Saturday, 11 January 2014

JANE AUSTEN'S DARK SIDE: DEATH COMES TO PEMBERLEY



Christmas is always something of a desert for viewers searching for a touch of class on TV.  However, Christmas 2013 provided a treat for Jane Austen fans in the form of Death Comes To Pemberley.  The 3-parter, based on a script by P D James, ventures into a world beyond Pride and Prejudice in which Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett are blissfully married with children and living in a sumptuous house and estate.  However, their gilded existence is shattered by a tragedy involving the death of one of their circle.  Trevor Eve plays the sinister magistrate Sir Selwyn Hardcastle, who is called in to investigate the death.    

The undisputed star of the show is the magnificent Chatsworth House and Estate in Derbyshire, dating back to the 16th century and Bess of Hardwick, one of the most powerful women in Elizabethan England.  Nestling in the heart of the beautiful Peak District, the house is currently home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire and is open to visitors, with 30 rooms on display.  As well as the rooms there are a significant number of works of art available to view including Old Masters, artefacts from Ancient Egypt and modern sculptures.  Outside the house, visitors can explore 105 acres of garden with highlights including a number of water features, most notably the 300 year old Cascade and the gravity fed Emperor fountain.  There are five miles of walks available for visitors wanting to stretch their legs.

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Photo by Rob Bendall, via Wikimedia Commons

The opening scene of Death Comes To Pemberley has two maids from the House venturing into the woods above the estate.  One of them takes fright, having witnessed something spooky, and the pair run back to the House.  The Pemberley Woods scenes used in this opening sequence were filmed at Hardcastle Crags, a beauty spot in the South Pennines run by the National Trust.  There are footpaths galore available to visitors wanting to explore the waterfalls, streams and stacks of millstone grit.  The centrepiece of the site is Gibson Mill, which is used as a Visitor Centre.  Entomologists may be interested to know that the area is home to the scary-sounding northern hairy wood ant.    

Sir Selwyn Hardcastle occupies a property not quite in the league of Pemberley/Chatsworth, but quite impressive nonetheless.  The role of his house is played by Fountains Hall near Ripon in North Yorkshire, another National Trust property.  This elegant mansion was built by Sir Stephen Proctor in the late 16th/early 17th century and it lies within the Studley Royal Park World Heritage Site, which includes the ruins of Fountains Abbey.  The hall was commandeered during World War II to house evacuees.  It is also a hotspot for ghost sightings, with phenomena including the sound of rehearsing musicians and a "shining golden lady".  There are holiday flats available on site to those wanting to immerse themselves in these inspiring surroundings.

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Photo by Adamjennison111, via Wikimediacommons

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