Seven television programmes shot in Norfolk
11:52 05 February 2014
As the BBC dramatisation of Norfolk writer Alan Hunter’s novels, Inspector George Gently, returns to our screens on Thursday, Alex Flood looks at other series with a Norfolk backdrop.
· Kingdom (2007-09):
Simon Wheeler’s rural drama follows small-town solicitor Peter Kingdom on his daily endeavours, mostly attempting to aid the eccentric and eclectic population of fictional Market Shipborough in their petty legal troubles. Played by Norfolk actor Stephen Fry, Kingdom’s hometown is actually that of real-life Swaffham. Shot entirely in the west Norfolk town, landmarks appear in the show under different monikers, such as the ‘Startled Duck’ pub becoming the ‘Greyhound Inn’. Thanks to the programme, a substantial economic boost (dubbed ‘the Kingdom affect’) was felt by the local economy, with businesses capitalising on the success of the show by offering guided tours of Kingdom locations, as well as selling merchandise like ‘Kingdom rock’ and postcards. Kingdom was cancelled after its third series in October 2009 as a result of reduced ratings.
· The Chief (1990-95):
Just like Inspector George Gently, The Chief starred Norwich resident Martin Shaw as its main protagonist from series three (taking over from Tim Pigott Smith in 1993) this time the frank-talking Chief Constable Alan Cade. Cade is ‘the Chief’ in command of the fictitious Eastland Constabulary, and the show documents his struggle to bring the community’s growing crime problem under control. Set in East Anglia, the programme used locations in Norwich, Great Yarmouth and Gorleston throughout, and aimed to provide an accurate representation of Anglian Police processes, even employing former Chief Constable James Anderton as an adviser.
· Lovejoy (1986-94)
This comedy-drama series from the late eighties follows the antics of amiable yet roguish antique dealer Lovejoy, played by Ian McShane. Derived from the novels by Lancashire author Jonathan Grant, the series was set and shot entirely in East Anglia, with the well-known Elm Hill area of Norwich providing one of the main locations.
· A Very Peculiar Practice (1986-88):
Peter Davison stars as idealistic young doctor Stephen Daker in this strange black comedy, which aired on BBC1 for two series on the late eighties. Chronicling the hilarious events that occur amongst Daker’s misfit support staff, A Very Peculiar Practice takes inspiration from Norwich’s very own UEA. The University Medical Centre in which Daker works is strongly based on UEA’s campus grounds. This choice of UEA by producers was not unintentional either, as academic Malcolm Bradbury, to whose development of the British campus novel the series is much indebted to was a professor there at the time.
· Tales of the Unexpected (1979-88):
This dramatisation of Roald Dahl’s collection of short stories of the same name was filmed almost entirely in East Anglia. The recurring opening from the famous author, of fireside dialogue, was filmed at the Magdalen Studios in central Norwich, now Epic Studios music venue. Innumerable other Norfolk locations were put to good use throughout shooting, including Oxburgh Hall, Upper St. Giles Street, Bowthorpe Cemetery and Thetford Forest. The series has recently been re-aired on ITV3 and has since been moved to Sky Arts 2.
· Monty Python’s Flying Circus (1971):
Even comic titans ‘the Pythons’ are not safe from the lure of Norfolk’s lush countryside it seems. Although fleeting, glimpses of the county’s locations can be caught in certain episodes of this historic series if one knows where to look. Episode twenty included church grounds in Heydon in its ‘The Idiot in Society’ sketch, and the ‘Whicker Island’ sketch, featuring Alan Whicker and his clones, was filmed at Winterton. A number of spinoff Python films, including And Now for Something Completely Different, also feature Norfolk.
· Dad’s Army (1968-77):
The much-loved comedy about Britain’s wartime Home Guard kick-started co-writer David Croft’s remarkable career, and was voted Britain’s fourth best loved sitcom by a BBC poll in 2004. Almost all of the external scenes were shot in or around Thetford. Particular locations include Thetford Guildhall, the Palace Cinema and even Stanford Battle Arena. It’s also not well known that the entire cast and crew would come up to the area each year during filming and stay in Thetford’s Anchor or Bell Hotels for ‘bonding time’.