Bath has long attracted directors and producers eager to feature the city’s stunning Georgian architecture and surrounding manor houses and countryside on both the big and small screen…
2012’s multi-award-winning musical film Les Misérables shot scenes in Bath, with Pulteney Bridge and Weir standing in for nineteenth-century Paris. The epic historical film, featuring an all-star cast, used the bridge as the location where Javert, played by Russell Crowe, takes his own life in a dramatic, plot-impinging scene.
Period Drama Perfection
Bath's most recent starring role came courtesy of Bridgerton, released on Christmas Day 2020 on Netflix. The delightfully escapist period drama series follows Daphne Bridgerton in the first season, as she navigates the world of Regency romance and scandal. Based on the bestselling books by Julia Quinn, produced by Shonda Rhimes (of Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal), and narrated Gossip Girl-style by none other than Dame Julie Andrews, it was renewed for a second series early in 2021.
Find out more about Bridgerton in Bath here.
With Jane Austen living in Bath from 1801 to 1806, and the city providing inspiration for her novels Persuasion and Northanger Abbey, it makes sense that its historic Georgian streets would also be used as locations for period adaptations of her work. Both the 1995 and 2007 film versions of Persuasion use beautiful Bath as a backdrop.
Also set in Austen’s Georgian world, 2008’s The Duchess, starring Keira Knightley, features the grand Assembly Rooms and the Royal Crescent, as does 2004’s Vanity Fair, in which Reese Witherspoon plays the cynical yet complex social climber, Becky Sharp.
Small Screen Spots
It’s not just in movies that you can spot Bath. Fans of Benedict Cumberbatch will have been looking out for him in 2015, when the cobbled Queen Street stood in for Victorian England in a special episode of Sherlock.
You might have also noticed Bath in The Trial of Christine Keeler, the 2019 BBC One series about the ‘Profumo affair’ – rooms in the Guildhall were used to film the Old Bailey scenes, and Abbey Green was used for scenes set in Notting Hill.
Image: Open Book-Moonage Productions-BBC
2021's adaptation of Nancy Mitford's 1945 romcom novel, The Pursuit of Love, was partly filmed in Bath in September 2020. Shown on primetime BBC One in May 2021, the series features an all-star cast of Lily James as the lead – Linda Radlett – plus Dominic West, Emily Beecham, Andrew Scott and more.
Locations used in the city include Green Park Station, and exterior shots nearby in the Georgian terraced street of Green Park and outside No.1 Royal Crescent. Further afield, the National Trust's Dyrham Park and Lacock Abbey were featured, along with Avon Valley Railway in Bitton, just six miles from Bath.
Look out for Bath in both series of ITV drama McDonald and Dodds too, about an unlikely detective duo starring Jason Watkins and Tala Gouveia. Both series used Bath extensively for filming in 2019 and again in 2020. A scale model railway layout of Bath, used in the programme, can be seen at the Museum of Bath at Work, with demonstrations of the layout taking place each day. Check out our blog post about must-see sights from the series here.
You can spot Bath's Assembly Rooms in ITV's Belgravia, a nineteenth-century historical drama starring Philip Glenister and Tamsin Greig. The stunning building features in much of the first episode as a setting for a grand ball in Brussels.
Visit Lacock, a picturesque Wiltshire village 40 minutes’ drive from Bath, and step back in time – around 200 years, to be precise. Its timber-clad cottages provided the backdrop to 2009’s BBC series Cranford, and the National Trust-owned Abbey stood in for Hogwarts in the first and second Harry Potter films, with the 2015 historical drama Wolf Hall also using the Abbey’s exterior in some scenes.
Sanditon, the ITV drama recently adapted from Austen’s unfinished novel by Andrew Davies, used the National Trust’s Dyrham Park and Iford Manor and Gardens near Bradford-on-Avon as prominent locations, this latter setting also featuring in The Secret Garden, released in cinemas in 2020.
Whilst the period drama Poldark, which first aired in 2015, is set in Cornwall, several locations in the West Country stood in for seaside villages. Corsham’s High Street doubled as a bustling eighteenth-century Truro; in Wells, the Town Hall was used as Warleggan Bank and the Bishop’s Palace was transformed into a French convent; the Mansion and staff room at Prior Park College in Bath stood in for Truro Assembly Room's ballroom, and the grounds of Bowood House in Wiltshire once doubled in the series as London’s Hyde Park.
Poldark isn't Wells' only on-screen credit – the small Somerset city starred in 2007's cult action comedy Hot Fuzz, starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, standing in for Sandford, a fictional Gloucestershire village with strange goings-on afoot.
Bath is, or has been home, to a few famous faces. Top independent film director Ken Loach lives in Bath and is patron of FilmBath Festival, which takes place each year in November. He’s also a loyal fan of the local football team, Bath City, and can sometimes be spotted at games.
Hollywood star Nicolas Cage also made Bath his home in the mid-noughties, buying a house in the prestigious Circus – three impressive curved segments of Grade-I listed Georgian townhouses.