Howards End | 1992
The third of the impeccably produced Merchant-Ivory adaptations of EM Forster novels is filmed on a slew of real locations around the UK.
Starting off in London: the cream-painted home of the Schlegel sisters (Emma Thompson and Helena Bonham-Carter) – the fictitious ‘6 Wickham Place’ – is 6 Victoria Square, a quiet square hidden away just north of Victoria Station, SW1, whose photogenic charm was also used in Mike Todd’s 1956 Around the World in 80 Days.
Not far away, the courtyard of a converted Edwardian apartment block, the luxurious, 5-star and very discreet Taj 51 Buckingham Gate, Buckingham Gate, SW1, became the exterior of the London home of Henry Wilcox (Anthony Hopkins). You can glimpse the landscaped courtyard, with its Shakespearian figures and central fountain, through the hotel’s imposing gateway.
The interior staircase, where Wilcox proposes to Margaret Schlegel after the death of his wife Ruth (Vanessa Redgrave), is 2 South Audley Street in Mayfair, which used to house the office of James Bond producer Albert Broccoli’s Eon Productions. See its elaborate exterior as the ‘Cadogan Hotel’ at which the writer is arrested in biopic Wilde, with Stephen Fry as the great writer.
At the other end of the social scale, the modest home of Leonard Bast (Samuel West) is on Park Street behind Borough Market, Borough SE1; another popular (though threatened) location you’ll probably recognise from Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Entrapment, 102 Dalmatians and Keep the Aspidistra Flying, among others.
The lavish emporium decked out with seasonal decorations, where Margaret Schlegel demonstrates “the scientific approach to Christmas shopping – a list”, to Ruth, is Fortnum and Mason, 181 Piccadilly. Read the shop’s history from its humble beginnings as a grocery store in 1707.
The rainswept exterior of the ‘Ethical Hall’, where Mr Bast and the Schlegel sisters attend a lecture, is in the City of London, not far from the Bank of England, but the interior, where Bast picks up the wrong umbrella, is Oxford Town Hall, St Aldate’s at Carfax in the centre of town (another favourite, it featured as the interior of the ‘Old Bailey’ in A Fish Called Wanda).
The row of houses fronting the River Thames along Chiswick Mall, West London W4, stood in for the ‘Chelsea Embankment’, where Wilcox gives a bit of disastrous insider info about the ‘Porphyrion’ company to the Schlegels, as they leave their weekly discussion group at Strawberry House.
This same house is home to James Fox and Anjelica Huston in another Merchant-Ivory adaptation, Henry James's The Golden Bowl, and the house immediately to the right was home to tortured barrister Melville Farr (Dirk Bogarde) in Victim.
The ‘Porphyrion Insurance Company’, where Mr Bast initially works, is the Rosewood London Hotel, 252 High Holborn, housed in the magnificent old Pearl Assurance Building, which was also used for the offices of Wilcox’s Rubber Company. Having stood empty for years, the grandiose marble interior saw frequent service as a film location in such productions as the 1995 film of Richard III, with Ian McKellen, and The Saint. More recently the hotel’s Holborn Dining Room was featured in The Bourne Ultimatum.
The bank where Bast subsequently applies for a job was the Baltic Exchange, St Mary Axe off Leadenhall Street, London EC3, severely damaged by the IRA bomb attack on the City. Plans to restore the building to its former glory – using footage from Howards End as a visual reference – ultimately proved impractical. The Swiss Re building (the ‘Gherkin’) now stands on the site.
More venerable landmarks abound: Margaret Schlegel and Ruth are driven from the Mall through London’s Admiralty Arch at the southwest corner of Trafalgar Square in a gasp-inducing money-shot, which seems to include every horse-drawn period carriage in the British Isles. The station in which they buy tickets to ‘Hilton’ is the beautifully restored ticket office of St Pancras Station, Euston Road, NW1.
Margaret takes lunch with Henry Wilcox at Simpson’s-in-the-Strand, 100 Strand. It’s in the West Room of this London institution that Wilcox advises Margaret to try “roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, and cider to drink. So thoroughly old English.” And who could argue?
The restaurant’s speciality – Scottish beef on the bone – is carved at your table from silver-domed trolleys. The practice, for which Simpson’s is world famous, began over 150 years ago to avoid disturbing the chess games traditionally played in the restaurant.
The country cottage to which she retreats is at Blackpool Sands, where it overlooks the English Channel near Dartmouth, Devon.
In Surrey, south of Englefield Green on the A30 west of Egham, you can’t miss the chimneyed and turretted outline of the Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, which was used for the nursing home in which Ruth Wilcox expires. Built in 1887 as a women’s college for pill manufacturer Thomas Holloway, and now part of the University of London, its elaborate design was inspired by France’s Chateau de Chambord (itself a location for colourful 1955 period romp The Adventures Of Quentin Durward).
The college turns up on screen again as the institution in which Catherine Trammell (Sharon Stone) visits David Morrissey at the end of Basic Instinct 2 and, briefly, as Dr Selvig's institute in Avengers: Age Of Ultron.
‘Howards End’ itself, the country retreat in the fictional village of ‘Hilton’, is Peppard Cottage on Peppard Common just off the B481, in the village of Rotherfield Peppard just to the west of Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire. Not nearly as remote as it appears in the movie – it’s only a couple of doors from the village pub – the cottage was once owned by Lady Ottoline Morrell, who entertained members of the Bloomsbury group here around the turn of the century. It is a private home, so I don't need to remind you not to disturb the residents.
The village of ‘Hilton’ was filmed in Worcestershire: the ‘George Tavern’ can be found in the village of Upper Arley, west off the A442 about six miles northwest of Kidderminster, and ‘Hilton Station’ is Bewdley, a couple of miles to the south, on the Severn Valley Railway.
Wilcox’s country mansion, where all the chickens come home to roost at the nightmarish wedding reception, is at Brampton Bryan Castle, in the village of Brampton Bryan, Herefordshire, on the A4113 about twelve miles west of Ludlow, Shropshire.