It is time to dust off those walking shoes as winter fades into a distant past and spring is about to burst into action, and speaking of action, have you often wondered why some sites seem so familiar as you meander or rush through the City? Well, have those cameras ready – so roll cameras action, we are talking City film locations!
Capital cities around the world are a backdrop to many a film and the City of London is no exception with both historic sites such as the Bank of England, St Paul’s Cathedral and Leadenhall Market often featured as well as the more modern ones including the Lloyds Building and St Mary Axe, affectionately known as the Gherkin. And as award season is upon us, these are my 6 winning film locations!
Car Park Ramp West Smithfield
His name is Bond, James Bond, and he screeches his way down and the up the ramp in his car at the site of the alternate MI6 Headquarters in Skyfall after the original is blown-up. This in real life is an underground car park by Smithfield meat market! It does though have an interesting past. This used to be a station going back to the 1850’s and was used to deliver carcasses to the market.
The live cattle and sheep market had been stopped by an act of parliament in 1852 due to the smell and congestion it caused, and was then moved to Copenhagen Fields in north London. There had been so many complaints Smithfield had nearly closed, but it was rebuilt and reopened as a meat market in 1868 with the wonderful Horace Jones designed building we still see. The meat was unloaded at the station and taken to the market by horse and cart up the ramp – hence the cobbles to prevent the horses slipping. The station was still in use up to the late 1960’s. Today the meat is brought in by vans. There is a great tour of the market but set those alarm clocks! It will be an early start at 6.30am!
So as James hurtles past into the City Landscape, people may well have to jump out of the way and say a prayer, but luckily one of the oldest churches in the city St. Bartholomew the Great is just there and frequently makes its appearance in films.
St Bartholomew the Great
Probably the most famous film featuring St Bartholomew the Great is Four Weddings and a Funeral when Charles was supposed to marry Henrietta or rather Duck- Face in the fourth wedding. Charles though, has second thoughts as while he is waiting at the porch into the church his true heart’s desire Carrie tells him she is no longer together with her husband Hamish. The wedding never takes place and Duck-Face decks Charles at the alter and the wedding is called off.
Not sure what Rahere, the founder of the Monastery of St Bartholomew and the church back in 1123 would think. His tomb still lies in the church not too far away from the alter although this dates from 1405 nearly 200 years after his death in 1140. He had had a vision of where to build his monastery after recovering from illness. The church is wonderfully atmospheric and well worth a visit and should you come here around Easter there is a charming tradition that on Good Friday, from a trust founded by Joshua Butterworth, a shilling (5 pence in modern money) be given to 21 widows and the rest spent on hot cross buns for the children.
So, a church is for weddings, and this is certainly something that was on Bridget’s mind in Bridget Jones diary or rather the lack of even a boyfriend.
Back of the Royal Exchange
We often see the front of the Royal Exchange as a film location but in a key scene from the Bridget Jones Diary is the back of the building! She and Mark are about to kiss for the first time in her flat, when she decides to change into something more sexy. He in the meantime has read her diary and leaves the house. Bridget chases after him in her knickers, bra and cardigan and finds him coming out of a shop with a new diary for her. It is snowing, they embrace, and people stare. The location for this classic scene is the back of the Royal Exchange and you can watch Bridget’s dash in the snow on You Tube. You can see one of the shops and in the background a water fountain.
The rather ornate water fountain dates from 1911 replacing an even older one from 1859. I am not sure what another American might have thought of such shenanigans, a certain Mr George Peabody who sits on his marble chair also at the back of the Royal Exchange. He was a great philanthropist who started the Peabody Trust which built social housing, and which is still benefitting many. His statue was put up in the 1860’s and there was some disquiet when within 10 years another water fountain was put in place next to the Peabody statue, that of a mother breast-feeding her child. Many thought Mr Peabody’ statue should be placed so that he cannot see such a display! Eventually these structures were swapped around ! So maybe it is a good thing he had his back to the scantily clad Bridget!
So, Bridget could have done with a good coat that day and whilst she does have a pair of spotted pyjamas, she might not have appreciated a coat made of dalmatians. Such a coat howevert, leasds us to Mincing Lane.
Minster Court a complex of 3 buildings completed between 1991-1992 in what is called post-modern or even neo-gothic style, and this is the location of the House of De Vil , being the headquarters of Cruella De Vil and her fashion empire. See Cruella arrive at Minster Court in this You Tube clip and this is where she plots to get those puppies to make a certain coat designed by the puppy’s owner, as portrayed by Jodie Richardson in the 1996 film 101 Dalmatians. The menacing pointiness of the architecture certainly matches the character as Glenn Close as Cruella flounces up the stairs at Minster Court. Nowadays, Minster Court is offices and guarded by some lovely 3-meter-high bronze horses sculptured by Althea Wynne which have now earned the nicknames of Dollar, Sterling and Yen.
So, whilst Cruella fantasises about her coat, I wonder, if she had desired a different type of coat what emblems she would have had?
Royal College of Arms
This featured in another James Bond film starring George Lazenby in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” filmed in 1969. In the film, Bond comes to the College as he has intercepted correspondence between Blofeld and his solicitor relating to Blofeld seeking to establish his coat of arms. Bond in disguise visits the College but whilst there learns that he too has a family coat of arms made up of 3 gold bezants (gold coin) on a black chevron dating back to the 16th century. Filming only took place within the courtyard of the College as the interior was too narrow to place the cameras, and the rooms featured had to be recreated elsewhere.
The Royal College of Arms is one of the oldest institutions in the City of London and has been on this site since 1555. It was granted a Royal Charter from Queen Mary and King Phillip of Spain. Previously it had been based in Upper Thames Street when Richard III in 1485 granted it a Charter. The central building that we see through the gates was rebuilt after the Great Fire of 1666. The hall known as Earl Marshals Court was used as a library until 1699 but then furnished as a Court of Chivalry and remains so to this day.
So, what does the College do? Well, it is responsible for granting new coats of arms to both individuals and corporate bodies and maintains the registers of arms, pedigrees, genealogies, Royal Licences and flags for all Great Britain and for some of the Commonwealth.
The building is located on Queen Victoria Street quite close to a building that is now the headquarters of the Church of Scientology in the UK, and which would therefore be known to Tom Cruise, who stars in the movie featured at the next film location – Mission Impossible 6 Fallout
City of London Skyline – Blackfriars Station
This is a bit of a cheat, but it is a great chase scene and whilst the star is Tom Cruise, I have to say the skyline of the City of London steals the show as we see Tom Cruise aka Ethan Hunt run, leap, crash his way from the roof top of St Paul’s Cathedral over and through offices to Blackfriars Station and he then runs along the top of the station! Not sure that it is technically possible but great to watch! You can catch it on YouTube.
So, strap on those shoes and come walking and explore and find not only these film locations but all the other magnificent sites in the City of London.