Unexpectedly great locations…

Great Expectations PosterOn Monday I went to see the latest film version of Great Expectations… released in part to celebrate the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens and featuring a brilliant cast of British actors including Helena Bonham Carter, Ralph Fiennes, Robbie Coltrane and David Walliams.

However, the real stars for me were the locations.

Having nearly completed a year of working with the Trust the film was, for me, almost a trip back through that year… I always get excited when I recognise film locations!

The opening scene shows Pip running towards the isolated church of St Thomas a Becket, Fairfield which lies on a minor road in a deserted part of the Walland Marsh, Kent. Also used in previous dramatisations of the story, the church is familiar to me from photographs of Ride+Stride – our annual national fundraising event for churches.

Although Pip is seen running headlong into the graveyard, and to the grave of his parents… the church actually stands ‘completely isolated, with neither a tombstone nor a tree to keep it company’ (John E Vigars) .The church was originally built as a temporary structure of timber lath and plaster in the 1200’s. The exterior has been strengthened with brick, and in 1913 the whole building was reconstructed and encased to preserve it. The interior is light, with white box pews and triple decker pulpit, over-arched by lovely medieval beams.

When the story moves to London, it is introduced by a great sweeping shot over the city, focusing in on the white bell tower of the church of St Mary-le-Bow, Cheapside – venue for our 2012 Winter Reception, and a five minute walk from the Trust office near Smithfield. Having spent a year of lunch-hours exploring the narrow streets in the city it was fascinating to be transported back to those same streets over 100 years ago.

You can see both churches in the official trailer for the film… St Thomas a Becket in the first scenes and throughout… and St Mary-le-Bow at about 40 seconds in.

If you are interested in the other wonderful heritage sites used as locations for the film, whu not read the VisitBritain Superblog.

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