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We last looked at the history of the Stamford Assembly Rooms in detail in this post, here.
They were seen on film as part of Meryton in the 2005 production of Pride and Prejudice starring Keira Knightley and Matthew MacFadeyn. I had my own problems with this film- especially with the interpretation of many of the characters- but the look of the film seduced me completely. I’ve always viewed Jane Austen as a Georgian and not a product of the Regency, and as this film was set in the 1790s it had me hooked from the first magical opening scene where we were taken into the Bennet’s down-at-heel but still genteel home.
The St Georges Square and St Mary’s part of Stamford were used by the film for all the Meryton scenes.
This map show the areas ,marked in red, that were used as Meryton for the duration of the filming.
It is an ideal place to film period dramas, as in this area there are no buildings erected later than the mid to late 18th century- and some are much older than that. No modern buildings overhang or block the views. It is easily contained for security purposes, and cutting the streets off from traffic in the town does not incommode residents and visitors too much as there are alternative routes for the traffic to take. The town of Stamford had, prior to the filming of Pride and Prejudice, been used as Middlemarch for the BBC’s famed TV production of Elliot’s novel.
I was there to take photographs and I thought you’d like to see the before, after and during pictures I was able to capture.The work on the production in Stamford began in June of 2004.
The production drawings, above, show the alterations that had to be made to the street scene. The major piece of construction was a colonnade which wrapped itself around the assembly rooms and the Stamford Arts Centre (the old theatre in the town).These are photographs of the construction process.
First scaffolding was erected, along the Assembly Room frontage and into St Mary’s Street.
The colonnade was constructed from wood around the scaffolding poles: care had to be taken not to damage the buildings in the process as they are all listed.
False fronts of china shops were erected unde the colonnade.
And these were stocked with “fine china”…
The finished set….
The entrance to the Assembly Room was eventually converted to a place of wooden shutters
This is, of course, where in the film, Lizzie and Jane meet Wickham for the first time,who appears to have already made the acquaintance of Lydia and Kitty, just before they go on a shopping spree to buy ribbons.
The interiors of the Assembly Rooms were not used as the set for the Meryton Assembly Rooms,though they were used to teach the steps of the country dances needed for the scenes to the cast.
That honour -of being the Meryton Assembly Rooms-fell to a warehouse normally used for storing potoatoes, which is owned by the firm of Gilman and Sons and can still be found on a small industrial estate just outside Stamford. This was the only set used in the filming of the producion ,all the remining filming was otherwise done on location using real rooms.
I adore this scenes and think the set designers did a marvellous job of capturing the atmosphere of a country assembly room of the time.
it is clear , in my opinion, that they were inspired by images such as Rowlandson’s view of the Scarborough Assembly rooms, below, taken from his illustrations found in my copy of the Poetical Views of Scarborough (1812).
My daughter’s then English Master was picked to be an extra in the film and can be seen in a wig “that looked like and felt like a rat” at the commencement of the Meryton Assembly scenes, much to our family’s amusement.
Next in this series, the other scenes filmed in Stamford.