Fountains Abbey on film

With atmospheric ruins, acres of playful gardens and brooding buildings this vast World Heritage site has been used as a location for film and TV for decades. Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal has been transformed into the cellars of the Houses of Parliament, a setting for a regency scandal and a very secret garden.... twice!

Location fees are reinvested directly back into the estate to help carry out essential work and keep Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal special for generations to come. Film and TV production also help locations reach large and often new audiences.

In the past filming fees have contributed to repairs to the historic fabric of the river walls and landscaping work that helped towards restoring the garden to its eighteenth-century heyday.

The Witcher Netflix 2021

Filming a huge Netflix series like The Witcher is a monumental enterprise in any circumstances. Add in coronavirus restrictions, unseasonably wet weather, and a World Heritage Site as a major location, and it becomes even more complicated.

In October and November of 2020 around 250 cast and crew moved into a vast unit base at Fountains Abbey to prepare for a packed couple of weeks of filming.

An VFX ball is used during the filming in the abbey ruins
An VFX ball is used during the filming The Witcher in the abbey ruins
An VFX ball is used during the filming in the abbey ruins

With a mixture of medieval atmospheric ruins and Georgian gardens filled with crashing cascades and eerie statues, Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal made for the perfect backdrop for season 2 of the fantasy drama.

Season 2 of The Witcher is streaming on Netflix now.

Anne Boleyn Channel 5 2021

This three-part historical drama from Channel 5 is set during the final months of the most infamous Tudor Queen’s (Jodie Turner-Smith) life at court as she lives with pressure of her failing royal marriage dangerously crumbling around her. Fountains Abbey, with famous historical links to the wrath of Henry VIII (Mark Stanley), made for a very apt location to film the story of this unfolding drama.

The majestic Fountains Hall
An autumnal view of Jacobean mansion Fountains Hall
The majestic Fountains Hall

If you’re watching Anne Boleyn on Channel 5, keep your eyes peeled to see if you can spot the exterior of Fountains Hall and the Elizabethan herb garden, which was used as a filming location for the series in December of 2020. With fluttering peacocks, galloping horses and stunning Tudor costumes, the scenes being filmed were a sight to behold.

Another Yorkshire National Trust location which was used for the series is East Riddlesden Hall where the distinctive house exterior can be seen in some of the outdoor scenes too. 

Channel 5's Anne Boleyn will air on three consecutive nights from 1 June 2021. 

The Secret Garden 2020

Fountains Abbey has old ties with The Secret Garden, having also been used as a location for the 1993 film adaptation. In that version Fountains Hall was used as the exterior of Misselthwaite Manor, while a small gated doorway just opposite became the hidden entrance into the garden.

Colin and Dickon in the ruins of Fountains Abbey
A still from the new Secret Garden film
Colin and Dickon in the ruins of Fountains Abbey

This time it’s the ancient abbey ruins that are the star of the show, having been transformed into a sunken temple complete with vine-covered walls. The crew constructed temporary pools which allowed them to cover the ground with water for the children to splash around in, while still protecting the historic site.

Gunpowder 2017

It’s 1603, and England is at war with Catholic Spain. Elizabeth I is dead and King James of Scotland has taken the throne. Several attempts to take the Protestant King’s life have already been made but failed. Deep in the heart of the Warwickshire countryside a new plot is brewing, a plot that will leave a mark on a country that will still be felt for over 400 years later.

Fountains Abbey was transformed for ten days of filming for this BBC drama in 2017. The Abbey cellarium and the steps of Fountains Hall were the backdrop for several scenes in the story, adding gothic ambience to the anticipated new programme.

The Cellarium at Fountains Abbey
The Cellarium at Fountains Abbey, North Yorkshire
The Cellarium at Fountains Abbey

The programme, which stars Kit Harington and Liv Tyler alongside Peter Mullan, Mark Gatiss, Tom Cullen, and many others is a new three-part retelling of The Gunpowder Plot and aired on on Saturday 21 October, 9.10pm on BBC One.