As was the case with its predecessor, Close To The Enemy, the latest Stephen Poliakoff TV drama, Summer Of Rockets, has come up trumps once again with its visual beauty and period touches. Set in the Cold War period, in 1958, at a time when fears of a nuclear conflict were growing among the populace – hence the title – the focal point of the story is Russian émigré Samuel Petrukhin (Toby Stephens) who invents a clever tracking device and who is reluctantly sucked into the world of espionage, necessitating repeated visits to the beautiful home of a politician and his wife, Richard and Kathleen Shaw (Linus Roache and Keeley Hawes). Another facet of the story is the desperate search by Kathleen for her son who has disappeared.
The Shaws hold many posh get-togethers at their home, and this is where much of the action takes place in the series. The real-life property where these scenes were filmed is the curiously named Benington Lordship, a few kilometres east of Stevenage in Hertfordshire, a private family home which opens up its gardens to the public at certain times of the year, for instance in February for the snowdrops. The gardens were created above an ancient fortified site dating from Saxon times. The gatehouse seen in many of the scenes is a neo-norman folly completed in 1838. The house itself was a manor house, originally started around 1700. The west wing was added in 1905 by the present owners’ ancestors.
|The Gatehouse. Photo by Ozzy Delaney, via Wikimedia Commons|
Another location frequently seen in Summer Of Rockets is the airfield where the tracking device is put to the test. This was filmed at the former RAF base Upper Heyford in Oxfordshire, an appropriate choice, having been used as a base for US forces based in Britain during the Cold War.
The house and lawn. Photo by Rictor Norton and David Allen, via Wikimedia Commons