The most stunning historical buildings and stately homes

It is no secret that The West Country is home to the most stunning historical buildings and stately homes in the UK. It’s not just the grand buildings themselves that are spectacular, but also the lavish gardens that surround them. With the south-west’s mild and bright climate, many of these magnificent manor homes are surrounded by horticultural masterpieces in grounds that have been cultivated and cared for over hundreds of years. The grandeur of these majestic locations have lured many film productions over the years and will continue to do so in the future. In fact, there are so many captivating and cinematic period building film location possibilities in the south-west of England it just isn’t possible to list every single one, so here are a few notable mentions…

Athelhampton House – Murder Games with Michael Caine, and Ghost Stories with Maggie Smith

Fans of the classic crime thriller Sleuth, starring Michael Caine and Lawrence Olivier will recognise the star that upstaged two of England’s finest acting talents – the stately home that played such a central part of the film was none other than Dorset’s Tudor style Athelhampton House – in fact almost every scene in the film takes place in this setting. When the makers of this famous crime drama needed the ideal English manor house for gentleman Olivier’s twisted murder games to take place, they found their location at Athelhampton House in The West Country. As Michael Caine himself might say in his trademark cockney accent: “Not a lot of people know that.”

When director, and creator of Downton Abbey, Julian Fellowes needed the quintessential English stately home for his ghostly film From Time to Time, starring Maggie Smith, he also chose Athelhampton House. Fellowes was impressed by the unspoilt look of the house and the fact that all the exterior and interior filming could be done at the building itself, without the need to recreate settings in a studio.

“I don’t think there are many other houses that could have worked…
It was essentially untouched, whereas any other house of that scale has
usually been overhauled three of four times… if we didn’t have all that we
would never have been able to simulate it.”

Julian Fellowes on filming at Athelhampton House.

Mapperton House – Thomas Hardy Country

Nearby is Mapperton House, voted the “Nation’s Finest Manor House” by Country Life Magazine. This sandstone manor house with 15 acres of romantic gardens, was a central film location for the epic period dramas Emma, and Far From the Madding Crowd. With its glorious Jacobean style and its Italianate gardens overlooking the Dorset rolling hills and woodlands, it’s easy to see why this unique period building location has proved so popular with film productions.

Saltram House and Mompesson House – Jane Austen Country

The gorgeous Georgian mansion, Saltram House in Devon was used for many of the film scenes in the period drama epic Sense and Sensibility, starring Emma Thompson. What makes Saltram House so appealing to film-makers is it is one of the best-preserved examples of an early Georgian home anywhere in the world, retaining many of its original features. Making the most of the grand period buildings of The West Country, this production also used nearby Wiltshire’s luxurious 18th-century Mompesson House, for another important location in the film. A former Queen Anne townhouse, Mompesson House proudly stands in the square overlooking Salisbury Cathedral, an area famously described by much-loved travel writer Bill Bryson as “the most beautiful space in England”.

Anthony House – Going Down the Rabbit Hole

Cornwall’s Anthony House was taken over by the Tim Burton production of Alice in Wonderland in 2010. This stunning 18th-century mansion, with its fairy-tale like gardens, described by Country Life Magazine as a “cacophony of colours”, was the perfect location for creating the setting of the magical fantasy world Alice falls into when goes down the rabbit hole.

Finding Your Stately Home Location

The West Country is the land of spectacular stately homes and gardens, each with their own style and story to tell and we have only scratched the surface with this list. We know as film locations go, using a stately home for your production can often be at the high-cost end of the scale. However, even if your budget doesn’t quite extend to that of a Hollywood blockbuster, at Film West Country we are still able to find a suitable location for your production. With a number of wonderful period buildings on our database, you’ll be surprised at what we can find to match your filming requirements and budgetary needs.