Paddy Constantine is back on screen this month as Jack Whicher, in stories based on the career of the first celebrity sleuth, the real 19th-century detective Jonathan ‘Jack’ Whicher, who was sacked from the police for failing to solve the notorious Constance Kent murder case of 1860.
“It was the Madeleine McCann story of its day,” explains The Suspicions of Mr Whicher producer David Boulter. The Metropolitan Police sent Mr Whicher to the scene of the crime to figure it out. “He did work it out, but he couldn’t prove it. By not securing a conviction, Whicher was scapegoated by the Met and had to leave.”
Luckily for Whicher’s career, the government had recently passed the Matrimonial Causes Act of 1857, making it legal to divorce.
“The government thought that only a handful of people would apply,” explains Boulter, “but they were absolutely inundated with miserable couples who wanted to separate. Whicher would have got a lot of his bread and butter from investigating adultery and affairs.”
The production team on the ITV series worked hard to create a seamless backdrop of a Victorian England that Whicher would have recognised. “We shot all over the capital, around the East End, in Kent and in a village in Wiltshire,” explains Considine. Now, with a little help from RT, you can track down the locations for yourself.
1. Chatham Dockyard, Kent
“We chose Chatham because it has boats, docks and a network of unusual cobbled, covered streets,” says Boulter. This giant 400-acre space was used by the Royal Navy for hundreds of years. Although it closed in 1984, part of the area has been transformed for visitors, who can see historic warships, Georgian rope factories, submarines and locations for dramas such as Mr Selfridge, Les Misérables, Sherlock Holmes: a Game of Shadows, Call the Midwife and, of course, The Suspicions of Mr Whicher.
2. Somerset House, London
This imposing neoclassical building overlooking the Thames was designed in 1776, and is now home to the Courtauld Institute and celebrated art collection. However, if you fill the giant inner courtyard with horses and carriages it is transformed into a Victorian street. “We also used the lower ground level of the building, which has a series of subterranean passageways,” says Boulter. “These appear in the series when Whicher is going through the docks, and double for the City of London’s narrow lanes.”
3. Royal Naval College, Greenwich, London
“You will spot the Royal Naval College right at the start of the first new Mr Whicher film, when a young man walks down the steps of the Painted Hall,” says Boulter. This masterpiece on the Thames, built between 1696 and 1712, has caught the eye of location scouts on innumerable occasions, having hosted cast and crew from, among others, Les Misérables, Skyfall, The King’s Speech, Thor: the Dark World, The Duchess, and The Golden Compass.
4. Corsham, Wiltshire
The Mr Whicher team filmed in this lovely market town and the nearby picturesque Lacock Village, now maintained by the National Trust. “The area has been used for a lot of Jane Austen dramas,” says Boulter. “Corsham is beautiful, but we weren’t looking for something pretty or perfect looking, but something that has a lot of depth of field and scale to it. Corsham High Street was great; we introduced horses and carriages, the right street lighting, and dogs into some scenes, which productions don’t normally do, but they would have been there. We tried to put children in and old people, to make it like human life.”
5. The Bluebell Railway, East Sussex
“Here you’ ll find the largest and best collection of vintage steam trains, engines and carriages,” says Boulter, who arranged shoots inside the train station and locomotive carriages. The heritage line runs for 11 miles and offers scenic train rides to the public on routes that travel to Sheffield Park and East Grinstead.
Watch The Suspicions of Mr Whicher on ITV player and the final film at 9pm, September 14.
See here for great cottages to stay in while you visit TV locations