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Sunday June 16th 2024

The Ruling Class | 1971

The Ruling Class location: Harlaxton Manor, Grantham, Lincolnshire
The Ruling Class location: the Earl inherits ‘Gurney Manor’: Harlaxton Manor, Grantham, Lincolnshire

The film version of playwright Peter Barnes’ wild, black satire on the British class system retains stagey moments, but it’s crazily enjoyable and secured a well-deserved Best Actor nomination for Peter O’Toole as the eccentric Jack Gurney who inherits an earldom.

When the tutu-clad 13th Earl (Harry Andrews) succumbs to a seriously misjudged bout of auto-erotic asphyxiation, the venal Gurney family is thrown into confusion as the estate falls to a gentle, if slightly bonkers, Jesus freak.

The opening formal toast is in the Livery Hall of the The Stationers' and Newspaper Makers' Company, Ave Maria Lane, London EC4.

The fantastical exterior of ‘Gurney Manor’ is Harlaxton Manor, an extravagant neo-Elizabethan extravaganza a couple of miles west of Grantham, Lincolnshire. Now home to Harlaxton College, part of the University of Evansville, Indiana, it’s not generally open to the public, though it is possible to book group tours and there are occasional open days.

The manor is probably more familiar now from the lurid 1999 remake of The Haunting.

Interiors were filmed in Cliveden House (site of the actual events recounted in the 1989 movie Scandal), now the Cliveden House Hotel, three miles northeast of Maidenhead on the B476 Hedsor road (rail: Taplow), Once home to the Astor family, the house can be seen in several films, including The Beatles’ 1965 Help! and in Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes.

The Ruling Class location: White Horse, Shere Lane, Shere, Surrey
The Ruling Class location: the Earl leads the hunt in a rendition of Dem Bones: White Horse, Shere Lane, Shere, Surrey | Photograph: wikimedia / Clare

The ‘Gurney estate’ village is Shere, on the A25 between Guildford and Dorking in Surrey. It’s in the White Horse pub, Shere Lane, in the centre of the village, that the black-garbed Earl leads the local hunt in a chorus of Dem Bones. The pub was also featured in Nancy Meyers’ much fluffier 2006 romcom The Holiday, with Cameron Diaz and Jude Law.

The mental hospital is The Elvetham (formerly Elvetham Hall, dating from 1860), now a hotel and conference centre, at Hartley Wintney near Fleet in Hampshire.