THE 1780s drama “Poldark” screeched onto British screens this Sunday, at the centre of which was the Poldark family home; filmed in our very own Chavenage.
Reporter Jack Pitts went to find out just why the Elizabethan home was picked for the silver screen.
Chickens cluck their way happily around the yard and two Labradors welcome me with their damp noses. I’ve just entered Chavenage, known as Chavenage House to some, a wandering estate of cottages, rolling fields and the Cotswolds’ newest TV set.
I’m welcomed by Rona Lowsley-Williams, who takes a break from scouring the papers for Poldark reviews to show me around.
The house, she tells me, has been on the spot since Queen Elizabeth’s reign, 1564, in fact, when the land was bought by Edward Stephens.
He built the great hall – where Poldark learns that Elizabeth will marry his cousin, the Oak room – also seen in Poldark – and the old kitchen.
Then, in 1891, the Lowsley-Williams family bought the house using profits made during the industrial revolution.
They added another wing to the house, including the ballroom which now hosts weddings and corporate events.
“The film crews knew exactly what they wanted,” Mrs Lowsley-Williams said. “They took up all the gravel when they came to film in April, then they left and we had to put it back down for the summer weddings, then when they came back to film in September they took it all up again!”
Chavenage had to be transformed to hide any signs of the 21st century, including covering light switches, cables and radiators.
Guttering had to be painted black and lead lattice was put on windows to make them seem older.
The BBC even suggested they might remove the organ in the great hall, but were convinced to cover it up instead.
“Part of the reason they picked Chavenage is that when you look out you cannot see anything manmade, no buildings or electricity wires – just countryside,” Rona said.
To get the right feel the crew changed wall paper, added period curtains and put up a 30 candle chandelier in the great hall – some of which they kindly left behind.
“Throughout the filming we kept on doing our tours on Thursday and Saturday – I think the visitors rather liked seeing the actors,” Rona said.
“The crew would make us wait until they heard that filming was done on their walkie-talkies.”
Poldark is not the first show to be filmed at Chavenage, in the past Wolf Hall, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Lark Rise to Candleford and Poirot have all had scenes filmed at Chavenage.
The money filming has provided is essential for the upkeep of the house.
“We are putting almost all of the proceeds back into the house,” Rona said. “It is the house that made the money so it’s the house that should get the money.”
The Lowsley-Williams have had no confirmation of second series but are hopeful that the cameras will return.