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Thursday July 18th 2024

The Riot Club | 2014

The Riot Club filming location: Quad, Winchester College, Winchester
The Riot Club filming location: Miles arrives at 'Oxford University': Quad, Winchester College, Winchester | Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo / TTL Images

Perish the thought that the film's drunken, debauched Riot Club might have been inspired by Oxford University's Bullingdon Club, the fraternal social club that has provided so many pillars of the community, cabinet ministers and the occasional Prime Minister.

Any resemblance to events or persons living or dead is clearly coincidental.

That said, although the setting and the exterior scenes are the university city of Oxford, the college scenes were filmed at Winchester College, Winchester in Hampshire.

It’s Winchester’s Quad seen in the film’s 17th century prologue as an enraged husband barges into the college to confront the original Lord Riot (Harry Lloyd).

The college interior, where the Lord is discovered in flagrante, is Dorney Court, a 15th century Tudor manor house on Court Lane southeast of Maidenhead in Berkshire.

It’s been a popular location over the years, seen in The Other Boleyn Girl, Shekhar Kapur’s Elizabeth, with Cate Blanchett, Bob Rafelson’s 1989 Mountains of the Moon; and even as the country mansion robbed by Scousers in Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels.

Dorney pops up in a very different guise later in the film.

In the present day, Miles (Max Irons) is seen arriving in the same Winchester Quad as part of the year’s new intake into ‘Oxford University’.

Oxford itself does provide the street exteriors, including the modern digs to which Miles is directed after agreeing to swap rooms with Alistair (Sam Claflin). This is the new block on Magpie Lane at Merton Lane, built for Corpus Christi College.

The Riot Club filming location: Magpie Lane, Oxford
The Riot Club filming location: Miles' modern digs: Magpie Lane, Oxford | Photograph: Google Maps

Magpie Lane has its own colourful history as a haunt for sex workers, previously known by the unambiguously direct name of Gropecunt Lane.

A young hopeful asks George (Jack Farthing) about entry to the notorious Riot Club as they’re walking past Oxford’s Sheldonian Theatre. He gets the brutal answer that, if he needs to ask, he has no chance.

Surprisingly, the interior of the Sheldonian stands in for 'Harvard University' for the graduation scene, with Joseph Cotten, in Michael Cimino's notorious 1980 Heaven's Gate.

The Riot Club filming location: Sheldonian Theatre, Broad Street, Oxford
The Riot Club filming location: the posh boys go for a drive: Sheldonian Theatre, Broad Street, Oxford | Photograph: Wikimedia / Tony Hisgett

It’s also in front of the Sheldonian, on Broad Street, that the posh boys set off for a nighttime drive, only to manage a few yards down Broad Street before Toby (Olly Alexander) vomits copiously over the car.

No problem. The car keys are posted through the letterbox of a charity shop. Easier to get another one than clean up the mess.

We leave Oxford to find the huge college dining hall, its walls emblazoned with crests, where Miles first meets working-class Lauren (Holliday Grainger) which is Middle Temple Hall, part of the Middle Temple complex opposite the Royal Courts of Justice on the Strand in London.

The Riot Club filming location: Middle Temple Hall, Middle Tempple, London EC4
The Riot Club filming location: Miles talks to Lauren in the 'Oxford' Dining Hall: Middle Temple Hall, Middle Temple, London EC4 | Photograph: Shutterstock Photo / David JC

Properly known as the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple, this is one of the four Inns of Court entitled to call their members to the English Bar as barristers, along with the Inner Temple, Gray's Inn and Lincoln's Inn. You can access the quiet grounds via narrow little passageways running south from the Strand.

The Elizabethan Hall, with its impressive hammerbeam roof, dates from 1572. It survived the Great Fire of London in 1666 but was damaged by German bombs during World War II. It was previously seen onscreen as ‘Banqueting Hall at the Palace of Whitehall’ in Shakespeare In Love.

Its grounds were used for an extensive chase sequence in Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, a musical number in Mary Poppins Returns as well as being featured in The Wolfman, Sherlock Holmes and Wilde.

It’s also home to Temple Church, where Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) looks for clues among the effigies in The Da Vinci Code.

Harry Villiers (Douglas Booth) savouring his triumph in a fencing match was filmed in Winchester's Great Hall, on Castle Avenue.

The Riot Club filming location: The Great Hall, Winchester
The Riot Club filming location: the fencing match: The Great Hall, Winchester | Photograph: Wikimedia / Christophe.Finot

Even older than Middle Temple, the Great Hall is one of the finest surviving halls of the 13th century.

Winchester was once one of the most important cities in the country, rivalling London to be capital. The Hall is all that remains of Winchester Castle and contains what is claimed to be that great symbol of medieval mythology, King Arthur’s Round Table.

The Hall has been seen in on TV in Wolf Hall, The Hollow Crown and The Crown, and Winchester is also featured in the 2013 film of Les Misérables.

The Villiers country estate, where Harry hosts a clay pigeon shoot and where his chums meet his Uncle Jeremy (Tom Hollander), a Conservative MP, is Wrotham Park, a neo-Palladian near Barnet in Hertfordshire. It’s a frequent location seen in The Gentlemen, King Ralph, Gosford Park and many others.

Wrotham is an events venue but not generally open to the public.

As Miles and Lauren begin to get closer, they talk on the tiny rooftop space above All Bar One overlooking Oxford’s High Street.

There’s a bit of a surprise with that raucous college bar where the guys of the rowing club are performing a rowdy striptease.

Beneath the pubby set dressing, this is once again Dorney Court (the main Hall), as is the nearby room of Hugo where he invites Miles for a smoke.

Both Miles and Alistair are chosen to suffer the extreme initiation rites for admission into the club, and it’s while Miles is studying with Lauren in Duke Humfrey's Library, Oxford, that he’s roughly abducted for the initiation rite.

This is the oldest reading room in the Bodleian Library, itself one of the oldest libraries in Europe.

The Library has also been seen in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets as well as Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

Having reached their full complement of ten members, the Club books the function room at the ‘Bull’s Head’, a country pub (one that has not yet barred them after hearing of their antics). The evening of ostentatious drinking and eating that follows provides the dark heart of the film.

The pub is The Jolly Woodman, Littleworth Road at Littleworth Common near Burnham, in Buckinghamshire.

The Riot Club filming location: The Jolly Woodman, Burnham, Buckinghamshire
The Riot Club filming location: the riotous evening at 'The Bull's Head': The Jolly Woodman, Burnham, Buckinghamshire | Photograph: Google Maps

Its screen history reaches back to 1953 classic comedy Genevieve. It's also been featured in Carry On Dick, 2008 romcom Made of Honor, with Patrick Dempsey, 1960 comedy Man In The Moon, with Kenneth More, and of course in that regular TV feast of countryside mayhem, Midsomer Murders.

After the party ends in violent mayhem, it’s only Alistair who’s sent down (expelled from the university). But don’t worry about him. A cosy meeting in one of London’s gentlemens’ clubs with good old Uncle Jeremy guarantees a bright future for the lad.

The club is the Travellers Club, 106 Pall Mall, which stands alongside the much more familiar Reform Club.

Established in 1819, the Travellers Club is the oldest of the surviving Pall Mall clubs and one of the most exclusive.

Living up to its name, the original rules excluded from membership anyone “who has not travelled out of the British islands to a distance of at least five hundred miles from London in a direct line”.