Berkshire film and TV locations you probably didn’t know about
PUBLISHED: 10:25 25 April 2017 | UPDATED: 16:28 10 May 2017
We’ve all said it when a road or building seems all too familiar in a TV show or big screen drama. Sue Bromley plays detective
Some TV series over the years have done ‘exactly what it says on the tin’ with scenes clearly based locally – not that here in Berkshire everyone has always been happy with the results.
Way back in 1974 there was the notorious documentary series, The Family, built around the lives of the Wilkins family in Reading. More up to date, we’ve laughed until we cried at The Office, Reading-born Ricky Gervais’s mockumentary set at the supposed paper company Wernham Hogg on Slough Trading Estate (Crossbow House, their base, has since been demolished). And anyone with an ounce of experience of what passes for some of the ‘nightlife’ in Slough will have enjoyed the cast’s clubbing forays to the imaginary Chasers bar.
So, having looked at some of the historic and iconic Berkshire settings used in big budget movies, it only seemed fair that we also take a tour in this issue of some of the less well known appearances of Berkshire sites and buildings. It’s something of a Carry On, and that’s where we’ll start, with the risqué British film series that kept the costs down and managed speedy turn around by mostly filming close to Pinewood.
Did you know, for instance, that in Carry On Doctor and Carry On Doctor Again, the entrance of Borough County Hospital, where Dr Nookey works (it became the classic double entendre Long Hampton Hospital in the later film) is actually Maidenhead Town Hall’s ceremonial entrance in St Ives Road?
Maidenhead also appears in Carry on Camping, just round the corner at what was Courts in the High Street. Dr Nookey also got to work in Windsor’s Park Street. And in Carry On Matron we move on to Ascot’s Heatherwood Hospital which becomes Finisham Maternity Hospital. When matron Hattie Jacques manages to drag consultant Kenneth Williams down the aisle it is at St Mary’s Church in Denham.
But back to Windsor – and Bray – for a bit of horror, courtesy of The Quatermass Xperiment, also known as The Creeping Unknown. Drugs are stolen from a chemist in Windsor’s Queen Charlotte Street, but the real shivers are reserved for an evil trail of alien slime which can even climb a wall at Goswell Hill.
The Bray action includes a couple of astronauts landing in a field and ambulances flying along the High Street.
Sean Connery… well it’s all glamour, glitz, girls in bikinis and exotic settings, isn’t it? Not always. A 1972 drama, The Offence, brought him to Bracknell, playing a police detective who kills a suspected child molester during interrogation. Scenes were shot around the town, including at Point Royal flats in Easthampstead and the Mill Pond area of Wildridings.
It’s a harsh drama as the film explores the policeman’s own history and why he cannot escape images of violence. A strong supporting cast included Ian Bannen, Trevor Howard and Vivien Merchant as the officer’s wife. Interestingly, the film was a project Connery was allowed to do after agreeing to return to the Bond franchise.
It’s not the only gritty British drama shot during that period in Bracknell. In 1970 superstar Richard Burton arrived at the town’s Southern Industrial Estate to film scenes of a wages snatch outside what was the Clark Eaton glass factory in Ellesfield Avenue.
He was playing a vicious and sadistic gangster, Vic Dakin, in Villain, alongside a cast which included Ian McShane, TP McKenna and Donald Sinden. Before filming started Burton had said it was the sort of role he had always wanted to do… but he may have regretted that. The film was a flop and many believe it damaged his box office lure.
Before we leave Bracknell, it’s worth noting that it has also appeared in Harry Potter and the Time Bandits, so it’s not all about horrible crimes.
Back to Reading and Munchees café in the Butter Market has been in Broadchurch (as has Jennett’s Park in Bracknell) but it is the use of Huntley and Palmers biscuit factory for the 1976 filming of Bugsy Malone prior to the building’s demolition that still stands out.
We need a drink after all that, and if you’ve been to Stanlake Park at Twyford for a bottle and it’s all seemed a bit familiar, there might be a reason. There’s been filming here for The Woman in Black (ITV), Midsomer Murders, New Tricks and Rosemary & Thyme.
Three in disguise
• You’d think that Ascot Racecourse is hard not to recognise, but all that glass and escalators meant it could be turned into an airport supposedly in Shanghai for Daniel Craig’s third outing as Bond in 2012’s Skyfall. The racecourse had ‘played itself’, however, in another Bond movie, A View to a Kill, where Roger Moore sought out a villain.
• Off to Henley Regatta? Not exactly. In 2010’s The Social Network, the story of Mark Zuckerberg and founding of Facebook, Dorney Lake glides through its stand-in part as the Thames at Henley. All this, of course, was before it was used for rowing and kayaking events in the London Olympics and Paralympics.
• So Marilyn Monroe comes to England, flying into London Airport? Yes, she did that, arriving with then husband Arthur Miller. But for the film My Week with Marilyn, built around her time filming The Prince and the Showgirl with Laurence Olivier at Pinewood, modern day Heathrow would simply not do. So White Waltham Airfield near Maidenhead stood in as the airport for the Hollywood icon’s arrival.