The East of England has long attracted TV and film producers to use our stunning coast and countryside, unspoilt market towns and cities as backdrops. We’ve picked some of the most picturesque locations to feature that you can visit today…
Remember the closing shots of Oscar-winning Shakespeare in Love (1998) with Gwyneth Paltrow’s shipwrecked Viola walking across a huge, deserted beach? That was Holkham beach. It also featured in Annihilation (2018), based on an Alex Garland bestseller and starring Natalie Portman. Garland also wrote The Beach, the film of which featured a song by All Saints called Pure Shores which was filmed at… yes, you guessed, Holkham beach.
The fine stretch of sand was also used in The Eagle Has Landed (1976), starring Jenny Agutter and Michael Caine, Operation Crossbow (1965) with Sophia Loren and Sir John Mills (who was born at nearby North Elmham and raised in Belton, near Great Yarmouth), and Never Let Me Go (2010), a film of the novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, a graduate of the University of East Anglia near Norwich.
The Palladian hall featured in The Duchess (2008), starring Keira Knightley and Ralph Fiennes, and the estate was used for All The King’s Men (1999) with David Jason and Dame Maggie Smith.
King’s Lynn, Norfolk
The unspoilt maritime town, famous for its number of Grade listed buildings, is a star of The Personal History of David Copperfield (2020), starring Dev Patel, Peter Capaldi, Hugh Laurie and Tilda Swinton, an adaptation of Charles Dickens’ story by Armando Iannucci.
TV shows of Copperfield and Martin Chuzzlewit have also been filmed in the town.
Al Pacino’s Revolution (1985) was shot in King’s Lynn, while Out Of Africa (1985) with Robert Redford and Meryl Street was part shot at nearby Castle Rising.
Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk
Another location for The Personal History of David Copperfield, with production transforming Angel Hill into Victorian London. Other scenes were shot in Athenaeum Lane, Chequers Square and in the Theatre Royal.
In a neat twist, The Angel Hotel on Angel Hill actually played host to Charles Dickens when he was in town to read his classic novels.
Godric’s Hollow, Harry Potter’s birthplace, was filmed in picture-postcard Lavenham.
In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Parts 1 & 2 (2010) the Guildhall became the derelict home of Harry’s parents and 15th-century timber-framed De Vere House appeared as the backdrop for the scene where Voldemort murders Harry’s parents.
The owners said they once had a knock on the door and the person outside asked if Harry was at home!
The medieval town, which has 300 listed buildings, was also used in Ian McShane’s Lovejoy – the final episode of the popular series was titled ‘Last Tango in Lavenham’.
Lovejoy’s Morris Minor was also seen in Newmarket, Clare and Bury St Edmunds while Belchamp Hall in Essex doubled as Lady Jane’s stately home and Long Melford’s Bull Hotel and many antique shops featured regularly.
The city’s unspoilt centre and cathedral have featured in numerous TV programmes and films, including The Theory of Everything (2014), The King’s Speech, Elizabeth: The Golden Age (2007) with Cate Blanchett, The Other Boleyn Girl (2008) with Natalie Portman and Scarlett Johansson, The Crown and Grantchester.
Broads National Park, Norfolk
The Broads don’t look much like Vietnamese paddy fields but that’s what they doubled as in Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket (1987). Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay gave Berlin Prize-winning performances in 45 Years (2015) which also featured the 125 miles of waterways.
Burnham Deepdale to the north of the Broads was also used to play paddy fields, these time North Korean, in Die Another Day (2002), with Pierce Brosnan as 007.
The Royal Family’s private Norfolk family home isn’t normally used as a film location, but an exception was made for All The King’s Men (1999), starring David Jason, as it told the story of world war one volunteers from the estate who mysteriously disappeared in Gallipoli in 1915. You can learn more about their story at the Sandringham Museum.
The University city was a backdrop for The Theory of Everything, the 2014 biopic of Stephen Hawking.
In Elizabeth: Golden Age the Queen’s barge floated down, not the Thames, but the Cam.
The pretty cul-de-sac village close to Blickling Hall featured in A Cock And Bull Story (2005) with Steve Coogan and Gillian Anderson as well as being the location for Monty Pythion’s village idiot sketch. Blickling featured in The Wicked Lady (1945) starring Margaret Lockwood.
The best-preserved medieval city in the country has been used as a backdrop in many films, including Stardust (2007) with Clare Danes, Robert de Niro and Michelle Pfeiffer, Tulip Fever (2016), a period drama set in 17th century Amsterdam starring Dame Judi Dench, and 45 Years (2015), with Charlotte Rampling outside Jarrolds Department Store, on London Street and in the Royal Arcade.
Dad’s Army was filmed in and around the town and the centre now boasts a fetching statue to Captain Mainwaring by the River Little Ouse. There’s a Dad’s Army Museum where you can see artefacts from the ever-popular series written by Jimmy Perry and David Croft.
Nearby Lynford Hall featured in a Dad’s Army episode but was more regularly used in Perry and Croft’s ‘Allo ‘Allo. The hall’s courtyard doubled as the town square and the front of the building was the entrance to Herr Flick’s Gestapo headquarters.
Another nearby hall, Indian Gothic Elveden, featured in Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut (1999), Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001), James Bond film The Living Daylights and Princess Caribou (1994) starring Phoebe Cates, Kevin Kline and Jim Broadbent.
BBC4 comedy Detectorists, starring Toby Jones (who, of course, played Captain Mainwaring in a film reboot of Dad’s Army) and Mackenzie Crook from The Office and Pirates of the Caribbean, was filmed in the castle town, masquerading as the fictional Daneby. The series won a BAFTA in 2015.
Dame Judi Dench stars as literary giant Iris Murdoch in director Richard Eyre’s film Iris (2001) which was shot in the pretty seaside town. Kate Winslet, Jim Broadbent and Hugh Bonneville also star.
Norfolk and Suffolk featured strongly in Danny Boyle and Richard Curtis’ Beatles-inspired hit film Yesterday (2019). You can read our blog about that film here.