Wolf Hall, one of Wolf Hall’s most successful ever period dramas, depicts the meteoric rise of Thomas Cromwell: the son of a lowly blacksmith who rose through the ranks of the Tudor court to become Henry VIII’s trusted advisor.
The series was not just a triumph for its star Mark Rylance – it also showed the wealth and luxury of Tudor Britain like never before.
Director Peter Kosminsky insisted on filming the entire series on location. “All those small details add up and make a significant difference,” explains series producer Mark Pybus. Some of the properties were actually used by Henry VIII five hundred years ago.
Mark Pybus tells us about his favourites…
Chastleton House, Oxfordshire
Chastleton’s small stone courtyard doubles for Putney, where we see Cromwell as a young man being viciously attacked by his father. The interiors stand in for the Seymour family home, Wolf Hall, where Henry first falls for Jane Seymour. “The Seymours are on the up when we first meet them, before Jane becomes queen,” says Pybus. “It’s one of the only properties in the drama that has a shabby feel. We wanted to get across that they’re not as rich as other people in the show.” It’s possible to visit this ancient house, first built by a rich wool merchant, and now managed by the National Trust.
Dover Castle, Kent
This medieval castle doubles for the Tower of London, where we see Anne Boleyn being executed. “We were looking for a tower, but the problem with the one in central London is that you can end up looking at so much modern stuff [in the background] and have a lot of tourists watching you as you work,” says Pybus, “but Dover has a very similar tower to the White Tower.” The English Heritage site was also used for scenes in Meryl Streep’s new movie Into the Woods. Visitors can also see the fort that’s guarded Britain’s shores from invasion for hundreds of years.
Used for many of the street scenes in Wolf Hall, this atmospheric medieval city is the smallest in England. Pybus and his team were given unparalleled access to the cathedral. “We used the cathedral library, which has never been filmed in before,” he says. “It had books in it that were 400-500 years old. People can also explore the high street and enjoy the teashops and the Bishop’s Palace next to the cathedral.”