Top Five Historical Costume Houses

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One of the thrills of watching historical costume dramas is looking inside the faaaaaabulous historical houses used as the settings. So often, the shows and movies are filmed at grand homes or castles that have been (mostly) kept up as they looked in ye olden days, chock full of several hundred-year-old art and furnishings. Bonus, sometimes you can actually visit these places!

Here are my top five houses featured in historical costume movies and TV shows, with a focus on ones that are open to the public (and OK, they’re all in the United Kingdom because I’m an anglophile, so sue me!).

 

 

5. Darlington Hall in The Remains of the Day (1993) aka Dyrham Park and others

Dyrham Park

Four mansions around Britain were used as locations for Darlington Hall, and Dyrham Park, near Bath, was the grand exterior. This is a National Trust property, open for tours most of the year. Corsham Court, in North Wiltshire, was used for the all-important dining and room library; Powderham Castle, in Devon, had the right music room, plus a staircase and hall were used; and Badminton House, near Bath, featured the proper servants’ quarters. All of these are open to the public during the summer, except Badminton, which is only available for private tours and events.

 

4. Downton Abbey in Downton Abbey (2010-2015) aka Highclere Castle in Hampshire

By Richard Munckton from Windsor, Melbourne, Australia - Downton Abbey (Highclere Castle), CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17687993

Feels so familiar, doesn’t it? After five years of seeing the library, great hall, that staircase, and that facade, Highclere Castle seems like home to Downton Abbey fans. This Victorian revival ‘Jacobethan’ mansion’s exterior and interiors have been in other TV shows and movies over the years, including Jeeves and Wooster and Eyes Wide Shut. You can visit Highclere only on select dates during the spring and summer, and advance booking is suggested. If you’re feeling super posh, you can reserve the castle for your wedding or other private event (if you do, we’d love an invite, hint hint!).

 

3. Chatsworth House in The Duchess (2008) aka Chatsworth House in Derbyshire

By Rob Bendall, Attribution, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6804928

Whatever else The Duchess may have gotten wrong about Georgia, Duchess of Devonshire, at least the movie got permission to film in her actual home! The glories of Chatsworth House were represented authentically and in cooperation with the current Duke and Duchess. This really enhances the look of the flick, even if we still get Keira clomping around the beautiful rooms and gardens. Chatsworth also played Pemberley in the 2005 Pride & Prejudice and Death Comes to Pemberley. The house and gardens are open to the public most of the year.

 

2. Longlands in The Buccaneers (1995) aka Castle Howard in York

By Richard Croft, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4406442

This immense castle has starred as many famous historical costume TV and movie mansions before and since it became Nan’s unhappy home in The Buccaneers, but I especially love her entrance scene as the new Duchess of Trevennick. The long drive and walk up the steps of Longlands perfectly emphasizes the intimidating formality of the life she’s married into. But I also remember Castle Howard as the background for a yummy Jeremy Irons in the original Brideshead Revisited (1981), and the same setting was used for the 2008 remake. Plus, Castle Howard was an exterior in Stanley Kubrick massive 18th-century movie, Barry Lyndon, and some indoor scenes in Death Comes to Pemberley were filmed there. The house and gardens are open to the public year round.

 

1. Pemberley in Pride and Prejudice (1995) aka Lyme Park in Cheshire

Lyme Park

“It has been coming on so gradually, that I hardly know when it began. But I believe I must date it from my first seeing his beautiful grounds at Pemberley.” Elizabeth Bennet is suitably impressed by Mr. Darcy’s fabulous home that she overcomes all pride and prejudice and falls in love with him. Mercenary? Practical? Visit Lyme Park, the setting for the iconic 1995 adaption of Lizzie’s conversion (and Darcy’s swim!) so you can judge for yourself. This grand Palladian-Baroque mansion is open to the public, thanks to the UK’s National Trust. There are even free 90-minute “Pemberley walks” once a month to show off the Pride and Prejudice filming locations, including the lake that Darcy jumped into. You’ll undoubtedly want to book that in advance.

 

Which historical costume house are you adding to your next British vacation?

 

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About the author

Trystan L. Bass

Twitter Website

A self-described ElderGoth, Trystan has been haunting the internet since the early 1990s. Always passionate about costume, from everyday office wear to outrageous twisted historical creations, she has maintained some of the earliest online costuming-focused resources on the web. Her costuming adventures are chronicled on her website, TrystanCraft. She also ran a popular fashion blog, This Is CorpGoth, dedicated to her “office drag.”

13 Responses

  1. Susan Pola

    You forgot Blenheim Palace where Winston Churchill was born, Arundel Castle (a favourite stand-in for Windsor Castle), but along with Castle Howard, Highclere and Chatsworth are my favourites.

    Reply
  2. MoHub

    I always like the apartment building used in the various David Suchet Poirots. It was a lovely piece of Art Deco design and was so symmetrical that Poirot would approve.

    Reply
  3. Lyn

    Don’t disagree with these top 5 but having just re-watched Gosford Park last night, I have to include Wrotham Park, Barnet, Hertfordshire, England, UK. If you look up filming locations on imdb.com you’ll see just how many films/TV shows this (and the others above) have been featured in.

    Thanks for an always fun and fascinating blog ladies!

    Reply
      • Lyn

        LOL, indeed — perfect casting imo (not a KST fan). I really love Gosford Park and the genesis of Dame Maggie’s Dowager Countess. I also love the Ivor Novello casting, and Bob Balaban is perfect as The American :)

        Reply
        • Janette

          Glad to find out I am not alone on that. I found her character totally unsympathetic in The English Patient too. She was married to Colin Firth and not happy!! I just didn’t “buy” that.

          Reply
  4. Janette

    Visiting Lyme Park when I was in the U.K in 2005 felt like a pilgrimage. IT was a beautiful day in spring and the house looked just as it did in the series minus a few set dressing feature but what really surprised me was to realise that it was also used in Red Dwarf. Lyme Park also featured in Wives and Daughters.
    Haddon Hall near Bakewell (also) in Derbyshire has featured in about four productions of Jane Eyre as well as Princess Bride and the BBC’s Narnia series. Unfortunately I was not aware of Haddon Hall when I was in the area. IT tops my list now of places to visit when I return.
    On a somewhat side note I was thrilled to recognise Brewer St Farm in Emma which was just down the road from where I lived in the U.K. Not a particulary noteworthy location but always nice to see a familiar place.

    Reply
  5. JoanPeel

    From the headline, I thought this would be about “costume houses,” i.e. the important costume-rental business. Could I suggest an article about them, where they work, what they specialize in, how they’re thought of (e.g. which would you go to for which periods/countries/social ranks)?

    Reply
    • MoHub

      I read it that way at first myself. And I’d love the idea of a salute to actual costume houses.

      Reply
  6. bowermanland

    You forgot Somerset House in London – the exteriors are used all the time. I saw them filming The Duchess there when I worked there. Also ‘The Way We Live Now’ was also filmed there.

    Reply

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