It was last autumn when I met the ex-Location Manager of Downton Abbey. I say ex because filming had ended after 6 years and the last series was aired over the winter. He came to One Great George Street looking for a location to shoot something else.
I was a fan of Downton from the beginning as I was of Upstairs Downstairs which I watched as a child in the 1970s. There was a new pilot series of Upstairs Downstairs shown in 2012 which excited me greatly but I think it got swamped by the huge success of the much grander Downton Abbey.
You can imagine I had loads of questions about the series. It was so interesting to hear of some of the venues that they had filmed in, literally nationwide often in places that were many miles from where they were in the story. Indeed Downton Abbey itself was set in Yorkshire in the series but is in fact Highclere Castle in Berkshire, a stately home that I have long wished to visit since I saw it used regularly in the series Jeeves and Wooster. Sadly it is now mobbed on a daily basis by visitors from all over and a real chore to make a quick and easy visit which it would otherwise be for me given that I have family not too far from there.
Anyway we weren’t chosen as a suitable venue on that occasion but the winter months went on to some other exciting shoots. The first was for War Machine, only a one day shoot but one which brought Brad Pitt himself into the venue on a Sunday afternoon when our Foyer was used to portray a hotel lobby.
Next came a whole weekend of filming for The Night Manager, a spy-thriller based on a John Le Carré book and starring Hugh Lawrie and Tom Hiddleston, tipped as the next James Bond. We never really know how much exposure we’ll get but in this case it was far in excess of anything we could have hoped for. We appeared in every episode bar one with various parts of our building being used including the outside portraying the nearby Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
The Main Library managed to sneak in a couple of times and there was some fantastic exposure of our stunning Rotunda and Grand Staircase with a shot looking down from just under the main glass dome at the top down to the ground floor.
It was great that the series was so well watched including by the team here. We were all really engrossed with the story line.
The final biggie came right at the end of the year. The Hollywood blockbuster Wonder Woman yet to be aired!
With our wonderful interiors and great location, it’s hardly surprising that One Great George Street has also become an established fashion show venue. Mostly held in our Great Hall, we have staged fashion shows, usually during London Fashion Week for the likes of Antonio Berardi, Alice Temperley, L’Wren Scott and ISSA all choosing the venue to showcase their collections.
The set ups are usually substantial and take a day or more but the actual shows, especially during London Fashion Week last no longer than 30 minutes and the press and buyers move from venue to venue as they take in the new launches from the world’s famous designers.