Set­ting the scene in London

A tour of film lo­ca­tions in the cap­i­tal adds lay­ers of his­tor­i­cal depth to a pop-cul­ture nar­ra­tive, writes Vicky Roach

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - Escape - - UNITED KINGDOM - The writer was a guest of Visit Bri­tain.

SMITH­FIELD Meat Mar­ket and its en­vi­rons are an ap­pro­pri­ately dra­matic place to be­gin a movie tour of London, re­an­i­mat­ing his­tory through the prism of popular cul­ture.

In Great Ex­pec­ta­tions, Charles Dick­ens – a vo­cal critic of the 800-year-old mar­ket where, in his day, live cat­tle were butchered on-site – de­scribed it as a “smear with filth and fat and blood and foam”.

Val Black­burn, a di­rec­tor of spe­cial­ist company Brit Movie Tours, sets the scene with a brief re­cap of the area’s bloody his­tory of ex­e­cu­tions. Scot­tish pa­triot Wil­liam Wal­lace – the sub­ject of Mel Gib­son’s Os­car­win­ning 1995 film Braveheart – was hanged, drawn and quar­tered here, the statu­tory penalty for high trea­son in the 14th cen­tury.

Heretics and witches were of­ten burned at the stake, Black­burn says, segue­ing neatly into a tale about Harry Pot­ter.

While writ­ing an es­say on “Why witch burn­ing in the 14th cen­tury was com­pletely point­less,” she re­calls, the boy wizard came across the ex­am­ple of Wen­delin the Weird, who al­lowed her­self to be caught 47 times, as her flame-freez­ing spell ren­dered the ex­pe­ri­ence harm­less. “She loved get­ting burned, be­cause it cre­ated a gen­tle tick­ling sen­sa­tion.”

Un­for­tu­nately, a lot of mug­gles (those with­out mag­i­cal pow­ers) were wrongly ac­cused, Black­burn ob­serves, and hav­ing no means of pro­tec­tion, met a cruel and ig­no­min­ious end.

Heal­ers, mid­wives and even cat own­ers came un­der sus­pi­cion. A popular test for witches was the dunk­ing chair. “Your hands and feet were tied. If you drowned, you were a mug­gle and you were buried in con­se­crated ground.”

Black­burn’s fan-like en­thu­si­asm for her sub­ject mat­ter is in­fec­tious. “It means I didn’t have a wasted child­hood,” she says with a laugh, “I turned it into a ca­reer.”

Smith­field is also home to the arch­way in which Brid­get Jones was drenched on her way to meet Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) at his of­fices in the nearby Inns of Court.

Just around the cor­ner is St Bart’s Hos­pi­tal, which fea­tured in The Re­ichen­bach Fall episode of the hit BBC Sher­lock se­ries star­ring Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch and Martin Free­man.

Per­haps it’s the graf­fiti scratched into the dust on the win­dows – “Mo­ri­aty is dead”, “Lazarus is go”, “John­lock: Game is on” – but the spot where John Wat­son watched his best friend throw him­self off the rooftop feels strangely like a crime scene.

PADDING­TON

Fifty stat­ues of the world’s best-known Peru­vian bear, de­signed by the likes of David Beck­ham and Ri­hanna, cur­rently line The Padding­ton Trail, launched to coin­cide with

the re­lease of Michael Bond’s adapted chil­dren’s clas­sic.

Padding­ton opens in Aus­tralia on Thurs­day. The stat­ues are to be auc­tioned off at the end of this month to raise money for the Na­tional So­ci­ety for the Preven­tion of Cru­elty to Chil­dren, but fam­i­lies in­tend­ing to visit London next year can plan their own DIY walk with the help of the map on vis­it­lon­don.com, or book a seat on Brit Movie’s 2½-hour bus tour start­ing March 28.

The Brit Movies tour stops at Mr Gru­ber’s an­tique shop, Por­to­bello Mar­ket and the Prim­rose Hill film lo­ca­tion for the Brown fam­ily’s fic­ti­tious Wind­sor Gar­dens ad­dress.

There’s a per­ma­nent statue at Padding­ton Sta­tion, from which the mar­malade-loving bear takes his name.

Bond’s daugh­ter, Karen, man­ages the shop at Padding­ton Sta­tion, which sells ev­ery­thing from back­packs and snow globes to egg cups as well as a va­ri­ety of bears. The cre­ators of the

Padding­ton movie, which pre­mieres in Syd­ney to­day, gained per­mis­sion to film at the London sta­tion.

London’s Nat­u­ral His­tory Mu­seum also fea­tures in the film as the work­place of Ni­cole Kid­man’s vamp­ish vil­lain, a taxi­der­mist who wants to stuff the Peru­vian bear.

The mu­seum also fea­tures in up­com­ing Night at the Mu­seum three­quel – Se­cret of the Tomb with Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson and the late Robin Wil­liams.

SHER­LOCK

In­stantly recog­nis­able by its dis­tinc­tive red canopy, Speedy’s Sand­wich Bar and Cafe – di­rectly be­low Sher­lock’s house in the BBC TV show – isn’t ac­tu­ally lo­cated on Baker St.

Owned by Chris Ge­or­giou since 2002, the real cof­fee shop is in North Gower St, a short walk from Euston Square Sta­tion.

When Arthur Co­nan Doyle wrote his de­tec­tive sto­ries, 221B Baker St was ac­tu­ally a fic­ti­tious ad­dress. When a large new of­fice block was built in the 1930s, The Abbey Na­tional Build­ing So­ci­ety started re­ceiv­ing let­ters ad­dressed to Sher­lock.

To­day, the Sher­lock Holmes Mu­seum of­fi­cially “owns” the fa­mous ad­dress by spe­cial per­mis­sion from the City of West­min­ster (even though it’s ac­tual phys­i­cal lo­ca­tion is 237-241 Baker St).

In the sea­son three fi­nale, Holmes vis­its 23/24 Le­in­ster Gar­dens, near Bayswa­ter. Passers-by would be fooled by the “dwellings”, which are merely facades built in the 1860s.

The stair­wells at Som­er­set House, in cen­tral London, fea­ture promi­nently in the Guy Ritchie movie, star­ring Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law. With its orig­i­nal lamps and cob­ble­stones, the neo-clas­si­cal Som­er­set House ap­pears in two James Bond movies – Gold­enEye (as a build­ing in St Peters­burg) and To­mor­row Never Dies (as the Min­istry of De­fence). The arts and cul­tural cen­tre, home to Skye Gyn­gell’s new restau­rant Spring, also stood in for Devon­shire House in The

Duchess (Keira Knight­ley).

HARRY POT­TER

From Pic­cadilly Cir­cus to the Mil­len­nium Bridge, the boy wizard and his cronies have cast a long-reach­ing spell over London and beyond – no sel­f­re­spect­ing fan would leave the UK with­out a visit to Christ Church col­lege in Ox­ford, in­spi­ra­tion for Hog­wart’s great din­ing hall, and the Warner Bros. Harry Pot­ter stu­dio tour at Leaves­don, for which it’s cru­cial to plan ahead.

Great Scot­land Yard was the Min­istry of Magic in two films.

Aus­tralia House was trans­formed into Gringotts bank in The Philo­spher’s Stone. And it was on Lam­beth Bridge that the mag­i­cal Knight Bus squeezed be­tween two dou­ble deck­ers.

The in­spi­ra­tion for 12 Grim­mauld Place, HQ for the

Or­der of the Phoenix, can be found at Clare­mont Square, Is­ling­ton. The film­mak­ers ini­tially in­tended to film on lo­ca­tion but when they were de­nied per­mis­sion due to con­cerns over an old wa­ter reser­voir, the build­ing was re-cre­ated at Leaves­don.

Photo and mer­chan­dis­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties can be had at Kings Cross Sta­tion, where there is a per­ma­nent Plat­form 9¾ prop.

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