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Derbyshire heritage - film, TV and actors

In this article we are charting films and television series that have Derbyshire and Derby City associations. Derbyshire's beauty makes it a natural choice for international film-makers and TV series alike. Derbyshire is also the birth place and home of some great stars. Read on to see which of your local haunts have big screen and little screen connections!  

The silver screen

Starting with the big screen, we have a host of costume dramas filmed in, associated with or based on, Derbyshire including Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall (1924), Women in Love (1969), The Rainbow (1989), Jane Eyre (1996 film), Emma (1996), Elizabeth(1998), Pride & Prejudice (2005), The Other Boleyn Girl (2008) and The Duchess(2008).

Other Hollywood blockbusters - and perhaps the odd flop or two – filmed in Derbyshire include The Dam Busters (1955), Goodbye, Mr Chips (1939, 1984), The Princess Bride(1987), The Chronicles of Narnia (1990), The Full Monty (1997), Bridget Jones Diary(2001), The League of Gentlemen (2005), And When Did You Last See Your Father?(2007), Summer (2008), The Damned United (2009), The Wolf Man (2010).

Taking the period films first, in chronological order:

Dorothy Vernon of Haddon Hall is a 1924 silent film starring Mary Pickford as Dorothy Vernon. An American film for release to American audiences, it was shot entirely at the Goldwyn/Warner Studios in Hollywood.

A film adaptation of Women in Love, by Eastwood-born D H Lawrence, was released in 1969. Directed by Ken Russell, it starred Oliver Reed and Derbyshire’s own Alan Bates as Gerald and Birkin respectively.  Glenda Jackson appeared as Gudrun and Jennie Linden as Ursula. There is a scene of the Reed and Bates characters wrestling together, part of which was filmed at Elvaston Castle near Derby. Other locations were Kedleston Hall and Belper.

Women in Love is a sequel to The Rainbow. The 1989 adaptation by Ken Russell starred Sammi Davis as Ursula and Amanda Donohoe as Winifred. Derbyshire’s John Tams appeared as Uncle Frank.

For Franco Zeffirelli’s 1996 adaption of Jane Eyre, Haddon Hall, Wingfield Manor and The Red House Working Carriage Museum were locations used. Haddon Hall was ‘the perfect location’ for Edward Rochester’s Thornfield Hall and Wingfield Manor was used to shoot Thornfield Hall in flames.

Haddon Hall was used as a location for Elizabeth which was released in 1998. Directed by Shekar Kapur and starring Cate Blanchett as Elizabeth I and Joseph Fiennes as her lover, Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester.

The 2005 release of Pride and Prejudice, directed by Joe Wright and starring Keira Knightley as Lizzie Bennett and Matthew Macfadyen as Mr Darcy used a number of locations in Derbyshire, including Chatsworth which became Pemberley, home of Mr Darcy.

Haddon Hall became the inn at Lambton, Lyme Hall near Buxton was used for some exterior shots. The Peak District also plays a part, with Stanage Edge and views of Hope Valley featuring in the iconic sweeping scene of Knightley standing on a rock promontory overlooking the valleys of Derbyshire below. Knightley et al were accommodated at the Peacock Hotel in Rowsley during the shoot.

Jane Austen wrote Pride and Prejudice (published in 1813) after a stay in the Rutland Arms Hotel in Bakewell. She was inspired by Bakewell and Chatsworth in the writing of her book and modeled the fictional Pemberley on Chatsworth House.

The 1995 BBC TV adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth was shot in part in Sudbury Hall, and also at Belton House in Grantham.

The Other Boleyn Girl directed by Justin Chadwick was released in 2008 and starred Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman as Mary Boleyn and her infamous sister Anne Boleyn. Parts of the film were shot in Dovedale, Cave Dale in Castleton and Haddon Hall, as well as at North Lees Hall. Many of the cast and crew stayed at The Peacock Hotel in Rowsley whilst filming.

The 2008 release of The Duchess, directed by Saul Dibb starred Keira Knightley as Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, Ralph Fiennes as the Duke of Devonshire, Charlotte Rampling as Lady Spencer and Dominic Cooper as Charles Grey, Georgiana’s lover and father of Eliza, her 4th child. The film was based on the book Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire by Amanda Foreman.

In real life, Georgiana Cavendish was the 5th Duchess of Devonshire and lived at Chatsworth House for part of the year upon having married into the Cavendish family from the Spencer household at Althorp. Georgiana Spencer is an ancestor of the late Princess Diana and the similarities between the two women were heavily emphasised upon the original release of the book.

In the film, Kedleston Hall becomes Althorp, and Chatsworth plays itself. The Red House Working Carriage Museum in Darley Dale was also used. Filming took place in Derbyshire in September and October 2007, with the film released to public cinemas in the autumn of the following year.

To celebrate the film’s release, Kedleston Hall also held an exhibition entitled The Duchess  - Behind the Scenes,  which showcased a behind the scenes look at the film, including displays of the costumes worn by the actors in the film and locations used within Kedleston Hall for the filming.

Chatsworth HousePictured above: Chatsworth House: Chronicles of Narnia (1990), Jane Eyre (2006 TV series), Pride and Prejudice (2005), The Duchess (2008), The Wolf Man (2009), filmed on location here. Photographer: Deborah Porter

In real life, the ‘Dam Busters’ – a group of specially trained personnel in RAF’s 617 squadron - practiced at Derwent Reservoir in determining correct altitude of the Lancaster Bombers over water, in preparation for the use of bouncing bombs.   Their mission, code-name ‘Operation Chastise’, was to break the dams in Sorpe, Eder and Mohne in the Ruhr valley in Germany.  This was a strategic manoeuvre to wreck industry in the valleys below and successfully took place May 16/17 1943. 

The 1955 film, The Dam Busters was directed by Michael Anderson, and starred Michael Redgrave as Barnes Wallis (inventor of the bouncing bomb) and Richard Todd as Wing Commander Guy Gibson. It uses the dam at Derwent Reservoir as a stand in for the Ruhr valley in the film.

On 16 May 2008, a 65th anniversary event was held at Derwent Reservoir. The RAF’s Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, flew a Lancaster Bomber, a Spitfire and a Hurricane over the dam in commemoration of the men who lost their lives in the War and the brave work of the original dam busters. The commemoration was attended by the only surviving pilot from the original raid – Les Munro – and Richard Todd actor from the film.

Both the 1939 film and the 1984 TV versions of Goodbye, Mr Chips were shot at Repton School, standing in for Brookfield School. (other versions are in 1969 as a musical film and 2004 as a TV film). The 1984 BBC television series starred Roy Marsden and Jill Meager.

The Princess Bride (1987) was shot on location at Haddon Hall, which represented Florin Castle in the film. Some scenes are also shot at Robin's Hood Stride and Castleton.  

The Chronicles of Narnia (1990) used Castleton’s underground caves, Peak Cavern, Wingfield Manor, Chatsworth House and Haddon Hall in the filmed version of this classic children's book. 

Mostly shot in Sheffield, there are parts of The Full Monty (1997) that were shot in an old Colliery in Shirebrook near Chesterfield.

The 2001 release of Bridget Jones Diary, starring Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones and also featuring Colin Firth, Hugh Grant, Honor Blackman, Gemma Jones and Celia Imrie was mostly shot in London, but also had some scenes shot in Derbyshire.

The League of Gentlemen was released as a full length film in 2005 following the success of the television series by the same name. But more of The League of Gentlemen later in this article.

Bolsover CastleThe 2007 release of And When Did You Last See Your Father? was directed by Anand Tucker and starred Jim Broadbent and Colin Firth. Various locations in Derbyshire were used including the Snake Pass, Kedleston, and the Lathkil Hotel in Over Haddon.

2008’s film Summer starred Robert Carlyle. It was directed by Kenneth Glenaan and filmed on location in and around Bolsover.  It was a Matlock writer's script  - that of writer Hugh Ellis - that persuaded Robert Carlyle to sign up for the Derbyshire-filmed movie.  A young Derby actor Michael Socha also features in the film.

Derby was in focus in the Tom Hooper directed The Damned United(2009). Michael Sheen starred as Brian Clough, and Timothy Spall played Clough’s sidekick Peter Taylor.  Jim Broadbent also plays a part as Sam Longson, Chairman of Derby County Football Club. The film depicts Clough’s efforts in bringing Derby County out of the relegation zone of Division Two and into Division One, which he achieved in 1969. And so, much of the film is based in Derby, and Derbyshire where Clough and family lived. Locations used for filming were Chesterfield Football Club  standing in for Wembley in the film! Repainted it also became the Baseball Ground, Carrow Road, and Bloomfield Road.

Pictured above right: Bolsover and Bolsover Castle: Jane Eyre (2006 TV series) and Summer (2008) filmed here. Photographer: Robert Steadman

Brian Clough died in Derby City Hospital in 2004 of stomach cancer. A memorial service was held at Derby's Pride Park Stadium on 21 October 2004, bringing fierce rivals Derby County and Nottingham Forest fans together in mourning.  The A52 link between Derby and Nottingham is called ‘Brian Clough Way’. Brian’s son Nigel became a footballer, and latterly took over the management of Derby County in 2009.

And finally The Wolf Man for release in 2010, stars Benecio del Toro, Emily Blunt and Anthony Hopkins.  It uses Chatsworth for some exterior shots.

The little screen

Moving onto the little screen, anyone of a certain age will remember Stig of the Dump, a children’s series from 1981.  It returned to our screens in 2002.  The 2002 series – which won a BAFTA Children's Film & Television Award - was filmed in Darley Dale, Whatstandwell, Lumsdale Valley and Alderwasley. The house where Barney and Lou's Grandparents live is on Whitworth Road in Darley Dale, the quarry is Dukes Quarry in Whatstandwell, and the pub in episode 3 is the Bear Inn at Alderwasley The screen writer of the series, Peter Tabern, is also a current resident of Derbyshire.

The 1970s drama, Colditz starred David McCallum and Robert Wagner. Calver Mill was used for the exterior shots of the WWII prison. Colditz Castle was used to hold high-risk and politically important prisoners. 

Starring Wendy Craig as a nanny in war-torn London, Nanny was screened in the 1980s. The Choir of St Oswald's Church in Ashbourne featured in the series, Kedleston also featured and a facade of Vernon Street in Derby also made a couple of appearances.

Pictured above left: Kedleston Hall: Women in Love (1969), Jane Eyre (2006 TV series), And When Did You Last See Your Father? (2007) The Duchess (2008) filmed here. Kedleston also held an exhibition to complement the release of the film entitled The Duchess - Behind the scenes. Photographer: Robert Steadman

Micheal Caine and Lewis Collins starred in a ‘made for TV’ film of Jack the Ripper, which was screened in 1988. Mostly shot in Pinewood Studios, Belper was also used as a location.

Set in the beautiful, but fictional, Derbyshire village of Cardale, Crich and Fritchley villages provide the real-life backdrop for the popular television drama series of Peak Practice which ran to 12 series in the 1990s.  Locations in Wirksworth, Bonsall, South Wingfield, Kirk Ireton, Holloway, Longnor, Belper Mill and Derby have also featured in the series. Peak Practice was also originally devised by a local playwright by the name of Lucy Gannon.

For Peak Practice ‘spotters’, we have specifics;

  • Jack Kerruish's House - Melkridge House, Fritchley

  • Archway House, Crich was Beth Glover's House

  • Andrew Attwood's House was in Holloway

  • The Manor Public House - home to Chloe, James and their family is in South Wingfield

  • Erica Matthews' House was in Idridgehay near Ashbourne

  • Chestnut Bank, Fritchley was The Beeches

  • The Roaches was the setting for a dramatic medical emergency

  • Hartington was the location for David’s funeral

  • Erica jilted Andrew at Edensor Church

Peak Practice finally came to an end in 2002, much to the dismay of its fans, but was replaced by another medical drama in 2003 called Sweet Medicine, which was mainly shot in Wirksworth (which became the town of Stoneford) but that ran to only one 10 episode series.

Royston Vasey, the village in cult comedy The League of Gentlemen is actually Hadfield in Derbyshire.  The television series ran from 1999-2002 and is the warped brainchild of Jeremy Dyson, Mark Gatiss, Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton. It attracted a cult following and the idea was realized as a full length film in 2005.

Other locations used were Glossop and Hope Valley. Hadfield is near Glossop and many locations can be spotted in the series.

  • Hilary Briss’s scary butcher’s shop (J.W. Mettrick & Son)

  • You can have a cuppa in the Café Royston

  • The old fishmonger's became a veterinary surgery

  • The empty estate agent found new life as the Attachments dating agency

  • The little handicraft emporium was transformed into a joke shop one day and a video rental shop a week later

  • Royston Vasey is actually the real name of comedian Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown 
    See the map at the following page to help guide you around Hadfield if you visit in search of Bummer’s Alley or Shebab’s Restaurant:

Period dramas filmed in Derbyshire and made for television include The Rainbow(1988 - Ilkeston), Pride and Prejudice (1995), Granada Television's The Fortunes and Misfortunes of Moll Flanders (1996), BBC’s The Prince and the Pauper (1996), Jane Eyre (2006) and Wuthering Heights (2008/9).

The 1995 TV adaptation of Pride and Prejudice starring Colin Firth as Mr Darcy was immensely popular.  Longnor became Lambton and the interior of Pemberley was provided by Sudbury Hall. The Roaches also feature.

Sudbury HallThe Fortunes and Misfortunes of Moll Flanders aired in 1996 and starred a buxom Alex Kingston as Moll Flanders, who was later to become better known as Dr Elizabeth Corday in ER. She was once also married to actor Ralph Fiennes. This 1996 Moll Flanders series used Haddon Hall during filming as did the 1996 BBC series The Prince and the Pauper.

Pictured above right: Sudbury Hall: Jane Eyre (2006 TV series), Pride and Prejudice (1995 TV and 2005 Film) were shot on location here.Photographer: Robert Steadman

The 2006 BBC adaptation of Jane Eyre used Haddon Hall as Thornfield. The dramatic sight of Thornfield being burned to the ground was so realistic that several passing motorists on the A6 believed Haddon Hall to be on fire and called the fire service!  The BBC also used Kedleston Hall, North Lees Hall, Riding House in Bolsover, Bolsover Castle, Stanage Edge, Hathersage, The Snake Pass, Chatsworth House, Dovedale (where Rochester first meets Jane Eyre), The Goyt Valley, Ilam Youth Hostel (Lowood School), Wingfield Manor (for dormitory scenes in Lowood School) and Sudbury Hall (the red room at Gateshead Hall) as locations.

Wuthering Heights aired as a two part film in August 2009 and featured Stanage Edge.  It also features 10 year old Holbrook-based actress Stephanie Duffy as Isabella, also Alvaston-born actor Jack O’Connell.

Stanage EdgePictured above: Stanage Edge, where the iconic scene in Pride and Prejudice (2005) was shot. Parts of the 2009 TV two part dramatisation of Wuthering Heights and BBC's 2006 adaptation of Jane Eyre also used Stanage Edge.  Photographer: Deborah Porter

Derbyshire based Theodore Entertainment has produced several short films, filmed entirely in the Derbyshire Peak District. House of the Marionettes is a ghost story filmed at Ilam, Grindleford, Kilburn Hall and Elvaston Castle. Directed by Andrew Rokita, produced by Danuta Flint, it stars local actress Louise Grantham with marionettes performed by Vera Heaton. The film was released in 2009. Middleton Hall is the location for A Debtor’s Prison. There are also a handful of films that follow the character Milos H. - a ten year old Polish immigrant finding his feet in England - filmed at Cromford Mill, Shining Cliff Woods including the disused wire factory at Ambergate and the now disused Rolls Royce works at Nightingale Road in Derby. 

Ghosts of the East Midlands also, by necessity, is shot partly in Derbyshire, where the narrator Richard Felix (also the founder and proprietor of Derby Heritage Centre) claims Derby is the most haunted city in Britain.  

Lara Croft Way

As a brief interlude, let’s have a brief look at the digital screen since Lara Croft doesn’t seem to fit anywhere else in this article! Lara Croft was ‘born’ in Derby, the brainchild of Toby Gard working for then Derby-based ‘Core Design’. Originally devised as a character in a computer game called Tomb Raider, she became ubiquitous for a while and brought Angelina Jolie as Croft into the forefront of everyone’s consciousness in the films Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001) and Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (2003). At time of writing, a public vote on what to call a new ring road in Derby is ongoing, with ‘Lara Croft Way’ in the lead by a huge margin!

Welcome to the A-list

Since we are talking of ‘A-list’ actors, many actors and entertainers have also come from, or lived in, Derby and Derbyshire. Here are a few of the most famous.

Arguably the most famous of Derbyshire’s acting sons is Alan Bates. Born in 1934 in Allestree, Derby he decided upon his acting career at the tender age of 11. He attended Herbert Strutt Grammar School in Belper and he joined RADA in 1951 alongside Albert Finney, Peter O'Toole, Roy Kinnear, Peter Bowles, Richard Briers and James Booth. Always proud of Derbyshire, he had a home there in the small village of Bradbourne and was formerly the patron of Derby QUAD.  He died in 2003. Bates and Oliver Reed also wrestled together in an adaptation of Women in Love (1969) – a part of which was filmed at Elvaston Castle in Derby.

James Bolam (born 1935) was schooled at Bemrose School in Derby . Remembered best for his roles in ‘Only When I Laugh’‘The Beiderbecke Trilogies’ and ‘The Likely Lads’.  He moved with his by then widowed mother to Derby as a 13 year old, joining the 3rd year at the all-boys school, Bemrose.  He initially trained as an accountant in Derby – but he also joined the Derby Shakespeare Company, appearing at the Derby Playhouse with them.  He left the accountancy firm and his budding acting career on hold in 1955 so that he could complete his National Service.  After his service was complete, he joined the Central School of Speech and Drama in London and his acting career blossomed thereafter.

Tim Brooke-Taylor is best known for being a member of The Goodies, but also for his appearances on radio shows ‘ I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue’, and ‘ I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again’. He was born in Buxton in 1940 starting his academic career with an expulsion at the age of 5 and a half! Academia obviously took a turn for the better for him, as he eventually went on to read Law at Cambridge University. Here he became acquainted with John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Bill Oddie and Jonathan Lynn. They were all members of the Cambridge University Footlights Club of which Brooke-Taylor was president in 1963. Brooke-Taylor is currently honorary Vice-President of Derby County FC.

Another Buxton born actress was Elizabeth Spriggs (1929 - 2008). Best known as Nan on TV series Shine on Harvey Moon (1982-85). She received an Olivier Award in 1978 for Love Letters on Blue Paper.

Buxton also gave the world Robert Stevenson (1905-1986): director of many Disney films including Mary Poppins for which he received an Oscar nomination for Best Director.

Actor Tom Chambers was schooled at Repton as was Jeremy Clarkson of Top Gear fame – though the latter was expelled. Other notable Reptonians are Graeme Gardenof ‘ The Goodies’ fame; Christopher Isherwood, screenwriter, Basil Rathbone, actor; Andy Wilman, another Top Gear presenter.

Bruno Langley, actor in Coronation Street was born in Buxton  in 1983. He played the first openly gay role in Coronation Street as character Todd Grinshaw. He attended Buxton Community School and played cello in a number of junior string orchestras. Another ex- Coronation Street actress is Tracy Shaw, who is from Belper.

Timothy Dalton, (born 1944) is perhaps best known as being the 5th ‘007’ in the James Bond movies (the 5th depending on how many times you count Sean Connery as 007 that is!). He lived with his family as a young child near Belper  and attended Herbert Strutt Grammar School, which he left in 1964. He went on to attend RADA and his acting career was born.

Robert Lindsay – known to many as ‘Wolfie’ in Citizen Smith - was born in Ilkeston in 1949, full name Robert Lindsay Stevenson.  His original ambitions were to become a drama teacher, but he was persuaded by his friends to apply for a place at RADA, which he did, joining in 1968.

Dirk Bogarde (1921 - 1999) might be a surprising entry in this article to some. Bogarde appeared in more than 60 films with a career that lasted over 50 years. During the war however, he joined up, and was sent for training in the interpretation of aerial photography at Smedley’s Hydro in Matlock. His training in 1943 helped him in his role in the D-Day landings where he worked with the Army Intelligence Photographic Unit.  He was finally demobbed in 1946.

Another film industry great from past times hails from Ripley. Joan Bridge (1912 -  ) was not an actress or a director however.  She was a colour consultant and costume designer for many films during her career.  One of her films ‘The Black Narcissus’(1947) demonstrates her work as a Technicolour Consultant to great effect. Another film ‘A Man for All Seasons’ (1966) saw her winning both an Oscar and a BAFTA for her costume design.

Actor Frank Conroy (1890 - 1964) appeared in many films including The Ox-Bow IncidentAll My SonsThe Threat, The Royal Family of Broadway and The Day the Earth Stood Still. He was also the winner of a Tony Award for his performance in Graham Greene's The Potting Shed. He was born in Derby.

John_HurtAnd finally, Hollywood A-lister John Hurt was born in Shirebrook in North East Derbyshire in 1940. He lived from the age of 5 in a small village called Woodville until he was 12 years old. His father founded the 1st Woodville (St Stephens) Scout Group in 1945, which is still going strong today. His father’s job, as a Church of England clergyman, required him to move his family often and so Hurt left the county at 12, never to return. He is well known for his leading roles in The Elephant Man and Nineteen Eighty-Four and has multiple awards to his name including 3 BAFTAs and a Golden Globe. He is the current patron of Derby QUAD, taking over from Alan Bates upon his death. In addition to this, he was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Derby in 2002!

Pictured above right: John Hurt: lived in Derbyshire as a boy and current patron of Derby QUAD 
Photograph supplied by Derby QUAD

Further reading

In putting together this article, one thing became clear, that only the tip of the iceberg had been uncovered.  So, if this article has piqued your interest, then you can research further using the following databases as starting points.

We didn’t even start on compiling a list of cinemas past and present in the region. Neither did we touch upon television that is about Derbyshire – just the dramatic productions and actors we’ve covered here. There are also directors, screenwriters, cameramen and others who operate behind the scenes that we didn’t even get started on. Room for expansion! So, if you would like to contribute to this series, then get in touch with us.  We’d love to hear from you.

Get involved

  • Check out our round up of contemporary filmakers, scriptwriters, actors and organisations in the film industry in Derbyshire, a small selection of the very many diverse talents in the County.

  • We've compiled a Google Map of Film mentioned in this article in ‘ at-a-glance’ form. If you know of others, add them to the map.

  • We've also got a thread on our Facebook fan pages to carry on the discussion about all things 'filmic'. 

  • If you have information that we haven’t included here, then let us know! Similarly, if you consider yourself the expert on a particular subject, or you simply fancy writing up and getting some information published for this series, then get in touch by email at:


Many thanks to Deborah Porter, Sharon Stevens-Cash, Carole Crompton, Bygonederbyshire, Peak and Fell Walking, The Derby Local Studies Library and Robert Steadman for picture contributions to this series.

Source materials for this article,_Duchess_of_Devonshire,%20Derbyshire,%20England,%20UK&&heading=18;with+locations+including;Calver%20Mill,%20Derbyshire,%20England,%20UK,,10435~1322573,00.html,%20UK&&heading=18;with+locations+including;Derbyshire,%20England,%20UK,_Mr._Chips,_Dirk_-_Matlock_Links_of_Cinema_Icon,_Joan_-_A_Colourful_Film_Career,_Alan,_James_-_The_Likely_Lad_of_Bemrose_School

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