With Valentine’s Day upon us, I have come over all soppy and decided to share some British locations associated with some of the many romantic moments featured in our nation’s works of film, TV and literature. So get out the heart-shaped chocolates and enjoy.
Gunwalloe, Cornwall: Dwight marries Caroline in Poldark
I have already described some of the Poldark locations in an earlier post, including the location of Nampara, where Ross and Demelza build their life together. I do not tear up easily, but one scene in series 3 even got me going, when Caroline Penvenen and Dr. Dwight Ennis, after a seemingly doomed relationship, finally tied the knot. The church where the wedding was filmed was the charming and very Cornish Church of St Winwaloe, nestled among the dunes in Gunwalloe near the Lizard Peninsula. Being of a ‘three hall’ design, the present day church is thought to date from the 15th century, although the original chancel and nave were probably 13th century, and there is a Norman font.
Valency Valley, Cornwall: Thomas Hardy meets his first wife
Staying in Cornwall, but this time near the north coast, the Valency Valley is a lush hideaway just inland from the picturesque harbour village of Boscastle. Set in an isolated position on the northern slopes of the valley is the Church of St Juliot. In 1870 Thomas Hardy, who at the time was an aspiring architect, arrived at the church to perform work on its restoration following the death of the person originally hired to do the job. While there he met and fell in love with his first wife Emma, the rector’s sister-in-law and their courtship inspired one of his works, the novel ‘A Pair of Blue Eyes’.
St Juliot's Church. Photo by Steve Wheeler, via Wikimedia Commons
Mapperton House, Dorset: Bathsheba and her triangle of suitors
Continuing the Hardy theme, Bathsheba Everdene in Hardy’s Far From The Madding Crowd must surely be one of English literature’s most fascinating and complex characters, a woman ahead of her time for her fierce independence. When she inherits a farmhouse and takes up residence there she find herself pursued by a trio of suitors: Gabriel Oak, a shepherd from her past who asks her to marry him but is rejected – although he gets his girl in the end; Sergeant Francis Troy, who succeeds in wooing her but turns out to be really bad news; and the lonely farmer William Boldwood, who Bathsheba foolishly leads on with a Valentine saying “Marry me” but who eventually succeeds in gaining her hand in marriage only for it to end in tragedy through a fatal spat with Troy. The 2015 film version of the story, starring Carey Mulligan as Bathsheba, captures all this wooing and wedding perfectly. Bathsheba’s farmhouse in the film is portrayed by Mapperton House near Beaminster in the Hardy county of Dorset, a Jacobean manor house and home to the Earl and Countess of Sandwich. The house is open to visitors on guided tours only.
Apple Tree Yard, London
The scene of the al fresco knee trembler involving Yvonne Carmichael and her mysterious lover in the book and TV series of the same name actually exists as Apple Tree Yard in real life. It is an insignificant alleyway behind Jermyn Street in Mayfair. However, the makers of the TV production were unable to use the yard for the series because of building work going on there for a major redevelopment, so a similar alleyway in the City had to be used instead.
Romantic locations galore in Four Weddings and a Funeral
The 1994 romantic comedy Four Weddings and a Funeral, starring Hugh Grant and Andi McDowell, takes us on a tour of romantic locations in south-east England for the wedding scenes. Wedding No. 1 takes place in St Michael’s Church, Betchworth near Reigate, with the reception filmed at a property named Goldingtons in Sarratt, Hertfordshire, which went up for sale in 2015 for a cool £4.5m. No. 2 is conducted at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich, with Luton Hoo Estate near Luton being used for the reception. The third wedding service was supposed to take place in Perthshire in the film, but was actually filmed at Albury Park, Guildford, Surrey, with the reception at Rotherfield Park near Alton, Hampshire. The final wedding is scheduled to take place at St Bartholomew-the-Great in Clerkenwell, but turns into a non-wedding when Charles has second thoughts.
A wealth of stately homes: Pride and Prejudice
The 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice has Mr Darcy sneering at everyone in a lavish ballroom, meant to be the Netherfield Ballroom. His dance with Lizzie on this occasion marks the beginning of their romance. Netherfield Park, where the scene takes place, is the home of Mr Bingley, a wealthy gentleman from the city, and the exterior of the property is represented by Edgecote House in Northamptonshire, while the ballroom scene was shot in the ballroom of Brocket Hall in Hertfordshire. Later on in the series Darcy has an awkward encounter with Lizzie dressed in wet underclothes following a swim in a lake on a hot day. This scene, which was voted one of the best on British TV, was shot at Lyme Park in Cheshire.
Edgecote House. Photo by Ian Rob, via Wikimedia Commons
Teversal Manor, Nottinghamshire: Lady Chatterley's Lover
The racy novel by D H Lawrence, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, is centred on the tragic couple Lady Constance Chatterley and her paralysed husband Clifford. At night Constance creeps from their home, Wragby Hall, to spend time with her lover Oliver Mellors the gamekeeper. The house believed to have provided the inspiration for Wragby Hall was Teversal Manor, near Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, which was put up for sale in 2013 for £1m.
Stokesay Court, Shropshire: Atonement
The novel Atonement by Ian McEwen explores the ill-fated romance between Cecilia Tallis and Robbie Turner, the son of the family’s cleaning lady. In 2007 the novel was made into a film, and the Tallis family home which was the scene of the beginning of the couple’s romance was represented by Stokesay Court in Onibury, Shropshire, built by Victorian merchant John Derby Allcroft. Not to be confused with the much older Stokesay Castle, an English Heritage site to the north, just south of Craven Arms.
Blackpool: a very Coronation Street romance
The fictional Coronation Street couple Roy and Hayley Cropper were once described as the greatest soap couple of all time. They were also possibly the most unusual, given that Hayley started out as a bloke and was the first transgender character in a British soap opera. Unfortunately, the romance between the two comes to a sad end when Hayley is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Following the diagnosis the couple head to Blackpool to try and grab some last happiness together, for example dancing in the Tower Ballroom. Following Hayley’s death, Roy scatters her ashes in the sea at Blackpool.
Carnforth Station: Brief Encounter.
One of the most memorable images from 1940s British cinema is that of Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson gazing meaningfully into each other's eyes in a station cafe in Brief Encounter. Those who want to relive that romantic moment should head for Carnforth, because it was the cafe at Carnforth Station, now known as the Brief Encounter Refreshment Room, which was used in the film with the station acting as Milford Junction. It is a fitting name, because at that time Carnforth was a major junction in the railway system of the north-west, and during the war thousands of servicemen passed through on the way to their overseas destinations. However, Carnforth was a victim of the Beeching rail cuts in the 1960s, and the station was turned into a mere branch line station with a lot of the buildings from its heyday falling derelict. Recent restoration work has resulted in the opening of the Carnforth Station Heritage Centre, incorporating that famous cafe.
Photo by Deben Dave, via Wikimedia Commons
High Sunderland Hall, Yorkshire: Wuthering Heights
Wuthering Heights, the property at the heart of Emily Bronte’s novel of the same name, is the scene of a classic story of love and revenge, charting the doomed love affair between Catherine Earnshaw, the daughter of the property’s owner, and the dark and brooding Heathcliff, an orphan boy brought by Earnshaw to live with the family following a trip to Liverpool. The inspiration for the exterior of Wuthering Heights is thought to be High Sunderland Hall near Halifax, while the location of the property is assumed to be Top Withens, the site of a ruined farmhouse near the Bronte family’s home village, Haworth.
Tretower Court, Powys: The Libertine
The Libertine, starring Johnny Depp, is a historical romp centred on a drunken, sex-mad poet called John Wilmot, or the Earl of Rochester, a friend of King Charles II. Wilmot falls in love with an actress he has decided to make into a star. Much of the film was made in the Isle of Man for tax purposes, but several key scenes were filmed at the 14th century Tretower Court, a medieval courtyard house and adjoining castle near Crickhowell, Powys. Apparently Depp joined some of the locals for a drink at the Bear Hotel, where some of the crew members were staying.
Cumbernauld: Gregory's Girl.
Gregory’s Girl, released in 1981, is a romantic comedy with a Scottish accent which launched the film acting career of John Gordon Sinclair, who was just 19 at the time of filming. Much of the action takes place in and around the New Town of Cumbernauld in North Lanarkshire. The site was designated for a New Town in 1955, and the town has since grown to be the ninth most populated locality in Scotland. Among the industries which have grown up around this population are the studios for the TV series Outlander, which makes much use of the surrounding area.