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Filming in Kent from Call the Midwife and Les Miserables in Chatham to Wolf Hall and The Hollow Crown in Penshurst

As Kent’s starring role in many a TV drama and blockbuster is highlighted with Call the Midwife location tours and new BBC drama The Hollow Crown, we turn the spotlight on the county’s credits.

From black and white wartime films to dramatic car chases and epic, historical dramas – Kent has had a starring role in all of them.

More than 200 top productions have been filmed at almost 300 venues across the county. Many of us have watched the films, but few of us know of their Kent connections.

Benedict Cumberbatch in The Hollow Crown: The War of the Roses. Picture: Robert Vigalsky
Benedict Cumberbatch in The Hollow Crown: The War of the Roses. Picture: Robert Vigalsky

The county has become a mecca for filmmakers, with sites including Dover Castle, Penshurst Place and Hever Castle among the popular historic haunts for crews and the Historic Dockyard Chatham making regular appearances in Hollywood blockbusters, as well as being the regular setting for Call the Midwife.

Essential Sunday night viewing, the BBC show is about a group of midwives working in the East End of London in the late 1950s and early 1960s. It has been filmed at the dockyard since it first aired in 2012.

Although the dockyard is a regular feature of the TV series, it is also in demand by filmmakers, who have filmed the likes of Les Miserables, starring Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe and Anne Hathaway and Suffragette, which starred Carey Mulligan.

For those who want to check out the county’s role on the big and small screen, Kent County Council’s Film Office has an interactive map, with details of filming going back as far as 1940. It has also launched a Tudor Trail.

Mark Rylance, as Cromwell, filmed a number of scenes at Penshurst Place
Mark Rylance, as Cromwell, filmed a number of scenes at Penshurst Place

The Movie Map also boasts themed trails including Austen, Bond, Dickens, Darling Buds of May and The Other Boleyn Girl.

Sinead Hanna, from Visit Kent, said: “Film tourism is a wonderful way to connect visitors to our landscape, our attractions and our people and we actively encourage all Kent attractions, venues and locations to promote their links to the big and small screen to visitors.

“National research shows that eight out of 10 tourists are influenced by films and TV when making travel plans, and the new movie map will be a fantastic resource for domestic and international visitors.”

Ben Thomas, general manager at Penshurst Place and Gardens said: “We are told by the filmmakers that visit us that it is the sense of history and informality that really sets the location apart.

“Also, being privately owned means we have the flexibility to meet the requirements of each individual production. The popularity of Kent as a filming location is clearly evident.”

Penshurst is now on our TV screens in The Hollow Crown: The Wars of the Roses.

Harvey Edgington from the National Trust said: “From the awe-inspiring White Cliffs of Dover, which recently appeared in Sky’s crime drama The Tunnel, to the great 17th century house at Knole, which famously doubled up as Tudor London in the Other Boleyn Girl, the National Trust cares for a wealth of unique locations in Kent.

“We’re delighted to see so many National Trust places featured and hope that lovers of the small and big screen will be inspired to follow in the footsteps of the stars to discover these special places.”

Scenes from Call the Midwife are filmed at Chatham's Historic Dockyard
Scenes from Call the Midwife are filmed at Chatham's Historic Dockyard

TAKE A TOUR

Feel like you’re actually on set, by taking a location tour at the Historic Dockyard in Chatham.
It is launching its popular Call the Midwife tours, which show visitors where filming for the Sunday night drama takes place.
They are held twice a month until October, on Sundays or bank holidays and start at 2pm. You need to book to join a tour.
The first is on Sunday, May 15, with the other tour this month taking place on Bank Holiday Monday, May 30.
Entry is £15 or £12.50 for five to 15-year-olds and tickets include entrance to the galleries and attractions open at the dockyard. To book call 01634 823815. More details at thedockyard.co.uk

SOME FILM SPOTTERS' HIGHLIGHTS

Canterbury: The earliest filming in Canterbury fittingly dates back to the Michael Powell feature film version of Chaucer’s classic novel, A Canterbury Tale (1944), with the city itself, cathedral, Wickhambreaux village and the Red Lion Inn in Wingham all being included.

Dartford: The Dartford Crossing briefly features for the dramatic chase where Hagrid and Harry are being ambushed by death eaters in the seventh instalment of the Harry Potter series, the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 (2010).

Catherine Zeta Jones in The Darling Buds of May. Picture: ITV
Catherine Zeta Jones in The Darling Buds of May. Picture: ITV

Dover: English Heritage managed Dover Castle is one of Kent’s most popular filming locations. It’s featured in Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), Into The Woods (2015), Wolf Hall (2015) and The Other Boleyn Girl (2008). The White Cliffs of Dover have also featured in Sherlock Holmes - A Game of Shadows (2011), among others.

Sandwich: Discovery Park was used for Brad Pitt feature film World War Z (2013).

Maidstone: Home to Maidstone Studios, where shows including Take Me Out and Later... with Jools Holland are filmed, the Maidstone area also has been seen on screen in productions such as EastEnders (2007) which filmed in Wormshill and Harrietsham, ITV drama Half Broken Things (2007) filmed at Boughton Monchelsea Place and Teston Bridge Country Parks, which also features in Dunkirk (1958). Leeds Castle has chosen as a location for productions such as ITV drama Henry VIII (2003), Lady Jane (1986) which was Helena Bonham Carter’s first leading role, feature film Henry VIII (1979) and Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949).

Medway: The Historic Dockyard Chatham is another of Kent’s in-demand filming locations being chosen by feature films Mr Turner (2014), Les Miserables (2013) and Sherlock Holmes 1 & 2 (2009/2011) and TV dramas Call The Midwife (2012 - 2015), Mr Selfridge (2013 - 2015) and Oliver Twist (2007). Fort Amherst appears in Val Kilmer thriller The Saint (1997)
Sevenoaks: The National Trust’s Knole Park has appeared in Pirates of the Caribbean - On Stranger Tides (2011) and The Other Boleyn Girl (2008) which also filmed at nearby Hever Castle and the Beatles’ music videos for Strawberry Fields Forever and Penny Lane (1967).

Award-winning actor Mark Rylance is getting behind the campaign to stop Dover Harbour Board dredging the Goodwin Sands
Award-winning actor Mark Rylance is getting behind the campaign to stop Dover Harbour Board dredging the Goodwin Sands

Swale: Channel 4 drama Southcliffe (2012) was set in Faversham and filmed at a variety of locations in the area including Oare Marshes, which were also used for Mike Newell’s feature film adaption of Great Expectations (2012).

Thanet: BBC One series True Love (2012) based the entire series in Thanet including Margate, the Turner Contemporary, Pegwell Bay, Botany Bay and Broadstairs, which was used for Ricky Gervais Channel 4 show Derek (2013). Plus the famous Only Fools and Horses: The Jolly Boys’ Outing (1989) episode featuring Margate.

Tonbridge and Malling: Penshurst Place is a popular location, having been featured in most recently the BBC’s The Hollow Crown and The Princess Bride (1987). Channel 4’S Cape Wrath (2007) starring David Morrissey and Tom Hardy was set at the new housing development at Leybourne Lakes and also used Kings Hill. The RAF West Malling Airstrip – now Kings Hill – was used for The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour (1967).

Find the Kent Film Office's map here.

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