If York Minster’s walls could talk they would no doubt tell a thousand tales.
But none perhaps quite like the beguiling story of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell.
The book is the latest work of literature to be brought to life for the small screen by taking advantage of the spectacular sights of God’s Own County.
Billed as “one of the most ambitious TV dramas ever undertaken in the UK”, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell was shot at sites across Yorkshire including the Minster, Temple Newsam and Kirkstall Abbey in Leeds, Birstall’s historic Oakwell Hall and South Parade in Wakefield.
Cast and crew spent four months filming in the region for the series which is the largest scale production that Screen Yorkshire has ever invested in.
“The perfect combination of stunning locations, a healthy crew base, affordable rates and unwavering support from Screen Yorkshire, made basing Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell in Leeds and York for 16 weeks of filming a very easy decision to make,” said Feel Films producer Nick Hirschkorn.
It is infused with a Yorkshire sensibility, and shot extensively in the regionHugo Heppel, Screen Yorkshire’s head of investments
“I look forward to returning to capitalise on all the wonderful relationships that were built during this large and complex production.”
Scenes for the epic seven-part drama, which will premiere on BBC One on Sunday, were also shot in Canada and Croatia.
Screen Yorkshire’s head of investments, Hugo Heppell, said: “Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is epic television in every sense. Rooted in Yorkshire, infused with a Yorkshire sensibility, and shot extensively in the region, we couldn’t be more proud of this spectacular series and everybody involved in its production.”
Based on the bestselling novel by Susanna Clarke, the story of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell opens in York at the beginning of the 19th century, when the people of England no longer believe in magic. This all changes when the reclusive Mr Norrell causes the statues of York Minster to speak and move, sparking a fresh enthusiasm for magic.
With a little persuasion and help from his man of business Childermass, played by Bradford-born Enzo Cilenti, he goes to London to help the Government in the war against Napoleon. It is there Norrell summons a fairy to bring Lady Pole – played by Alice Englert – back from the dead, opening a whole can of worms.
Oakwell Hall features in the opening scenes of the drama as one of the main characters tries to ‘magic’ a broken clay pipe back together, watched nervously through the door by his two servants.
The scene was shot in an upstairs room of the hall, with filming taking place some 18 months ago over a two-week period.
The hall underwent a makeover, both inside and out, and so may not be instantly recognisable to viewers.
In the second episode there are external and internal shots of the hall as a run-down residence covered in vines, creepers and leaves and with a tree ‘growing’ through the window.
The house also features in the seventh and final episode of the drama which is set in England during the Industrial Revolution at the beginning of the 19th Century.
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell was adapted for the screen by writer Peter Harness, known for his work on Wallander and Is Anybody There?
It features a cast of famous faces including Eddie Marsan (Best Of Men, Ray Donovan, Filth) and Olivier award-winning Bertie Carvel (Coalition, Restless, Hidden, Matilda) who take on the roles of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. Further casting includes Marc Warren, Samuel West, Charlotte Riley and Paul Kaye.
The drama benefited from investment from the Yorkshire Content Fund.
Special Oakwell on Film tours are currently being run to give viewers an insight into the filming of Jonathan Strange and other dramas at the hall. Phone 01924 326240 for dates and further information.
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell airs tonight (Sunday) at 9pm.