Stately homes, once the opulent country houses of the aristocracy, are as quintessentially English as a cup of tea and the Royal Family. Whilst living in one yourself might only be a dream, you can have a lot of fun with spotting your favourite stately home’s guest appearances on television and film period dramas. To get you started, here are five English stately homes that you might recognise from film and TV.
1. Highclere Castle
You might not immediately recognise the name Highclere Castle, but you’ll definitely know its alter-ego: Downton Abbey. Home to the aristocratic Crawley family and their loyal servants, Highclere Castle served as the primary filming location throughout all six award winning series and the following film. The Victorian era castle is as recognisable a character as Lord Grantham and Mr Carson in a series charting English history in the early years of the twentieth century.
2. Hardwick Hall
Hardwick Hall was built in the 1500s by Bess of Hardwick, an ambitious woman who worked her way up the ranks until only one other woman in the country was richer than her – Queen Elizabeth I. This was an extraordinary feat considering the low status women held in the period. Perhaps it was Bess’s ruthlessness that inspired the director of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One to use the house for the exterior of Malfoy Manor, adding a few CGI towers to ensure that the already forbidding house looked even more sinister.
3. Blenheim Palace
The birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, and a World Heritage Site, Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire has appeared in many films and television programmes. The Palace’s vast opulence was shrunk to Lilliputian sizes in 2010’s Gulliver’s Travels starring Jack Black, and it hosted the ball where Cinderella, played by Lily James, lost her glass slipper in the 2015 live action remake of Disney’s Cinderella. The Palace has been filmed so often, in fact, that it has provided a film locations trail, enabling you to spot scenes from your favourite films and TV shows as you explore.
4. Hatfield House
Hatfield House in Hertfordshire is another stately home that has had more than its fair share of screen time. The stunning seventeenth century Jacobean mansion, the childhood home of Queen Elizabeth I, became Wayne Manor in 1989’s Batman and 1992’s Batman Returns. Hatfield House has more recently provided the backdrop for two Oscar winning films: 2010’s The King’s Speech and 2018’s The Favourite.
5. Lyme Park
Lyme Park in Cheshire is a Grade I listed Tudor mansion transformed in the 1700s into an Italianate palace. In 1995, it was chosen to provide the exteriors of Pemberley, Mr Darcy’s home, in the famous BBC adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. In fact, the house’s gardens and lake have gained cult status thanks to the iconic scene in which Jennifer Ehle’s Elizabeth Bennett witnesses Colin Firth’s Mr Darcy take a dip in the lake.