As soon as we heard that Jane Austen’s unfinished final novel Sanditon was being made into an ITV drama by Andrew Davies, we knew we were in for a visual treat. It’s set by the seaside! There are fashionable balls! And grand houses!
Here’s what you need to know about the beautiful locations we see on screen…
Where was the ‘Sanditon’ seaside town filmed?
Jane Austen’s fictional town of Sanditon was based on the rapidly-multiplying seaside resorts of the Regency period – but these real-life 19th century pleasure towns have changed so dramatically since Austen’s time that none could provide the proper visual backdrop for the entire TV series.
Instead, the Sanditon we see on-screen was created with the help of full-scale sets, CGI and the town of Clevedon.
“It was all filmed on the West Coast near Bristol,” director Olly Blackburn explains. “Because there isn’t an existing seaside resort left that isn’t full of Boots and car parks and stuff.
“A lot of it is a set that was built by our magnificent production designer, Grant Montgomery, who did everything from Peaky Blinders to Death Comes to Pemberley. And he whole-cloth created all the houses you see close-up, and then we augmented that with those few shots that you see which are CGI which were shot in a place called Clevedon, that has a beautiful sea wall. And we then reconstructed our own regency town.”
A street set of the town of Sanditon was constructed at the Bottle Yard Studios’ back lot in Bristol, stretching for 67 metres and reaching ten metres high.
Production designer Grant Montgomery says: “The exterior street was used for two streets in the town: the building site of Waterloo Place and Trafalgar Street. It was built full scale. Green screen was used only to extend into the beach areas. The set was also used for parts of London such as Cheapside, for which it was turned into a dock area.”
Where is the beach used in Sanditon?
Fictional Sanditon boasts a beautiful beach, with horse-drawn bathing machines and a vast expanse of sand and dunes.
These scenes were actually filmed at Brean Beach in Somerset, 20 miles from Clevedon.
Brean Beach is one of the longest stretches of sand in Europe at approximately seven miles long. The skyline is dominated by Brean Down, a headland which stretches out to sea.
However, for the scenes where the characters are actually swimming around in the sea, the production team shifted location to nearby Weston-super-Mare’s Marine Lake.
“It sounds more delightful than it was,” Kris Marshall says. “It’s kind of, think of like an enormous tidal pool. A tidal infinity pool in many ways. But in March. Which was eight degrees. And there’s a sea wall right behind it, and all the locals were standing up there – the members of the local bathing club… going, ‘Oh I do this every day. I don’t know why anyone’s making a fuss about these actors.'”
Where was Lady Denham’s Sanditon House filmed?
The exterior of Sanditon House is actually Dyrham Park, a late 17th-century mansion near Bristol and Bath which is now owned by the National Trust (and open for visits by the public). This baroque country house sits in an ancient deer park, and cast and crew spent several days filming around the property and parkland.
Filming also took place in the courtyard behind the Orangery, which was transformed into one of Sanditon’s streets for a night-time scene.
The sumptuous interiors we see on-screen were predominantly shot at The Bottle Yard Studios – after Montgomery and his team spent a hectic ten weeks building five interior sets as well as the 19th-century street outside.
“Five interior studio sets were built and these two were reused throughout the series,” the production designer reveals. “These consisted of Trafalgar House (bedrooms, reception rooms and study), Sanditon House (dining rooms, bedrooms and reception rooms), Denham Place, Sanditon Assembly Rooms, the boarding house for young ladies, a London high class club and a London ballroom to name a few.”
As for the over-the-top mansion belonging to Lady Denham (Anne Reid), he says: “Sanditon House is based on the height of Chatsworth House’s main hallway and has a black marble finish inspired by the Bond film Thunderball.
“It has three fully working chandeliers that were lowered and lit on each day of filming, each taking up to 300 candles of different colours which were made especially for the show. One of the main features of this giant room is the lifesize statue of a gold Neptune rising out of the waves on four horses, which was specially sculpted for the series.”
Look closely and you might also see that Sanditon House appears again later in the series – this time with different set dressings.
“For the London Ball sequence shot, we converted Sanditon House and eight Apple Blossom trees were transplanted onto the set,” Montgomery says.
Where is Tom Parker’s Trafalgar House filmed?
Tom Parker (Kris Marshall) is the ambitious mastermind of Sanditon, determined to make his seaside resort into a fashionable holiday spot and a roaring financial success.
He lives in Trafalgar House, which Montgomery modelled on the former home of John Soane, a popular neo-classical architect of the time. His house is now open to the public as Sir John Soane’s Museum at Lincoln’s Inn Fields in Holborn, London.
“I was encouraged by our director Olly Blackburn to go and see [the museum] and do as much research as possible,” Marshall tells us.
Executive producer Belinda Campbell adds: “He obviously really was an architect of the time. He was doing extraordinary things. There were lots of parallels with Tom’s character.”
You can see the influence of the Sir John Soame’s Museum in the handmade moulded columns and applied ceiling designs which the team built on the set of Trafalgar House.
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Where else was Sanditon filmed?
Location filming also took place in Bristol at The New Rooms and The Georgian House.
The village of Uphill near Weston-super-Mare was used for some scenes, as well as Sand Point in North Somerset – a scenic natural pier into the Bristol Channel north of Weston-super-Mare and Brean Down.
Alex Protherough, Head of Production at Red Planet Pictures, says: “We were immediately drawn to Bristol and the South West. There is a wealth of locations in this area, perfect for period drama, and particularly the Georgian period where our story is set. The country houses, Bath and its elegant Regency architecture, even the Somerset coastline all offer a wide range of locations perfect for Sanditon.”
Sanditon airs on Sundays from 25th August at 9pm on ITV