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FILMING FUN: A look back at St Albans’ screen appearances

 Published on: 26th March 2023   |   By: Bryn Holmes   |   Category: Uncategorized

Throughout the years, St Albans’ eclectic mix of the new and the old has attracted filmmakers from all over. From top TV detectives to an upcoming movie musical, here are some of the many productions that have been filmed in and around the city…

Johnny English (2003)
This spy spoof starring Rowan Atkinson as the hapless titular character featured a plot with a French millionaire attempting to usurp the English throne and claim it for himself. The climactic crowning scene is supposed to take place in Westminster Abbey, but instead, St Albans Cathedral doubled for the famous London church.

The cathedral has doubled for Westminster Abbey in several productions since, including the second series of Netflix’s royal drama The Crown, during the scene in which a young Prince Edward is christened.

Porridge (1974-1977)
Though most of Ronnie Barker’s iconic 70s BBC sitcom about prison life was shot in the studio at Television Centre in London, the series does have a very famous St Albans connection.
Due to the British government barring any productions from filming either inside or outside a real prison, producers were originally at a loss on how to get exterior shots to represent the front of the fictitious HMP Slade.

Instead, they used the old gatehouse of the former St Albans prison, with the building’s large black doors featuring in the introduction of every episode of the series.

Inspector Morse (1987-2000)
In this long-running and beloved crime drama, the irascible Inspector Morse and his partner Robbie Lewis could often be found in pubs drinking real English ale as they mulled over their latest case.

One such scene in the 1990 episode, The Sins of the Fathers, sees the policing pair sitting outside St Albans’ famous Ye Olde Fighting Cocks pub. The episode tells the story of two murders at a family brewery and their possible connection to a takeover bid.

The Inbetweeners (2008-2010)
The era-defining teen comedy saw the pupils of Rudge Park Comprehensive descend on Market Place in St Albans in the first episode of the second series, with the city doubling for Swanage.

Eagle-eyed St Albans residents can spot a dead giveaway in the scene in which Neil and Jay fill out a questionnaire for their geography trip; the city’s cathedral can be clearly seen in the background.

Wonka (2023)
This prequel to the 1971 family classic Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory hasn’t been released yet, but when news broke that young Hollywood star Timothée Chalamet would be in St Albans to film last year, some fans camped out to catch a glimpse of him.

During filming, Verulamium Park was briefly transformed for the upcoming family musical movie, which purports to tell the origin story of the famous chocolatier and boasts an all-star cast of Chalamet, Olivia Colman, Sally Hawkins, Paterson Joseph, Matt Lucas and more.

It is set to be released on December 15.

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