In Bill Cordon’s latest movie Ian McKellen plays a retired Sherlock Holmes who’s 93 and working as a beekeeper in the English countryside. Hovering between the 1940s and 1910s, we’re wistfully transported to period London, idyllic coastlines and a beautiful National Trust B&B, which doubles for Mr Holmes’ country house as the great detective attempts to crack one final case. Locations manager Richard George guides us around the beautiful setting of this gentle meandering tale of memory and loss…
Naturally we return to the famous 221B Baker Street in the movie, the home of our famous sleuth. While Baker Street still exists in London, it’s now full of commercial properties, so locations manager Richard George decided to shoot in Bedford Row, near Holborn Tube, where pristine flat-fronted Georgian terraced houses remain intact. Once a highbrow residential area, today it’s home to solicitors and barristers chambers. “We could turn it into 1923 London with ease,” explains George, who dressed the street with horses and carts and women in period dress for the movie. “Directly opposite 221B in the movie, at number 36, a trick is played on tourists who come and see where Mr Holmes lives, in fact he’s actually watching from across the street.” A few minutes walk from Bedford Row is event space Conway Hall, seen in the movie when Mr Holmes watches a movie of himself. Nearby you’ll find the Dr Williams Library, which doubles for the bookshop that Mr. Homes follows mysterious missing woman Ann Kelmot into. A few streets away are Carey Street, Princeton Street and Barter Street, where shops are dressed in 1920s garb, and we see Mr Holmes wandering along in his top hat, “they were all used for our main exterior shots of ye olde London,” explains George.
The country house scenes, where Mr Holmes spends his days beekeeping, were all filmed at a National Trust B&B in place named Winchelsea, near Rye. “I found it by pure chance, I drove around the corner coming out of Winchelsea and it appeared on top of a hill. I had that funny moment when I knew I had something quite special,” explained George. “We toyed with big houses and small houses, but this was just right and it had never been used before.” Visitors can actually book the Mr. Holmes cottage for a stay (individual rooms can be rented from £90 per night), “the house is unique in the way that things join together,” explains George, “you would recognise it straight away.” Inside, visitors will find Tudor beams, small doorways and the beautiful garden from the movie. “It’s quiet, there’s lots of space and walks in the area,” says George. The rolling green hills outside the cottage look out onto a place called Pett Level, where there’s a coastal footpath offering a great view of the house. “The house is a real gift. I’m really pleased with it, I think it looks stunning.”
We see Mr Holmes walking along through the Seaford countryside with dramatic white cliffs in the background as he chats to his housekeeper’s son Roger about the case that made him retire. “It’s very flat around Winchelsea,” says George, who explains that he chose to film the coastal scenes from the movie on the Sussex Heritage Coast rather than in Kent. “[Winchelsea] didn’t really scream England, we wanted something special.” The same Seven Sisters cliffs are recognisable from Atonement with Keira Knightley and James McAvoy, and are much more suited to the backdrop of Mr Holmes. “The original script had a place called Cuckmere Haven in it, so in a way it was more scripted there than it was over where Wickham Manor Farm is.” These beautifully chalky cliffs were once home to one of the largest ports on the south coast, and hikers can walk the 10 miles to bustling Eastbourne along the hills, while the Seaford Head Golf Course has stunning views over the coastline.
Mr. Holmes is released June 19th in UK cinemas, see the trailer here.
Visit Sussex with Radio Times Travel, see here for more details