Tuesday, May 12, 2015

News: Wentworth Woodhouse takes centre stage

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Wentworth Woodhouse in Rotherham, the largest privately-owned house in Europe, is set to take centre stage this weekend as the BBC airs one of the most ambitious TV dramas ever undertaken in the UK - Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell.

The epic seven part drama spent four months filming in the region following investment from the Yorkshire Content Fund and is the largest scale production that Screen Yorkshire has ever invested in.

Screen Yorkshire works to secure and support the very best projects, companies and individuals, helping to make Yorkshire and the Humber one of the most sought after destinations for production in the UK. As an investor it operates the £15m, ERDF-supported Yorkshire Content Fund.

The property, which has been described as a "marvel of English architecture, one of the largest and most impressive of all 18th-century country houses, the seat of a great political dynasty and the home of a Prime Minister," recently hit the big screen in Mike Leigh's biopic of JMW Turner, standing in for London's Royal Academy of Arts.

Based on the bestselling novel by Susanna Clarke, the story of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell opens in York at the beginning of the 19th-century, when the people of England no longer believe in magic. This all changes when the reclusive Mr Norrell causes the statues of York Minster to speak and move, starting a new enthusiasm for magic. With a little persuasion and help from his man of business Childermass, he goes to London to help the government in the war against Napoleon. It is there Norrell summons a fairy to bring Lady Pole back from the dead, opening a whole can of worms.

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell was adapted for the screen by writer Peter Harness with Eddie Marsan and Bertie Carvel taking on the magical lead roles.

Nick Hirschkorn, producer at Feel Films, said: "The perfect combination of stunning locations, a healthy crew base, affordable rates and unwavering support from Screen Yorkshire, made basing Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell in Leeds and York for 16 weeks of filming a very easy decision to make. I look forward to returning to capitalise on all the wonderful relationships that were built during this large and complex production."

Hugo Heppell, head of investments at Screen Yorkshire, added: "Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is epic television in every sense. Rooted in Yorkshire, infused with a Yorkshire sensibility, and shot extensively in the region, we couldn't be more proud of this spectacular series and everybody involved in its production."

During filming parts of Wentworth Woodhouse were made to look like the House of Commons and an important scene saw a tree magically take root in the impressive Marble Saloon.

Last week, the Newbold Family announced the death of Mr Clifford James Newbold, the man who saved Wentworth Woodhouse and invested millions after acquiring it in 1999, later opening up to the public in 2012.

Details were revealed at the end of 2104 of the new charitable trust that aims to acquire the property for £7m and put in place business plans that will ensure the preservation of the house and grounds on a long term basis and sustainable, sympathetic uses investigated for those parts of the property not open to the public.

Wentworth Woodhouse website

Images: Screen Yorkshire / BBC

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