Series 22 of Silent Witness takes us well beyond the walls of the Lyell Centre as Dr Thomas Chamberlain and his forensics team relentlessly pursue the truth behind a new string of gruesome deaths.
From a London school to a Brighton beach, from a smelly rubbish tip to a real-life courtroom – the BBC drama is packed full of new locations.
But, as producer Kiaran Murray-Smith tells RadioTimes.com, at the heart of of it all is the UK capital. Silent Witness may air in 236 territories, but its location is instantly recognisable. “It can only be London,” he says.
So where exactly was the new series of Silent Witness filmed? Here’s what you need to know…
Where is the Lyell Centre filmed?
The Lyell Centre is located in a warehouse at BBC Park Western in Acton, where the team built a new set six years ago. This is now Silent Witness’s permanent home, with the art and props departments on-hand and ready to provide cadavers, bones and blood on demand.
The set was recently expanded, giving everybody at the Lyell Centre a bit more room to work with.
“We opened it up a little bit,” Murray-Smith says. “We wanted to give them an extra room to do the forensics in, and a few more bits of machinery. Bit by bit, more and more investment is needed in Silent Witness.”
Where were Nikki’s courtroom scenes filmed?
In the final two episodes, we’ll see Dr Nikki Alexander (Emilia Fox) up in court giving expert evidence about the victim’s post-mortem.
This was shot at County Hall, Kingston, which is in fact where most courtroom scenes we see on TV are filmed, including parts of A Very English Scandal.
Where is the abandoned building near the river located?
The final story of series 22 also features a derelict building called Millennium Mills near City Airport, on the south side of the Royal Victoria Dock.
“It’s such an amazing location, right by the water, and it involves one of our characters who does get found in the water,” Murray-Smith reveals.
Where do Thomas and Amanda meet by the river?
Dr Thomas Chamberlain (Richard Lintern) meets old flame Amanda Long (Dervla Kirwan) at the “usual place” in the final couple of episodes of Silent Witness, which apparently means the riverside west of Hammersmith Bridge and right near Furnivall Gardens.
Thankfully they don’t bump into Dr Jack Hodgson (David Caves) and his friend DC Vail (Adelle Leonce), who meet for a drink a few metres away at popular pub The Blue Anchor.
Where was Pharma boss Arthur Pujari’s mansion filmed?
One of the most beautiful locations in the whole of series 22 is Arthur Pujari’s picturesque mansion. Mr Pujari, played by Art Malik, owns a pharmaceuticals company and lives in a house so large he doesn’t even know what room he’ll find behind each door.
The team used Munden House as the filming location for Arthur Pujari’s house. Dating back to 1795, this country house is located in Watford near Radlett and is not open to the public, but is frequently used as a filming location. The Munden Estate’s other TV credits include Endeavour, Jonathan Creek and Poirot.
Where was Silent Witness filmed in Brighton?
Silent Witness is shot in London, but in episode five and six – titled To Brighton, To Brighton – the team took a trip (you guessed it) to the seaside town of Brighton, where they spent five days filming. Here, Dr Nikki Alexander (Emilia Fox) also reunites with her love interest Matt Garcia (Michael Landes).
“What’s lovely about Brighton is it links in quite nicely with the storylines of tattoo artists and potentially trying to find forensic evidence in regards to that,” Murray-Smith says. “That’s when Matt Garcia is involved as well, and there’s nothing better than a walk on the beach with your lover, is there?”
Walks on the beach are all well and good. But as part of this story, the forensics team also has to visit a landfill site where they unearth body parts covered in intricate Japanese tattoos.
“It was an actual rubbish tip, yeah,” Murray-Smith confirms. “We shot at a landfill site in Swindon called Crapper & Sons. And actually you will be amazed how difficult it is to find a landfill site that you can actually film in, because health and safety wise no one is going to want you to do it.
“One of our landfill sites fell through, we were supposed to use a quarry that we were going to do some CGI in. I ended up the week before having to drive down to Swindon to go and talk to the guy that I’d spoken to on the phone, explained to him what the situation was, and he welcomed us with open arms and said he’d love us to do it.
“And literally five days later, we turned up with all our equipment, two cameras, and all our main cast, got Liz Carr down there as well, and it worked brilliantly. But I don’t think you can ever make that kind of set, because there’s so much to do – it would just look fake.”
How was it?
“Smelly and hot,” Murray-Smith recalls. “It was 32 degrees and we were there for a couple of days, drove down there, doing the overnights, everyone was very sticky, very hot and very smelly, and there was – it was definitely a two-shower day. But everyone got into it and everyone accepted that’s what was needed for the storyline, and therefore no one complained, and just got on with it.”
Where was the London car bomb attack filmed?
Later in the series, we’ll see a story titled Deathmaker about a car bomb attack.
“That was all filmed around London and around – that was mainly west London for that one, a lot of Acton, a lot of Ealing,” Murray-Smith says. “We shot in Paddington in fact, in Jack’s dad’s apartment.”
The story itself is based in west London – near the Lyell Centre set in Acton – which made things easy location-wise. Instead, the big concern was creating a bomb explosion in London without alarming anyone with the special effects…
Did they film at a real school in Lift Up Your Hearts?
Episodes three and four, Lift Up Your Heart, are based around a fictional school led by headmaster Mr Taylor (Colin Salmon).
This was filmed in a real school called Hurlingham Academy in Fulham, London.
“We shot during half term, when we were allowed to take over the place for about three days,” Murray-Smith says. And a lot of the school’s real-life pupils took part in production: “We invited them in as well to be part of the supporting artists that we had in front of the camera.”
He adds: “It’s nice to teach them as well about what it is that we do, because a lot of the time, any kids – let alone in less privileged areas – have no idea how to get into the industry or what it is that people do. So to have the headteacher there and have the pupils be part of the cast as well, rather than bringing people in, it just makes it worthwhile.”
Where is the factory in episode two?
Eagle-eyed viewers spotted the same filming location used in Silent Witness and Luther, which aired within days of each other – a slight distracting coincidence. The building used by both shows is actually a derelict factory in Harrow in north-west London.
“We were going around on a recce, and I think someone mentioned the fact that Luther had just shot there,” Murray-Smith says.
But what he didn’t realise was that the episodes would air so close to each other, or that both teams would use such similar shots and filming angles.
“Obviously it is a very good location and that is a very good vantage point And that’s just sod’s law that that happened, really!” Murray-Smith tells us. “But just one of those things. It could happen to any show.”