Period properties a thing of ‘Pride’

Crew able to secure inaccessible homes for filming

From Mr. Darcy’s grand estate to the Bennets’ rambling farm, the houses of “Pride & Prejudice” are characters themselves.

Production designer Sara Greenwood says the name Working Title — the production company behind the film — opened doors to properties that otherwise would have been inaccessible. The fact that they were adapting a beloved English writer’s best known work also helped.

While Greenwood and helmer Joe Wright were touring Chatsworth, the grand residence of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, they were wishing they could use the house as Pemberly, Darcy’s mansion. However, although the house is open to tourists, no filming is allowed there. “Joe literally ran into the duchess and told her what we were doing there. She said, ‘Oh, I love Jane Austen! Why can’t you film here? You can film here!'” Wright’s charm went a long way as well, since he and the duchess got on famously.

The Bennets’ house is Groombridge House in Kent, dating from the 1660s. The crew was fortunate enough to secure the house for filming right before the new owners — the first in 400 years — took residence. “The Bennets’ house is surrounded by a moat, and I liked the idea of five virgins living on an island. Their virginity is represented by the fact that they live on this island,” Wright explains.

The locations also peg the various levels of class represented in the film. “The Bennet family and the Bennet house was the baseline of the film,” Greenwood says. “We wanted people to understand the levels of society. When all the girls go get Lizzie at Netherfield (the estate where the Bingleys stay), you suddenly see them as they are, slightly shambolic, slightly garish.

“Poor Mr. Bennet. All those girls in the house, you’d go mad.”

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