Austen Film Locations: Pemberley – Pride and Prejudice 1995

The 1995 BBC/A&E miniseries of Pride and Prejudice staring Colin Firth and Jenniffer Ehle as Jane Austen’s most famous couple Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet is renowned for its period accuracy, sumptuous costuming and stunning locations. Please welcome guest blogger Helen Wilkinson today as she takes us on a tour of the two locations, Lyme Park and Sudbury Hall, used to stand in for Mr. Darcy’s palatial estate Pemberley in the 1995 production.

“Elizabeth was delighted. She had never seen a place for which nature had done more, or where natural beauty had been so little counteracted by an awkward taste. They were all of them warm in their admiration; and at that moment she felt that to be mistress of Pemberley might be something!” The Narrator, Pride and Prejudice, Chapter 43

When location researchers were scouting the British countryside for the perfect house to use as Pemberley in the 1995 Pride & Prejudice film production, they knew this was the house they had to get right.

Houses on the scale of Pemberley are few and far between. It is supposed to be in Derbyshire which would give it a distinctive northern look, and it has to be very big and set in stunning scenery. Some people think Jane Austen was thinking of Chatsworth as Pemberley, but in fact Chatsworth was referred to in its own right in the novel.” Sam Breckman, P&P 1995 Location Manager

Once the BBC had settled on Lyme Park near Manchester everything looked set to fall into place. But a change of management at Lyme meant that shortly before filming began, the interior was no longer available. So a last minute search began for an interior which would match Lyme – it had to be a house of the same look, age and feel which wouldn’t jar with viewers.  The interior they settled on was miles away at Sudbury Hall, a house which looks very different to Lyme Park from the outside, but had just the elegant interior that Sam Breckman and the production team were looking for. The flow of rooms at Sudbury, and the exquisite long gallery provided the marvellous scenes where the house-keeper leads Lizzy and the Gardiners through Mr Darcy’s home. As the camera follows Lizzy through one elegant room to the next, her heart is melting towards its owner.

“I still haven’t been inside Lyme Park – it would spoil the illusion in my head. Whenever we take people to Lyme I like to believe that the interior is the same as the screen version. In our minds we think we have seen Jennifer Ehle looking out of the windows and seeing the lake – but in fact it’s all down to skilful editing.” Maddy Hall, Production expert & tour guide

For many people, the moment when Lizzy sees Pemberley and its lake, is a highlight of the entire series. She is only half joking when she tells Jane that she fell in love with Darcy when she first saw ‘his beautiful grounds at Pemberley’.

Helen Wilkinson, P and P Tours

P&P Tours visit both locations for Pemberley as part of their tours. Visit their P and P Tours website for further information and bookings details.

Austen Film Locations: Longbourn – Pride and Prejudice 1995

Guest blog by Helen Wilkinson of P&P Tours

Longbourn – the private house found by the BBC for the ultimate adaptation of Pride & Prejudice in 1995 – has become one of the most famous houses in the world. BBC location manager Sam Breckman knew he had to find a house that could withstand a gruelling 10 weeks of filming, and with a drawing room, dining room, library, large hall, three bedrooms and extensive gardens – all readily adaptable to a look of the 1790’s.

“Longbourn can’t be too grand – it mustn’t threaten the social levels we were hoping to establish. It also needed to sit in its own grounds and be from the correct period.” Gerry Scott – Production Designer P&P 1995

The team had almost given up hope of finding a house that had the right look, and one that wouldn’t exhaust the entire budget to adapt to the period – many of the houses they had found had been over-modernised and the cost of converting their interiors was prohibitive. Gerry Scott solved the problem on a scouting trip around Lacock in Wiltshire – the village that had been selected as Meryton. He had been driving endlessly through the local villages and lanes until he saw a flash of ochre through the trees. Describing his arrival he says “Even before I knocked on the door I knew I’d found it.”

 The owner at the time was Angela Horn who had lived in the house since the 1940’s. The house still sits in its simple but well-maintained grounds, and on a manor, just the right size for Mr Bennet. It adjoins the church – which gave the BBC another perfect location – for the wedding of Lizzie and Darcy, and for the opening scene of episode 1 when the Bennet family return from church and discuss the arrival of Mr Bingley. The house sits in a private lane where Sam found he could set Lizzie’s walks, and all within a stone’s throw of the house. 

Everything was perfect as far as the BBC and the viewing public were concerned. So perfect that in the first few years after the production aired, hoards of people descended on the village and the house. Owner Angela Horn was happy to allow them access, free of charge, even though the intrusion was becoming a problem. After Angela died the house passed to the next generation who had no connection with the filming, and who found the intrusion unbearable. From that time the house has returned to its former quiet privacy.

“People from all over the world seem to think they have some kind of ownership of our home – because it means so much to them, but they don’t realise how upsetting it can be for the family. We expected the problem to go away but the DVD is still selling all round the world, so we know people are never going to fall out of love with the house.” Nina, grand-daughter of Angela Horn

When I first decided to run tours to all the P&P 1995 locations I knew Longbourn was an essential centre-piece, but I always understood that it would be tough to persuade the family to let us in. Now on every tour my heart still skips a beat when we pull up at the church and I see the house again. I often wondered whether the inside would be unrecognisable from the production, but when we step inside the unchanged hall I swear I can hear Mr Bennet and Lizzie – just down the hall. It’s the best job in the world. 

Helen Wilkinson, P&P Tours 

P&P Tours have exclusive access to Longbourn for holidays, day events, suppers and an annual ball. Website www.pandptours.co.uk

© 2010 Helen Wilkinson

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