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Location of the Month 2008

January 2008 - Ham House

Image of Ham House

The latest BBC Jane Austen adaptation of Sense and Sensibility is a story of two young sisters on a voyage of burgeoning sexual and romantic discovery. The death of Elinor and Marianne Dashwood's (Hattie Morahan and Charity Wakefield) father throws their privileged world into chaos and with no entitlement to his estate they are forced to live in poverty.

The three part series chose Ham House as the location for the interior of Norland, the Dashwood's family home. Harvey Edgington, Broadcast & Media Liaison Officer at the National Trust recalls the filming;
 'The BBC alighted on Ham as the ideal location for the tense scene involving the fate of the Dashwoods. Weak willed shifty cad John Dashwood (Mark Gattis) discusses the fact that his step mother will be shunted out to live with a cousin whilst he spends the family fortune and lives the family house.

'The shoot involved building a lighting rig across the entrance hall, effectively as a suspended ceiling and 144 candles. Naturally rules were contractually put in to reduce fire risk, as well as the usual safe guards when shooting in a historical house.'

Ham House is a large 92-roomed Stuart mansion on the banks of the River Thames, built in 1610 the house was initially intended for Sir Thomas Vavasour -Knight Marshal to James I. The house now boasts lavish 17th Century interiors with important collections of textiles, furniture and paintings as well as restored formal and kitchen gardens. 

The grounds of the location were also used for some exterior scenes;  'As well as rain effects and goal posts for flattage, the Trust were asked not to cut the grass for several weeks before the crew arrived.', says Harvey Edgington.

Last December Film London, in collaboration with the National Trust, presented a free panel discussion at Ham House focusing on the challenges of filming in historic properties. The panel included Production Designer on Sense and Sensibility James Merrifield, Location Manager Adam Richards who has worked on features such as Atonement, and Helen Smith, a Conservator who advises historic properties on filming issues. 

For more information on future events please take a look at the Architecture on Location page of our website.

Ham House has previously been used for Ballet Shoes, Cromwell and Fairfax as well as the upcoming feature Young Victoria.

Filming at Ham House can be accommodated outside of public opening hours or on the days of the week when the house is closed. For more information please contact Harvey Edgington on 020 7799 4547 or harvey.edgington@nationaltrust.org.uk.

Sense and Sensibility can be viewed on the BBC i-Player.

Photos: National Trust, Gary Calland

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