming, with all of the furniture, most of the textiles and several of the objects temporarily removed to accommodate the set design.
Tying it all together
Once the film locations have been chosen, it’s the job of the art department to make sure that they all look like they fit together as one house.
‘We do a lot of historical research to decide what works for the story, and then look at what we need to do at each film location to match that,’ said Nick Gottschalk, Supervising Art Director. ‘Even in historic houses there’s often a lot of things to cover, like modern fire alarms and sensors.
‘We can’t touch the fabric of the building for conservation reasons, so we sometimes have to think creatively.’ At Petworth, for example, the gardeners ended up pruning one of the climbing hydrangeas so the art department could use the foliage to hide a lightning conductor.
Although filming at historic locations has its challenges, the authenticity they bring to the screen makes it worth the effort. ‘[At these places], you can feel the history coming out of the walls,’ said Ben Wheatley. ‘Although it would have been easier to film it all on sets, the grandness and the scale of it would never have been the same - or the film would have ended up costing about £200 million!’
Supporting our conservation work
Playing host to the filming also provided valuable income for the properties involved. The location fees go straight back into vital conservation work - helping look after buildings and collections, and improving access to these historic places. Thanks to productions like Rebecca, they can continue to welcome visitors (and film crews) for generations to come.