Wolf Halls: take a look inside the properties where the new BBC series is filmed

Hilary Mantel fans are eagerly awaiting a major TV adaptation of her award-winning Wolf Hall, set to be broadcast on BBC Two this week.

Lacock Abbey, Wiltshire © National Trust Images/Mark Bolton

The six-part serial, featuring Homeland star Damian Lewis and Olivier Award-winning Mark Rylance, will follow the meteoric rise of Thomas Cromwell in the Tudor court, from his lowly start as the son of a blacksmith to becoming King Henry VIII’s closest advisor.

Filming began earlier this year at six National Trust properties across the South West. Here, we take you on a historical tour…

 

Montacute House

Situated in southern Somerset, Montacute House is a classic example of Elizabethan Renaissance architecture. The house was completed in 1601 by Sir Edward Phelips, who would later become known for his role as opening prosecutor at the trial of the Gunpowder plotters.

Within the mansion is a Long Gallery, which features more than 60 Tudor and Elizabethan portraits, including the works of Francis Bacon. The property also boasts rooms of portraiture dedicated to Elizabethan England, the Jacobean Court and – of most interest to fans of Wolf Hall – the court of Henry VIII.

The intricate stonework was crafted under the instruction of William Arnold, a master mason. However, Montacute House’s honey-coloured glow can be attributed to the hamstone used in its construction. Sourced just two miles from the property, hamstone features in many of the medieval churches in the area.

 

Barrington Court

Just seven miles west from Montacute, across the river Parrett, lies Barrington Court, another Somerset National Trust property – but one that has a more fractious history.

The site of the Tudor manor house was occupied from the 11th century, and the estate’s owner, Henry Daubeney, started work on the house seen today in around 1538. It was a time of good fortune for the new Earl of Bridgewater, as he was finally able to develop the property he had inherited in 1514.

Unfortunately, however, his lavish spending resulted in bankruptcy, and his political influence waned. He was implicated in the disgrace of Queen Katherine Howard in 1541, and seven years later he died without issue.

The estate was bought by London merchant Gervase Clifton, and with the house finally completed by 1559, it was sold to the nephew of Sir Edward Phelips of Montacute, Sir William Phelips.

Sir William suffered a similar fate to that of the estate’s previous owner. His financial situation became so dire that in 1620, flanked by an armed gang, he stormed the house of a man who refused to underwrite a £200 loan he required, and challenged him to a duel. 

Five years later he sold Barrington Court to the Strode family, who managed to maintain and rejuvenate the property. Despite this, it fluctuated between lavish retreat and farmhouse until the National Trust took it on in 1907.

The Lyle family have been restoring the estate since the 1920s. The near symmetrical mansion is decorated with intricate stonework and ornamental features at the top of the gables. Surrounding the house is a moat, chestnut avenue and squash court set in grounds influenced by famous garden designer Getrude Jekyll.

 

Lacock Abbey

Famous as the home of photography pioneer William Henry Fox Talbot, and for starring in Harry Potter, this former abbey in Wiltshire is a quirky combination of different architectural styles. It began as an Augustinian nunnery in the 13th century, but in the 16th century fell victim to Henry VIII’s Dissolution of the Monasteries.

The property was sold in 1539 to Sir William Sharington, who added an octagonal tower with two rooms – the lower room for displaying his treasures, and the upper room, accessible only by walking across the leads of the roof, for banqueting.

Later, John Ivory Talbot made alterations to bring Lacock in line with the gothic style of the 1750s. His relative, William, would in August 1835 photograph the famous gothic oriel window. William realised that by producing a negative of the image, multiple prints could be made. This became know as the ‘calotype’ or ‘talbotype’ process.

Today, the on-site Fox Talbot Museum displays much of Talbot’s work. 

 

Great Chalfield Manor and Garden

The manor as we know it today was built for Thomas Tropenell, an affluent and astute investor. Steward for the Lord of Hungerford, he was given much of his master's rents and lands after Hungerford was executed in 1464 for his support of the Lancastrians during the Wars of the Roses.

Although 19th-century modifications altered it somewhat, the original house was designed to be symmetrical, which was uncommon in the period. It also features oriel windows and gabled porches, and a distinctive parish church, which Tropnell rebuilt, lies nearby.

The house fell into disrepair for two centuries until it was purchased by George Fuller MP in the early 1900s. The MP's son, Major Robert Fuller, restored it under the guidance of restoration architect Sir Harold Breakspear and a set of drawings from 1836.

The late medieval layout of the interior was reinstated, and the gardens were reworked with the addition of yew houses, an orchard, and upper and lower moats. 

Written by Benjamin Frith-Salem

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