If a film or television producer needs to bring a touch of classic England to proceedings then Oxfordshire fits the bill and then some. For the past 30 years film crews have pitched up with Hollywood actors in tow, to incorporate Banburyshire’s surroundings into their finely honed productions.

Movies & TV Locations

Broughton Castle

broughton castle surrounded by the moat

Due to it’s typical English country setting and scenic moat, Broughton Castle is the perfect location for movies and TV series that want to add an old-world charm without it being too stuffy. It’s interior houses some magnificent rooms with Tudor and Elizabethan features that really add a sense of history.

Here’s some movies and TV that make use of Broughton Castle’s charm;

  • Three Men and a Little Lady (1987)
  • Shakespeare In Love (1998)
  • Wolf Hall (2015)
  • The Madness of King George (1994)
  • Jane Eyre (2011)

Blenheim Palace

the courtyard and entrance to blenheim palace in woodstock

Right at the southern end of Banburyshire lies the stunning Blenheim Palace, with it’s grand architecture and rolling gardens. This is a location that’s very much open to the public – it being one of the most visited country houses in the UK – but when the gates close and the tourists head home, it can quickly be set-up to be the backdrop to some of the most popular films in history.

Here’s just some of the features filmed at Blenheim Palace;

  • Transformers: The Last Knight (2017)
  • Spectre (2015)
  • Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (2015)
  • The Royals (2015)
  • The BFG (2016)
  • Cinderella (2015)
  • Gulliver’s Travels (2010)
  • Lewis (2009) – Episode 3.03: The Point of Vanishing
  • The Young Victoria (2009)
  • Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)
  • The Libertine (2005)
  • The Avengers (1998)
  • Hamlet (1996)
  • Inspector Morse: The Way Through the Woods (1995)
  • Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1984)
  • The Scarlet Pimpernel (1982)
  • Barry Lyndon (1975)

Oxford

the iconic round building of the radcliffe camera building

Although it’s not strictly in Banburyshire, we’re including Oxford in this list due to it’s easy access and wealth of locations that have been used in features down the years. If you’re planning a tour of locations then you’ll need to visit Oxford too.

Inspector Morse is probably the city’s most well known fictional character. A creation of local author Colin Dexter, Morse was huge success both in books and later on TV with spin-off series Lewis and Endeavour filmed after Morse actor John Thaw’s death in 2002.

Harry Potter is also a series of movies that has close association with the city, even if the fictional settings don’t allude to this. The Great Tudor Hall at Christ Church inspired Hogwarts Hall and a wonderful set-pice in the first movie, the Bodleian Library became Hogwarts Infirmary and New College cloisters featured in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire along with Radcliffe Square. The Pitt Rivers Museum is thought to have inspired Diagon Alley.

Here’s some key productions that feature Oxford’s unique character;

  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001), Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002) & Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)
  • Lord of the Rings (2001)
  • Dr Strange (2016)
  • Inspector Morse (1980-90s)
  • Endeavour (2012-2016)
  • X-Men: First Class (2011)
  • The Golden Compass (2007)
  • The Oxford Murders (2007)
  • Lewis (2006-2015)
  • The History Boys (2006)
  • Pocahontas: The New World (2005)
  • Heaven’s Gate (1980)
  • Young Sherlock Holmes (1984)

Bampton

One of the most popular TV shows in the history of television, Downton Abbey – with it’s tales of class war, love, murder, intrigue and the passing of time – needed an outdoor backdrop for village scenes away from the ‘Yorkshire’ country house itself.

The abbey exterior was filmed at Highclere Castle near Newbury, down the A34 from Oxford.

Here’s some scenes filmed at Bampton that you might remember;

  • Churchgate House (the old Bampton rectory), used for the exterior shots of Isobel Crawley’s house.
  • The old Grammar School building, which now houses Bampton Community Archive, which served as ‘Downton’ hospital. The Archive has a selection of Downton Abbey memorabilia including cards, mugs, pictures and a town map.
  • St Mary’s Church – renamed as St Michael and All Angels, played host to some dramatic events such as weddings, funerals and christenings.
  • Church View is home to two Downton pubs that were featured in various episodes; The Grantham Arms and The Dog & Duck. It was also the site of Downton Fair.

Please note that access to the Downton filming locations is not suitable for large vehicles and there is little parking. Please visit the Bampton website for drop-off and parking information.

Literary Connections

Banbury

plaque of gulliver's travels name inspiration in st. mary's churchyard, banbury

Gulliver’s Travels

Under the twisting, winding tree branches in St. Mary’s churchyard lies an unimposing headstone, which turns out to be not a headstone at all but a plaque denoting the inspiration for one the world’s most well known fictional creations.

Gulliver’s Travels (into several remote Nations of the World) was written by Jonathan Swift (30 November 1667 – 19 October 1745) an Anglo-Irish satirist, essayist, political nuisance, poet and cleric who became Dean of St Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin… a true polymath. The story is a satirical look at the state of politics and the clashing of empires back when the world was going through all manner of political upheaval.

The preface to the book reads;
“I have observed in the church yard at Banbury several tombs and monuments of the Gulliver’s. The original tombstones no longer exist, but a later one bearing this old Banbury name lies near to this plaque”

So the inspiration for the name of protagonist Lemuel Gullivers came straight from one of the headstones dotted around the cramped church, although the original burial place cannot be traced at present.

For further details into the life and times of the real Gullivers, please do read this excellent and in-depth piece of detective work from one their descendants, that weaves the original Gulliver story into the life and times of Banburyshire.

The Worm and The Ring

In 1961, before the well known Manchester based author Anthony Burgess wrote Clockwork Orange, he penned a controversial novel loosely based on his time as an English teacher at Banbury Grammar School (now Banbury Academy). The story is based on Ricahrd Wagner’s Ring Cycle; a series of German music plays that weave a spell of ancient alchemical myths into a four day performance of godly excess and tragedy.

Both the Ring and The Worm and the Ring feature the Norse gods of ancient myth; Wotan/Woolten, Fricka/Frederica, Loge/Lodge, Alberich/Albert Rich, and the Rhinemaidens/three schoolgirls including Woglinde/Linda.

The Dragon pub in the novel, based on one of the author’s favourite Adderbury drinking holes, corresponds to the worm and a stolen diary replaces the ring; an almost sacred object that could bring down the reputation of the school and it’s teaching staff.

But the tale takes a turn into real-life when a fictional character was thought to be associated as Gwendoline Bustin, the secretary of Banbury Grammar School at the time of Burgess’ employment, brought a libel case against him due to improper representation.

Several characters were recognisable as figures from the school, but only Miss Bustin (later Lady Mayoress of Banbury) objected. The publisher Heinemann agreed to “amend all unsold copies of the book” (The Times, 25 October 1962) but actually pulped them to avoid any copies getting into public hands. A revised edition with the libellous elements removed, was published in 1970.

Oxford

a secret garden door in an oxford garden

Oxford is of course well known around the globe as literary hotspot from which many original and influential creations were first thought up among those dreaming spires of lore.

The university and museums may hold rooms stuffed full of dry, academic musings yet the city has, and always has had, a beating heart of creativity.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) was a lecturer in Mathematics at Christ Church at the time he wrote the world famous Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. He was very good friends with Henry Liddell who was Dean of Christ Church, and took Liddell’s daughter Alice out on a boating trip in July 1862, where he told her a story that would eventually evolve into the strangely magical and epic story that we still know and love today.

The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit

J.R.R. Tolkien (John Ronald Reuel Tolkien 1892-1973) lived in Oxford for around 50 years and during that time he created a series of stories that would light up the imagination of millions for many years to come. He often used real world settings as a basis for his fantastical and imaginative world-building, The Shire for example, is based on the area of Sarehole that his family moved to when he was four.

His Dark Materials

The ‘Waterstones Book of the Year’ in 2017 was Philip Pullman’s follow up to the legendary His Dark Materials trilogy, which were released between 1995 and 2000. The story follows a  boy named Malcolm who lives and works in the Trout Inn, a pub just over the river Thames from Godstow Priory, a nunnery that Malcolm visits to help out with where he can. These exist in real life although the priory is actually called Godstow Abbey and stands as a ruin on an island in the river’s streams. A flood comes and sweeps Malcolm, his friend Alice and the baby Lyra down through the city of Oxford and towards the Chiltern hills to the south, where he encounters different menacing threats to their survival.

This book and the preceding trilogy make use of some of Oxford’s main historic features; the Bodleian Library, Exeter (Jordan) College, Jericho, the Covered Market and the Pitt Rivers Museum among others. Pullman even created an accompanying short story called Lyra’s Oxford, to delve a bit deeper into the city that frames the story’s alternative universe and timeline.

the rooftops of exeter college in oxford where lyra escaped in philip pullman's northern lights

The Chronicles of Narnia

C.S. Lewis was a contemporary of J.R.R. Tolkien and frequented the same pub called The Eagle and Child, in the centre of Oxford. Lewis was a central figure to a group of literary friends called The Inklings of which Tolkien was a member. They held formal meetings in the back room of the pub which was nicknamed the Rabbit Room. It was during one of those meetings in 1950 that C.S. Lewis passed around the proofs for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the success of which went on spawn The Chronicles of Narnia.

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