Chastleton House, Oxfordshire - Film Location for Wolf Hall

Tuesday, May 26, 2015 1:28:00 PM


Chastleton House:

 Hilary Mantel's award winning historical novel Wolf Hall, chronicling the rise of Thomas Cromwell, was mainly filmed on location in South Wales and the South West region of England. This was brilliant because most of the properties belonged to the National Trust, and were ideal places to visit with my groups.  
As always, the preparations were shrouded in secrecy because the BBC production team were paranoid about spoilers.  I discussed the film with my tour group, which they had very much enjoyed, however we were curious as to how the BBC were going to recreate the Tudor period back in King Henry VIII's time.

The Courtyard

Having discussed the TV production we decided to visit historic Chastleton House in the Cotswolds just on the borders of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.  As we arrived, there was a signpost in the courtyard pointing out a small exhibition to show how Chastleton House was rearranged to cater for filming some of the scenes, which was very helpful.  I hasten to add, Chastleton House was just one of many locations for the film.  Before we even entered the house, we crossed the courtyard where Thomas Cromwell's father had worked as a blacksmith and a brewer.  The exhibition showed us the changes made to the courtyard and the buildings, which really took us back to the film. We remembered and discussed the scenes where Thomas Cromwell had flashbacks to his youth where his drunk and brutal father had kicked and beaten him within an inch of his life.

Cardinal Wolsey's Bedroom

The inside of Chastleton House was used for several very different scenes.  The photograph on the left is how a visitor would see the great parlour today, it has a particularly fine ceiling and a tapestry depicting a musical party in a country house garden.  In the film this became a guest bedroom in the Seymour's house where Thomas Cromwell slept during King Henry VIII's progress.  You have to imagine the room without the dining table and chairs. Imagine a four poster bed with curtain hangings and bedspreads in front of the tapestry, the wall lights disguised and out of shot, and you have the scene.

The dining hall at the Seymour's

Chastleton House has a medieval screen passage and hall which was in keeping with a Tudor Manor House.  In the 16th and early 17th centuries the hall would have been used for receiving guests and as a place where the household would have gathered.  In the film Wolf Hall this room was converted to the dining hall of the Seymour's house. (oops, I should have asked for the door in the panelling at the back of the room to be closed - sorry!) King Henry VIII was having dinner surrounded by his courtiers and the Seymour family, when he surprised everybody by falling asleep. It was Jane Seymour who got up from the table and went to wake the King.  A small deed but it got her noticed....

The Long Gallery

This long, barrel-vaulted room on the top floor of Chastleton House was where the family would take their exercise on a cold and wet day.  In the film this is where Thomas Cromwell had a long chat with Anne Boleyn as they looked out of the window to watch King Henry VIII accepting the resignation of his Lord Chancellor Sir Thomas More.

Homemade tea and cakes
in the churchyard

The story of the Gloucestershire family who owned Chastleton House from 1612 - 1991 before handing it over to the care of the National Trust is a fascinating one.  To have seen the film Wolf Hall and to be able to recognise the rooms as you explore the house is very exciting.  I can most certainly recommend a visit.

Refreshments were available in the church next door and, as it was a sunny afternoon, we sat outside amongst the gravestones enjoying cups of tea and homemade cakes.

For a guided coach tour around the Cotswolds and a visit to Chastleton House
Contact: Blue Badge Tour Guide - Anne Bartlett

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