Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Film Favourite; the Unsung Star of Robert Altman's New Film Gosford Park Is the Palladian House. Annabel Freyberg Asks Its Owner Why It's a Top Choice for Filmmakers

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Film Favourite; the Unsung Star of Robert Altman's New Film Gosford Park Is the Palladian House. Annabel Freyberg Asks Its Owner Why It's a Top Choice for Filmmakers

Article excerpt

Byline: ANNABEL FREYBERG

IN 1754, Admiral John Byng commissioned Isaac Ware to build a Palladian house in the middle of a 2,500-acre estate near Barnet. He may have been blissfully unaware of the far-off advent of the movies but he none the less managed to choose just the right ingredients for late 20th century descendants to benefit from them.

Wrotham ( pronounced Rootam) Park has three outstanding assets for a filmmaker: look, location and shape. First, it is utterly splendid, handsome and photogenic, inside and out.

Second, as its current owner, Robert Byng, points out, it is "10 minutes from Elstree Studios, 35 minutes from Pinewood and 40 minutes from Shepperton", as well as being a mere 17 miles from Hyde Park Corner, and therefore extremely convenient. Third, says Byng, "it is long and narrow, so it can be chopped it half. There's one end for the things that pay and one end where we live."

You've probably seen Wrotham Park countless times without realising it, because it's been a popular backdrop for film, advertising and television companies for 20 years.

Its first film, in 1981, was Lady Chatterley's Lover, featuring Sylvia Kristel, and it also took top billing in Ken Russell's 1992 remake, starring Joely Richardson and Sean Bean. White Mischief, Peter's Friends and Bridget Jones's Diary (the scenes for the wedding-anniversary party for the parents of Colin Firth's character) are other films which used Wrotham, but the majority haven't been high-profile. Since filming for Gosford Park ended less than a year ago, four more productions have been shot there.

Robert Byng has been in charge since 1993, having worked in the City for 14 years before that. The house he took over was not the original, which was destroyed in a fire in 1883, though the majority of the contents were saved and the Victorians built a remarkably similar - but even more solid - version.

Furthermore, his parents had modernised Wrotham in 1978, and a few years later the house was paying its way in films and corporate entertainment, as it is today.

Byng is fulsome in his praise of film companies.

"Crews are very good and very careful. …

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