As seen on screen: the UK's hottest tourist spots
The Downton Abbey effect is being felt at stately homes across Britain as visitors flock to see real-life sets
Wednesday 23 February 2011
In 2008, Tim Burton praised the National Trust's 18th-century historic home Antony House as a "perfect, pocket-sized mansion". Burton pimped the Cornwall property for his Alice in Wonderland film shot that year. Luckily for the National Trust, when the movie was released two years later, audiences were as impressed by the bricks and mortar as the star-studded cast of Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter.
According to new figures released by the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (Alva), Antony House is one of a slew of historic properties, museums and galleries which have enjoyed a rise in visitor numbers in 2010 as a result of film or broadcast projects. Burton's adaptation helped the property to increase its visitor numbers from 25,000 to 100,000 last year, while the Natural History Museum and the British Museum have benefited from similar boosts.
"I think [it is] unfortunate for the Antony House that it is slightly out of the way of the route between Plymouth and Cornwall and a lot of people previously hadn't discovered it," said Harvey Edgington, the National Trust's broadcast and media manager. "But this film was a great opportunity for us to blow the trumpet. We conducted a small straw poll and half of adults and half of people with children had come specifically because of the film. The producers allowed us to boast about that fact. That turned out to be a solid marketing ploy."
In October, it emerged that "high Elizabethan" pile Highclere Castle in Berkshire, the filming location of ITV1's Downton Abbey, had experienced a similar surge in requests to view the property.
The house is currently undergoing an £11m refurbishment programme; when it reopens to the public later this year, its owners, the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon, hope to charge visitors in order to finance repairs to the property.
The British Museum, which topped Alva's list with 5.8 million visitors and enjoyed a 5 per cent increase in visitors on last year, was heard in Radio 4's A History of the World in 100 Objects, hosted by the institution's director, Neil MacGregor. In it, MacGregor explored artefacts such as a Victorian swimming costume and Bonnie Prince Charlie's silver canteen.
"People like these projects because they are employing familiar buildings but in an interesting way," said the British Museum's deputy director, Andrew Burnett. "Institutions haven't used the media as much as they should have done in the past. But even the most poorly watched programme has a couple of million visitors. Now, we are managing to connect."
The British Museum was followed by Tate Modern, with 5.1 million visitors last year, a 7 per cent increase on 2009, and the National Gallery, which saw a 4 per cent increase to 5.0 million visitors. "Tate Britain had a successful year with well-attended exhibitions including Henry Moore attracting 167,790 visitors and Fiona Banner's Harrier and Jaguar installation as part of the Tate Britain Duveens Commission 2010," a Tate spokesperson said.
The National Trust's land and properties remain popular filming locations. The final, two-part Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was filmed at Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire, transformed for the film into Malfoy Manor, home to the Malfoy family and used as the centre of operations by Lord Voldemort and his Death Eaters.
Never Let Me Go, the high-profile adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro's best-selling novel, was filmed at Ham House in Surrey. Gulliver's Travels, starring Jack Black, took in Osterley Park and House in Middlesex, while Russell Crowe's turn in Robin Hood was filmed at Hertfordshire's Ashridge Estate and Pembrokeshire's Freshwater West.
According to the National Trust, for that film, local volunteers were brought in to assist the cast and crew, and transported Crowe around in a tractor. Alva said around 50 per cent of its members saw a rise in visitors and 50 per cent a fall. It also surveyed its member institutions ahead of the royal wedding in April. Around 90 per cent of respondents said they expected an associated increase in visitor numbers. "The tourism industry is of huge value to the British economy, and financially it represents an excellent return on investment," Alva director Robin Broke said. Unfortunately for the public, 33 Portland Place, the party venue used by royals and celebrities and employed as a location by the film-makers of The King's Speech, this year's big British film, is unlikely to become a destination on tourists' "to-do lists".
Grace and favoured: The buildings boosted by surge in visitors
Antony House, Cornwall
Location for Tim Burton's 'Alice in Wonderland'
Set on its own peninsula, this historic house was the only location used in Alice, notably in the party scenes which bookended the movie's vast use of CGI. The Grade I-listed house saw 75,000 extra people visit it last year.
The British Museum
Its artefacts were featured in Radio 4's hugely successful The History of the World in 100 Objects presented by museum director Neil MacGregor, and it was also seen in Richard Linklater's period-drama Me and Orson Welles, starring Zac Efron, filmed in the Enlightenment Gallery.
Stirling Castle and Edinburgh Castle
Both seen in 2010's Burke and Hare, starring Simon Pegg, Andy Serkis and Isla Fisher about the two 19th-century grave robbers. Edinburgh Castle, pictured, was visited by 1.2 million people last year, according to Alva's latest figures.
The Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich
The college saw a 28 per cent surge in visitor numbers to 1.27 million last year after it was used as a filming location for the latest film in the Pirates of the Caribbean series. The movie's star, Johnny Depp, brought the college national attention when he visited a nearby school in character to surprise and delight pupils.
Natural History Museum
This London museum, already a popular school-holiday haunt, saw a 13 per cent increase in visitors last year to 4.6 million, in part thanks to BBC2's behind-the-scenes documentary, Museum of Life, which explored the institution's inner workings. The programme was fronted by Jimmy Doherty, a former volunteer.
Ashridge Estate, Hertfordshire
This estate and grounds date from the 13th century and have been seen in Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow, BBC television drama Jonathan Creek and, most recently, Sir Ridley Scott's new version of Robin Hood. The National Trust claims it has been inundated with requests for viewings since Russell Crowe's Robin hit the silver screen.
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