Lights, camera, Anglia
With the release in 2017 of two big-budget movies shot in Norfolk, Nick Curtis charts the best-known films and TV shows where East Anglia plays a starring role
This year sees the release of historic drama Tulip Fever, starting Alicia Vikander and Cara Delevingne, and sci-fi thriller Annihilation with Natalie Portman and Oscar Isaac - very different films, both shot in East Anglia. Eighteenth-century Holkham Hall and its nearby beach and pine woods feature in both, while Norwich Cathedral stands in for a 17th-century Netherlands church in Tulip Fever.
These are just the latest in a raft of TV series and films which found ideal locations in the untouched villages, historic interiors, and evocative landscape of Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire. Here are some of the best…
DAD’S ARMY (1968 - 1977)
The Story: As Hitler’s hordes stand poised to invade, the UK’s small towns and seaside resorts are manned by the Home Guard, composed of men too old, young or infirm to fight on the front.
The Scene: The original BBC sitcom, starring Arthur Lowe, John Le Mesurier and Clive Dunn, was firmly rooted in and around Thetford.
The Close-up: The former capital of East Anglia, Thetford has Norman ruins, an impressive collection of Tudor and Jacobean buildings, and a statue of Thomas Paine, born here in 1737. There is also a statue of Arthur Lowe as Captain Mainwaring and a Dad’s Army museum (dadsarmythetford.org.uk).
Nearest station: Thetford.
THE GO-BETWEEN (1971)
The Story: A young boy carries messages between a couple – played by Julie Christie and Alan Bates - engaged in an illicit affair across the class divide in a country house in Norfolk.
The Scene: Director Joseph Losey insisted that this should be filmed entirely in the Norfolk countryside, centering on Melton Constable Hall, considered one of the finest Christopher Wren-style houses in England, with gardens by Capability Brown.
The Close-up: The hall is not open to the public or easily visible from the road, but many of the pretty village locations from Losey’s film - Hanworth, Heydon, Hickling, Thornage - are close by.
Nearest station: Sheringham.
SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE (1998)
The Story: William Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) has writer’s block until he embarks on a love affair with Viola de Lesseps (Gwyneth Paltrow) and is inspired to write his masterpiece Romeo and Juliet.
The Scene: The endless beauty of Holkham beach has long been a favourite of film-makers. Not only does Gwyneth stride across its ivory sand in Shakespeare in Love, but the band All Saints used it for the video for their hit Pure Shores.
The Close-up: Aside from Holkham’s beach and nature reserve, there’s also the Palladian splendour of the Hall (featured in The Duchess, Peter O’Toole’s My Talks With Dean Spanley and Glorious 39) and the gastronomic delights of The Victoria Inn (holkham.co.uk).
Nearest station: King’s Lynn.
The Story: Novelist Iris Murdoch and her partner and later husband are seen in the vivid early stages of their relationship, played by Kate Winslet and Hugh Bonneville, and declining later life, played by Judi Dench and Jim Broadbent, when Murdoch succumbed to Alzheimer’s Disease.
The Scene: Southwold beach was a favourite of Murdoch’s, and is used for the beach scenes in a film where open water is seen as a liberating element that can become hostile.
The Close-up: Along with Walberswick and Aldeburgh, Southwold is the epitome of sophisticated Suffolk, full of boutiques, bookshops and two of the finest fish and chip shops in the UK, Mark’s Fish Shop and The Little Fish and Chip Shop (01502 723585; 01502 218120).
Nearest stations: Darsham or Halesworth.
KINGDOM (2007 - 2009)
The Story: Solicitor Peter Kingdom (Stephen Fry) deals with various cases brought to him by the eccentric inhabitants of his hometown Market Shipborough, in this television series.
The Scene: Market Shipborough was actually Swaffham. The office of Kingdom & Kingdom was 18th-century Buttercross and Oakleigh House, while The Greyhound pub stood in for the sitcom’s local, The Startled Duck.
The Close-up: You may wish to use this Georgian market town as a jumping off place to visit the coast and the countryside, bearing in mind you are treading in the footsteps of a true son of East Anglia. Stephen Fry grew up near Reepham in Norfolk and attended Norfolk College of Arts and Technology. He would later return to the county to not only film Kingdom, but also A Cock and Bull Story with Steve Coogan.
Nearest station: Brandon.
HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS PART 1 (2010)
The Story: In the first part of the film adaptation of JK Rowling’s seventh and last Harry Potter novel, Daniel Radcliffe’s boy wizard visits his parents’ derelict house and their graves at Godric’s Hollow…
The Scene: …or Lavenham as it is better known to residents of Suffolk, and to film location scouts the world over. The half-timbered houses of this well-preserved village have also appeared in Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon and Michael Reeves’s Witchfinder General.
The Close-up: Harry’s parent’s house is actually the Guildhall, now a museum operated by the National Trust (nationaltrust.org.uk); De Vere House on Water Street also appears in the Potter film (deverehouse.co.uk). Lavenham has a thriving artistic community; a superb restaurant, the Great House (greathouse.co.uk); and a number of excellent pubs.
Nearest station: Sudbury.
THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING (2015)
The Story: Eddie Redmayne won an Oscar for his portrayal of Professor Stephen Hawking, in a film that concentrates on his romance with wife Jane (Felicity Jones) rather than his cosmic theories.
The Scene: Plenty of shots of Redmayne’s Hawking sauntering around St John’s college, and King’s and wooing Jane by the Cam, before Motor Neurone Disease begins to eat away at his mobility.
The Close-Up: St John’s is open to the public, along with many other Cambridge colleges, and you are spoilt for choice for movie locations in this Anglian city: other films shot here include Chariots of Fire and Sylvia. Or you could strike out of town to explore Grantchester, home to the TV series of the same name.
Nearest station: Cambridge.
45 YEARS (2015)
The Story: Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay star in this story of a couple married for four and a half decades, whose impending anniversary is disturbed by a revelation from the past.
The Scene: The couple live in a village out on the Norfolk Broads, but much of the action takes place in Norwich city centre.
The Close-up: Norwich has more than 1500 historic buildings including the Norman cathedral and imposing Castle. The centre is easily explored on foot from the railway station, though you might not get as far as Anglia Square, where Norwich’s infamous Alan Partridge (Steve Coogan) premiered his film Alpha Papa.
Nearest station: Norwich.
Book your train travel through Greater Anglia’s website to get the lowest price, guaranteed, at greateranglia.co.uk