Sprowston company’s role in helping transform Norwich Cathedral into fairytale castle for film

Carpentry foreman Matthew Daniels and Mark Lusher at the W.S. Lusher workshops in Sprowston where th

Carpentry foreman Matthew Daniels and Mark Lusher at the W.S. Lusher workshops in Sprowston where they made up some of the sets used in the filming of Jack The Giant Slayer at Norwich Cathedral.PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY - Credit: Archant Norfolk

Norwich Cathedral was transformed into a fairytale castle for its role in a new blockbuster movie, and a Sprowston-based building contractor was among those who helped cast some movie magic on the historic landmark.

NICHOLAS HOULT as Jack and ELEANOR TOMLINSON as Isabelle in New Line Cinemas and Legendary Pictures

NICHOLAS HOULT as Jack and ELEANOR TOMLINSON as Isabelle in New Line Cinemas and Legendary Pictures action adventure JACK THE GIANT SLAYER,a Warner Bros Pictures release. - Credit: submitted

W S Lusher and Son, in School Lane, was approached by Warner Bros about six few weeks before filming for Jack the Giant Slayer took place at Norwich Cathedral in May 2011, and a team from the company helped prepare the ancient building for its part in the film which will open in UK cinemas on March 22.

The film – featuring big names such as Ewan McGregor, Nicholas Hoult, Eleanor Tomlinson, and Ian McShane – is inspired by the fairytale Jack and the Beanstalk, and Norwich Cathedral was used for scenes in King Brahmwell's Castle. Extremely realistic mock stone walls, an extra staircase, huge lavish red drapes and suits of armour were all added to the landmark to conjure up the royal setting.

Mark Lusher, managing director of family-owned W S Lusher and Son, said the chartered building contractor fitted parts of the film set delivered to the cathedral from the film company's own studios and also helped create some of the scenery in their Sprowston workshop.

'We had a call from out of the blue asking if we would have anybody available to do work in the cathedral, then had a meeting at the cathedral, and then things started to move very quickly from there,' Mr Lusher said.

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'It was really nice to be asked, and we guess that it was because we do quite a lot on work in the cathedral and in the Cathedral Close, and a lot of other ecclesiastical work too. The cathedral obviously needed to be treated with a lot of respect when the filming took place, like, for example, not fixing any of the scenery to the cathedral's stone work.'

Ahead of the movie's all-star cast coming to Norwich for filming, and while the cathedral was open to the public during the day, the W S Lusher and Son team spent about two weeks working overnight from 6.30pm until 4.30am to prepare for the transformation of the building.

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For the set in the nave area, the firm also constructed a plywood floor to cover the oak-edged dais usually used for the choir stalls – which W S Lusher and Son also originally made for the cathedral – and this was then sent to the film company which used special effects to make it look as though it was made from giant slabs of stone.

Then, once most of the cathedral closed to the public for filming, the team put in place scenery delivered from the film company. An extra column was put in place to disguise the pulpit, and some metal gates were replaced with a large set of wooden doors. W S Lusher and Son also fitted beams to hang giant banners down to cover the cathedral's organ, some mock stone walls were put in place to hide the cathedral shop, and an extra staircase was installed.

In the cathedral's triforium – used in a chase scene with the giant – the company constructed a platform which was used as a base which the film crew decorated with a lavish carpet and suits of armour.

Throughout the building of the film set, the team had to ensure the cathedral building was not damaged – nothing could be fixed into the cathedral fabric and so a system using wedges and suspended studwork was devised.

Then, once filming started, a couple of the W S Lusher and Son team stayed on set in case adjustments needed to be made.

Foreman carpenter Matthew Daniels was one of the team members involved in the whole process.

He said: 'It was certainly very different. It was quite magical how in the space of weeks the cathedral was changed into something completely different.'

He added that it was really interesting watching how the film was made, in particular how the real-life set was combined with the animation of the giant, and he said he was extremely impressed with how realistic all the movie props were.

Mr Lusher said it was the first major film W S Lusher and Son had been involved in, that the whole company was looking forward to seeing the finished results on the big screen, and that they would be keen work with more films in the future.

Jack the Giant Slayer will be in cinemas from March 22.

Are you involved in a new arts project in Norwich? Call reporter Emma Knights on 01603 772428 or email emma.knights@archant.co.uk

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