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The Isle of Purbeck On Screen
Purbeck Hills, Corfe Castle
The ruined castle of Corfe, in the gap below Nine Barrow Down, with Poole Harbour in the distance.
Purbeck’s variety of landscape within a small area has made it a popular district with England’s film directors since the days of silent films, whenever the Home Counties around London do not offer the requisite variety of country locations. Historical, contemporary and futuristic dramas have all been filmed here, with the district doubling for story locales from the tropics to the Baltic. (Purbeck on occasion also appears as itself, most recently in an episode of Eastenders.) Dorset historian Rodney Legg in his Exploring The Heartland Of Purbeck (1986) calls it “Television’s all-purpose location”, commenting, “In the 1970s … its versatile landscape became fashionable with television drama producers as the perfect all- round location closest to London. This led to a complaint in the Radio Times that whenever a script required a short Scottish film sequence this would be shot on the hills near Swanage.” Ken Russell, when he filmed his tribute to Ralph Vaughan Williams, wanted to represent the kind of classic English countryside his symphonies evoked. “The Fifth Symphony reflects the mystical side of the British and is in the nature of a musical pilgrimage through the world of John Bunyan [Pilgrim’s Progress] to the Delectable Mountains. We couldn’t afford to journey to that particular location so made do with the hills around Lulworth Cove, which are nearly as delectable.
For here you will find a range of locations suited to a film-TV “backlot” – a ruined castle, a steam railway, a ruined village, a busy holiday resort town, a ridge of chalk downs, unspoilt villages, stately homes, a deserted heathland, a military tank range, a heritage coast of high cliffs, a wide sandy beach backed by grassy dunes, and even quarries containing giant caves - all within a few miles of each other, just a short ride across the chain ferry from the Bournemouth-Poole conurbation.
Below you will find an orientation tour, a list of ten film-TV productions of interest, and links to further pages.
Purbeck Headlands
The edge of the peninsula is only a mile from Poole.
East Lulworth, Lulworth Army Range from Flowersbarrow viewpointThe western limit of Purbeck: the view from Flowers Barrow hillfort atop the Purbeck Hills ridgeway stretching west towards Lulworth Cove, village, castle and tank range. Lulworth Castle is not really visible in this shot (see photo page bottom), but you can make out the Army Range from the tracks the tanks have churned up, exposing the underlying chalk.

Orientation Tour
The peninsula known historically as the Isle Of Purbeck and colloquially today as The Purbecks lies on the south side of Poole Harbour. Going clockwise around the peninsula from the chain ferry from Sandbanks in Poole (at about one o’clock on our diagramme), the first stop would be Shell Bay, Studland.
Studland: The Studland peninsula runs N-S between the sea and Studland as Benidorm in Only Fools & HorsesPoole Harbour. The Shell Bay beach area here with its dunes has been a naturist or nudist area since the 1930s, and has often been seen in 1950s-60s “educational” documentaries of the Nudes Of The World type, though onscreen the beach was often meant to portray a locale in “liberated” Sweden. (It’s said the south side of Poole Harbour does have a passing resemblance to the Baltic.) Studland's beach was considered similar enough to the French D-Day invasion beaches for the full-scale exercises watched by Churchill, Montgomery and Eisenhower to be held here in 1944, and this may have helped put it on the map as a substitute location for scenes in TV dramas set on foreign beaches.
Dressed up with a few plastic palm trees, it has often portrayed Mediterranean or tropical beaches in episodes of TV series where the budget will scarcely justify any overseas filming - a North African landing beach in an episode of the BBC-TV drama series Warship in 1973, a Fijian one in an episode of BBC’s children’s series The Phoenix And The Carpet in 1997, and various locales in comedy sketches for the Benny Hill show, Dave Allen At Large, and BBC's sitcom Only Fools And Horses, where it played Benidorm [pictured above].
The Monty Python troupe on Studland Beach
Its most–seen screen appearance here is undoubtedly the opening credits of Monty Python's Flying Circus, when a bedraggled desert-island castaway (played by Michael Palin) crawls up to the camera and says “It’s-”.
Inland is a heathland dominated by a 16’ boulder, the Agglestone. Studland village lies just beyond, notable for “the oldest surviving complete church in Dorset,” St Nicholas. Adjacent is Studland Manor, former seaside villa of the Bankes, the area’s major local landowners. On screen, both the Saxon-Norman church and Gothic manor house are seen in Die Liebe ihres Lebens (2006), one of a series of Rosamunde Pilcher adaptations produced by German state TV ZDF.
Old Harry Rocks: This chalk pinnacle on the headland separating Studland Bay from Swanage Bay, being a distinctive landmark, is an establishing shot in TV dramas, most recently in the series of German TV Rosamunde Pilcher adaptations mentioned.
Swanage: This is a Victorian seaside-resort with marine Parade, restored pier, and steam railway. The town is nicknamed “little London by the sea” for its Victorian architecture and facades shipped here from London stonemasons’ yards by the town’s founder, who brought the stonework back here as ballast on his quarry boats. (This was Mowlem, who was an inspiration for The Forsyte Saga.) Swanage is the southern terminus of Dorset's only steam railway, the London & Southwest Railway (1855-1972). The now-privatised Swanage Railway steam line runs northwest across Purbeck inland to Corfe, and has appeared on-screen in The Two Ronnies and children’s TV serials. The town’s Victorian features were seen in Wilde (1997), starring Stephen Fry, and ITV’S 1998 Tess Of The d’Urbervilles.
ZDF-TV's Rosamund Pilcher romance Ein Sommer der Liebe, showing the distinctive rock pinnacle also seen in Thriller
Heritage Coast: The white cliffs which begin here continue around the rest of the Purbeck coast. This is the start of the Jurassic Coast WHS and of the South-West Way coast path. There are several distinctive clifftop buildings along the coast. Hidden just above Studland beach is Fort Henry, a 90’-long WWII blockhouse used by Churchill and others to watch D-Day exercises. Just south of Swanage is Durlston Castle, a Victorian mock-castle, now a pub-restaurant on Durlston Head [country park] at the SE tip of Purbeck where the coastline turns south-facing, forming a major local viewpoint. Westward is a lighthouse, then a mediaeval chapel on the clifftop at St Aldhem’s Head, and farther along, at Kimmeridge Bay, is Clavel Tower folly, made famous by PD James’s The Black Tower (ITV 1985), which features a 'cliff-hanger' finale. (The tower has just had to be relocated slightly inland, due to cliff erosion.)
The The cliffs with their underlying coast path quarry-access areas have made possible the filming of other such cliff-edge scenes, e.g. in Hammer’s 1961 Paranoiac with Oliver Reed (shot at Mupe Rocks), the 1970s BBC sitcom Some Mothers Do ‘Av‘ Em with Michael Crawford, and the feature-length pilot episode 'Lady Killer' (with Robert Powell) of Brian Clemens's 1970s ATV series Thriller. There are also a  number of rock-climbing 'pitches' - an aspect seen on BBC's series Coast.
Quarries & Caves: The area is characterised by old sea-front quarries (dug to mine the local fossilized limestone called Purbeck Marble, shipped by boat to London). The Tilly Whim quarry caves area have been seen in the finale of Derek Jarman’s 1977 futuristic punk fantasy Jubilee and The Style Council’s 1987 music video JerUSAlem. Nearby Winspit Quarry Winspit Quarry(below Worth Matravers), with its giant cave, has been seen in productions from the SF serials Blake's 7 and Dr Who (“The Underwater Menace” and “Destiny Of The Daleks”) to the opening of the 1988 cavalier romance The Lady And The Highwayman. Another favourite is Seacombe, and there are other large open-cast quarries inland.
Purbeck Coast Downs: Being open chalk downland adjacent to spectacular sea-cliffs, these have been used for a number of swashbuckling adventure dramas, going back to the 1950s filming of the chase finale for Disney’s The Sword And The Rose at Chapman’s Pool cove, and the BBC’s filming in and around Kingston of scenes for a Three Musketeers children’s serial. Mike Newell’s 1977 all-star ITV adaptation of Dumas’s The Man In The Iron Mask was made authentically in France, but the outdoors action exteriors were shot here. Richard Chamberlain’s early abortive escape and embarkation by boat was shot here, as was the carriage-chase ambush sequence across the coast downs and subsequent swordfight between the villain and D'Artagnan on the seashore, and the climactic followup scene on Dancing Ledge where D'Artagnan informs the prisoner of his true, royal identity. The 'Golden Bowl' area on the Encombe estate by Swyre Head portrayed Bathsheba's sheep pasture in the 1967 film of Hardy’s Far From The Madding Crowd. In the finale of Disney’s Bedknobs & Broomsticks the witch’s magical army marches along the downs above Corfe – no doubt inspired by the local legend of a ‘phantom army’. Hidden below the downs are woodlands, mostly N of Langton Matravers, some quite ancient, such as Godlingston Wood (with a small lake).
Tyneham: Heading westward along the coast, we come to the ruined village of Tyneham. This “ghost village” was expropriated in WWII, originally for Gls to practice D-Day manoeuvres, and later as part of the MOD’s Lulworth Ranges used for tank and gunnery practice. It is open to the public on weekends -- the thunder of the guns can be heard when the Range is in use. It has a restored church sometimes used by filmmakers requiring church-interior scenes for period dramas. Much of Bill Douglas’s 1986 epic drama Comrades, on the Tolpuddle Martyrs of 1834, was shot in and around the village, using fiberglass facades atop the existing building shells [see photo opposite, under 'Comrades' writeup]. It sits above Worbarrow Bay, which also has a few ruined cottages.
This is arguably the geographical western limit of the Isle of Purbeck peninsula, but today’s Purbeck District Council area stretches beyond Lulworth Cove. Cliff Richards filmimg Saviour’s Day
Lulworth Cove:
This circular cove and nearby rock arches have been a popular location, dating back to at least 1913, when British film pioneer Cecil Hepworth shot a “super-production” of Hamlet using a plaster castle façade built on the clifftop. [For details, see earlier feature]. It was seen most recently in Emma Thompson’s Nanny McPhee and (as California’s Big Sur) in Kevin Spacey’s Beyond The Sea. On its western side, the rock arch called Stair Hole has been the backdrop for scenes in historical dramas like The Moonraker (1957) starring George Baker, and A Hazard Of Hearts starring Helena Bonham-Carter. A mile westward is a larger rock arch, Durdle Door, seen in Far From The Madding Crowd (1967) (where Terence Stamp as Sergeant Troy swims out to sea), and Cliff Richards’s 50th-birthday Christian-message pop video Saviour’s Day [pictured].
Inland is the two-part village of Lulworth: West Lulworth has holiday accommodation and an army camp, and East Lulworth has a restored Jacobean manor, Lulworth Castle, on a walled estate.
The road north leads through the town of Wool, past Bovington Camp and tank ranges.
Bovington Camp and Tank Ranges: The HQ of the Royal Tank Corps, Bovington Camp now incorporates the Tank Museum, the oldest and largest of its kind (seen in the "Going West" episode of ITV’s 1990s comedy-adventure series The Good Guys). The vintage tanks kept here are sometimes seen in action onscreen in documentaries using footage from Victory, a WWII propaganda film made by the MOD in 1942, on the tank’s early days in World War One. Interiors of the now-restored tanks in the museum have also appeared in screen dramas such as Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade. Beyond are the tank ranges with their broad muddy tracks, seen in a recent episode of BBC’S car-test series Top Gear. John Murphy’s Dorset At War notes that, since the war, “armoured cars and tanks are put through their paces at Bovington for the appraisal of Arab buyers,” and this was the basis for a scene in the 1967 film of Len Deighton’s caper-comedy novel Only When I Larf, with Richard Attenborough and David Hemmings. The ranges with their rusting tanks were also seen in Ken Russell’s Ralph Vaughan Williams film, to illustrate his Third Symphony composed during WWI.
The road past the camp is where T.E. Lawrence had his final, fatal motorbike ride dramatized at the opening of the 1962 film Lawrence Of Arabia, starring Peter O'Toole, while returning from Wool up what is now a backroad to his home (1924-35) at Clouds Hill Cottage (National Trust). Dorset The County Magazine noted that “Visitors have flocked here in thousands since the release of the Panavision film.” The area also appears in documentaries about Thomas Hardy’s Dorset as the author grew up nearby.
Turning east, we can ascend Purbeck’s central ‘whaleback’ ridge of hills which begins at Flower’s Barrows Celtic hillfort and follow it (road from East Lulworth) to Corfe Castle.

Corfe in The Ghost Camera, 1933
Corfe Castle: England’s most famous ruined castle stands in the Purbeck Hills’s central gap. One of the earliest, largest and most impregnable of mediaeval fortresses, it was reduced to its present ruined state on Parliamentary orders at the end of the Civil War, as a threat to the safety of the realm. Its distinctive heritage-calendar silhouette appears in films dating back to at least 1933, when it appeared in the early British talkie The Ghost Camera [pictured].
Its popularity as filmmakers' favourite ruined castle has continued since, it being seen in films from Disney’s Bedknobs & Broomsticks through Mike Leigh’s cult comedy Nuts In May, to Just Visiting, the 2001 remake of Jean-Marie Poiré’s Les Visiteurs en Amérique. The village of Corfe itself was seen to advantage in a l978 BBC-TV adaptation of Hardy's The Mayor Of Casterbridge, starring Alan Bates, which was the first TV drama to go on location with then-new lightweight portable ENG or Electronic News Gathering video cameras.
To the south of Corfe on the slope of the central downs is Kingston, a village (with two churches and a large, historic inn) used for several 1960s BBC children’s TV serials set in widely different locales – Three Musketeers, Hereward The Wake, Little Women. (You can see production stills on the wall of the Scott Arms there, and by the back door, a prop tombstone left by the BBC Mayor Of Casterbridge crew.)
Purbeck Hills Viewpoint: Continuing east along Purbeck’s central ridge, around halfway back toward Studland is a viewpoint overlooking northern Purbeck and Poole Harbour. Behind, atop the whaleback ridge is Creech Grange Arch folly, a stretch of castle wall built to provide a skyline feature for Creech Grange estate below. The part-Tudor Creech Grange manor house was seen (playing a French chateau) in BBC’s drama series The Collectors.
The golf course just east was owned by Enid Blyton, for Swanage and the Purbecks were Blyton's favourite holiday spot. The fictional setting of her Famous Five stories is often the surrounding countryside in disguise. An early b&w screen adaptation combined Corfe Castle ruins and Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour into one story locale, just as Blyton had. The “Green Pool” in the 1949 novel Five Get Into Trouble, for example, was based on Purbeck’s Blue Pool, which lies below, off the Wareham Road. The Blue Pool, a former claypit, takes its name from the blue-green colour of its mineral-rich water, and has been used to play a Mediterranean beach on-screen, in the 1970s BBC-TV expat drama The Lotus Eaters.
Inland to the NE stretches the remnant of the great heathland Hardy wrote of, with 7,000 acres of it now part of the Lulworth Army Ranges, though much of it churned by tank tanks where it has not been planted with pines. The heath remained unfarmed as its sandy soil only supports gorse and heather. Jonathan Meades in his 1991 BBC-TV Abroad In Britain series called it the closest England can offer to the famed maquis of southern France. Seen in high summer, it has certainly proven useful to portray other, drier countries onscreen. For example, the scrub heathland, together with local sandpits, doubled as Malaya in scenes for BBC’s Tenko.
On the heath is a series of sandpits and disused quarries which have also doubled as exotic locales on-screen – e.g. a gravel pit at East Stoke near Moreton as Saharan Desert wastes for a 1986 BBC children’s version of Beau Geste, where a polystyrene replica of the Foreign Legion’s adobe “Fort Zinderneuf” was erected [photo]. Alien wastes in BBC’s cult 1978-83 SF serial Blake's 7 were played by Bovington Camp Sandpit, Winspit Quarry, and Binnegar Heath sandpits near Wareham.
Dorset quarry with Foreign Legion fort replica
To the NW is Poole Harbour, the world’s 2nd-largest natural harbour, with its various islands, the largest being Brownsea with its own ‘castle’ (an 18th-C Gothic mansion built atop a Tudor blockhouse). At the east end of the harbour, Wareham was the harbour’s original port till its sea-channel through the Frome Marshes silted up, though it is still navigable for most private boats. (The persistent rumour that 2nd unit shots for The African Queen were shot in the reeds here remains unconfirmed.)
 River Frome marshes - You can see how the rumour got started bits of The African Queen were shot here.
Around the harbour are various woodlands. On the Arne Peninsula is Arne Big Wood. There is a private Caledonian-pine wood around The Blue Pool - as its website notes, "it is wholly English, but at times it could be Canadian, at others Norwegian." North of Wareham is Wareham Forest, a Forestry Commission pine forest akin to the one used in the opening of Gladiator, also with a 'Nordic' appearance.

As EM Forster, author of novels about the English abroad like A Passage To India and A Room With A View, says in his novel Howard's End, "If one wants to show a foreigner England, perhaps the wisest course would be to take him to the final section of the Purbeck Hills and stand him on the summit."

Further Viewing
Below are ten film and TV dramas that made significant use of a Purbeck setting.

The Black Rider (1954 dir Wolf Rilla, Balblair Productions/ Butchers Film Service)
Corfe, bymoonlightThis children’s adventure B-movie by respected writer-director Wolf Rilla is set entirely in Purbeck. Place names however are fictionalized (Brockham Castle, Brockham Manor, Swanhaven) and location work is limited to 2nd unit shots of Swanage and a Purbeck cove, with Corfe Castle ruins portrayed by a Nettlefold Studios set. Nevertheless, the story fits in a way that suggests the scriptwriter, producer A.R. Rawlinson, was familiar with the area.
There’s the smuggling connection (big in local history) meeting up the world of the postwar dirt-track motorcycle clubs which flourished after WW2 when young men got experience of motorbikes from acting as army Despatch Riders (locally the Poole Pirates motorbike team was formed in 1948). Here, a young reporter (ex juvenile lead Jimmy Hanley) and his girl and their pals in the local cross-country motorcycle youth club help foil the usual gang of crooks. The plot is placed firmly in the context of the local setting – local Army tank range, ruined castle, nearby seaside resort, remote coves. (The opening smugglers-cove location with its wartime pillbox and barbed wire could have been one of several Purbeck coves.) A map shot puts the castle north of Worth Matravers. As usual, the crooks/smugglers are cultivating a local ghost-legend to scare away nosey parkers. The fictionalizing of the setting may be due to the fact the script has the gang led by the local gent (Lionel Jeffries), a traitor trying to smuggle an atomic device into the country to plant under the local ‘haunted’ castle next to the experimental tank depot, to sabotage Britain's tank-testing programme.

The Black Tower (Anglia TV 1985, dir Ronald Wilson)
Clavel Tower, KimmereidgeThis six-hour ‘Commander Adam Dalgliesh’ mystery, from P.D. James’s 1975 novel, is slow-moving and stagey, but is of local interest here for its Purbeck setting. Again, the setting seems to have inspired the story – author P.D. James discovered the original of her Black Tower, Clavel Tower at Kimmeridge, while staying with relatives. Amidst the character-subplot soundstage interiors are scenes shot on location at the Encombe estate, in Wareham, and a (black-painted) Clavel Tower, all shot on video in summer. The plot has poetry-writing Scotland Yard Commander Dalgliesh shot while leading a house raid [!] and recuperating at "Toynton Grange" retreat. There, mysterious events prove to be related to the local clifftop tower, ending with Dalgleish in a life-or-death struggle hanging from the clifftop. (Clavel Tower has since been relocated 100m inland to save it from cliff erosion.)

Comrades: A Lanternist's Account Of The Tolpuddle Martyrs And What Became Of Them (1986 scr/dir Bill Douglas, BFI/Skreba )
Comrades, 1986 This is a realistic 3-hour re-enactment of the 1830s Tolpuddle Martyrs episode that became the foundation of the British trade union movement. This was one of the most authentic British historical dramas ever made, with no concessions to popular taste, and is hard to find, being out of print on video. (The script has been published.) It was made as a labour of love by the late Bill Douglas, the Scots film-maker whose work is now the basis of The Bill Douglas Centre at the U. of Exeter. The first two hours are set in Dorset and filmed largely at Tyneham village [pictured], its ruined buildings dressed with fibreglass facades over scaffolding to hide anachronistic features.

Doombeach (1989 dir Colin Finbow CFU/C4)
Doombeach This surprisingly dark Children’s Film Unit production has been described as a juvenile “Edge Of Darkness.” Here, the death of a friend from suspected radiation poisoning from local seawater draws the hero into the state-backed nuclear underworld. The young hero, encouraged by a sympathetic teacher (Glenda Jackson as “Miss”) decides to investigate the local power station. The story may have been inspired by the fact there was a nuclear plant at Winfrith Newburgh (1967-90), with radioactive outflow running into Purbeck’s Arish Mell cove (where TE Lawrence had once swum). While it is a convention in children’s films that a plucky lad can always stop a criminal, here the boy pays the ultimate price when he trespasses on the adult world of the conspiracy thriller.
The drama was entirely shot in Purbeck (and Poole Hospital). Locations include Swanage Beach, Seacombe footpath, the Purbeck Hills, St Aldhelm’s Head Coastguard station and lighthouse. The end credits list Swanage Country First School and Hospital, Broadwalk Café, Swanage, Lulworth Ranges, Worbarrow, Worth Matravers, and Durlston Country Park.

Far From The Madding Crowd (1967 dir John Schlesinger MGM)
The Golden Bowl, Encombe estateThis adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s first major “Wessex” novel uses over 20 regional locations, including several in Purbeck. Bathsheba's sheep pasture scenes were shot on the Encombe estate.
[For a full writeup on its own web-page, see earlier coverage here ]

The Insatiable Mrs Kirsch (Die Unersättliche Mrs. Kirsch)
(dir/ co-scr Ken Russell 1992 Regina Ziegler Filmproducktion / Westdentscher Rundfunk; Channel 4, 1996)
Cerne Giant replica This half-hour comedy was made by Ken Russell in 1992 for a late-night TV “Erotic Tales” series but not shown on C-4 for four years. (Evidently the German backers didn’t think much of the shaggy-dog-story scenario created by Russell and his then new wife, local actress Hetty Baines.) Set and filmed entirely in Purbeck, the plot involves a novelist staying in a seafront ‘grand hotel’ who becomes fascinated by a young blonde female guest, and starts spying on her. Locations include one of Purbeck's seashore-quarries, one or two of Studland's grand resort hotels, Wareham’s tearooms and Rex Cinema, Corfe Castle, and a replica of the Cerne Giant carved into the hillside near Worth Matravers.

Die Liebe ihres Lebens (‘The love of her life’)
(2006 dir Michael Steinke, FP New Media Gmbh/ ZDF)
Die Liebe ihres Lebens
This is one of a long series of telefeatures adapted for German state TV ZDF from the romance novels and stories of Rosamunde Pilcher OBE (in this case from her story “The Happy Feeling”). As always, it concerns a young woman who arrives on the southwest coast on some family or personal business, and finds romance. Here, she arrives for a weekend with her fiancé at “Rose Cottage”, played by Studland Manor, but meets a local businessman. During her romantic strolls about the countryside we also see Old Harry peninsula, Clavel Tower and the Purbeck Coast Path as well as Studland Church and village. The Dorset seen here is the England of romantic fiction - clean and neat and pretty, and in the full bloom of high summer. This production seems to have been made back-to-back with Und Plotzlich War Es Liebe ("and suddenly there was love"), using some of the same locations.

The Mayor Of Casterbridge
(1978 dir David Giles scr Dennis Potter BBC, 7 x 50 min)
The Mayor Of Casterbridge, 1978 Thomas Hardy’s tragedy of a man who becomes successful only to have his life unravel when a shameful act returns to haunt him. (The “selling” of a wife was an old country practice before divorce laws were amended in Hardy’s own era.) Produced to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Hardy's death, this Dennis Potter adaptation was the BBC's first all-location drama serial. They abandoned their old stagey practise of shooting "classic serials" in an overlit studio, and then cutting in rather grainy 16mm film sequences shot, unlit, on location when it was necessary to show characters travelling. Instead they tried out the method of shooting the entire production with portable video cameras developed for the then-new system being tested in 1978 known as ENG (Electronic News Gathering). Hardy's "Casterbridge" i.e. Dorchester is portrayed by Corfe Castle village (Hardy's "Corvesgate"), plus buildings (including the Scott Arms) at Kingston, Studland and Wareham. The Dorset Shire County Guide 1985 notes re one short scene where Alan Bates walks through a house, "In fact he entered through the door of the Bankes Arms in Corfe but, from the inside, came into a house in Wareham, walked around a room in the Purbeck village of Kingston, and left through the back door of a Studland farmhouse!" The production’s prop tombstone for the fallen ex-mayor, Michael Henchard (Alan Bates), was left behind as a memento at the Scott Arms in Kingston by the crew who stayed there (it's still there, outside the back entrance).
Corfe village

Nuts In May (1976 dir Mike Leigh, BBC-TV)
Nuts In May Purbeck is famous as a camping-holiday area as well as for its stone quarries. Both these aspects are seen in this l976 BBC-TV's comedy telefeature by Mike Leigh, a deadpan satire about a naff do-gooding couple, the Pratts, on a camping weekend. It was described in 1990 by BBC’s Listener magazine as “Leigh’s legendary testament to the unbearable gormlessness of alfresco holidaymaking”. Leigh himself says it is about "a self-righteous vegetarian couple on an unsuccessful camping holiday in Dorset."
Though officially a drama in the BBC’s famous Play For Today series, this was shot entirely on film on location in Purbeck, with many local features discussed as the Pratts hike around, or drive around in their little grey-green Morris Minor coupe convertible. The opening shots show the Sandbanks Ferry; the Pratts explore Corfe Castle; we also see a "Jurassic Coast"quarry (complete with dinosaur footprint) and coast path near both Old Harry Rocks and St Aldhelm's Head; the tank depot at East Lulworth as the Pratts drive down to Stair Hole, Lulworth Cove. The campsite is Woodland Camping Park just outside Corfe, and the local pub seen is the Greyhound Inn at Corfe. The 2nd half of the film focusses mainly on friction with campsite neighbours. (Carry On Camping it's not.)
Nuts in May duo singingThis black comedy was semi-improvised by Mike Leigh and his principal actors, Roger Sloman (as bossyboots social worker Keith) and Leigh's wife Alison Steadman (as the childlike, folksinging, peace-button-wearing Candace). The inspiration was producer David Rose's own youthful memories of camping holidays in the area. This 82-minute film, just issued on DVD as part of the BBC's 2009 Mike Leigh 6-DVD boxset, still has a cult following. (Rumour has it there is a 40-minutes-longer "uncut" version known as The Plastic Tadpole.) Nuts In May premiered at the National Film Theatre in 1993, where by popular request a showing became an almost annual event.

Rough Shoot
(US title: Shoot First) (1952 dir Robert Parrish scr Eric Ambler, UA)
Joel McCrae in Rough Shoot Though its principals were A-list movie makers, this is still a Cold-War B thriller, perhaps made like other such postwar films using American stars, to unfreeze US currency assets then held in England by Treasury rules. An American officer (Joel McCrae) who has rented some local "shooting" land fires to scare off a "poacher", and when he finds the man shot dead, feels he must cover up the matter. (Changing the novel's hero from a British officer to an US one for the film makes the story unrealistic as US Forces personnel in fact enjoyed immunity from British law.) The dead man turns out to be a war criminal who is also in a Polish vigilante group's sights, and McCrae then discovers a deserted airstrip nearby being used clandestinely.

Dorset had been utilised in Ww2 to drop agents into Occupied France. Geoffrey Household had set the finale of his classic political thriller Rogue Male in Dorset, suggesting he knew the area personally. The finale shifts the setting to London, but its interest lies in the use of the Dorset heathland as a thriller setting, the film being shot on location here, offering a look at the quiet backroads as they were in 1951-2. The film generated local press interest in 1995 as to its actual locations, which seem to be around East Lulworth, with the Weld estate's wall and east gate posing as the entrance to the County mental hospital.

Voice In The Wilderness
(1954-7 dir Royal Gornold, pr Lady Madeline Lees)
This is probably the most ambitious amateur production made in the area, though its circulation appears limited to church groups since its 1957 TV showing. This ambitious attempt to use local heathland and quarry areas to portray the Holy Land was produced at the instigation of Lady Madeline Lees of South Lytchett Manor, whose announced purpose was "World Peace Through Religious Drama." Having turned the Manor into a Christian commune, she was able to draw on its members for actors, and Lytchett Minster parishioners as extras. She used costumes brought back from the Orient by her late companion, the explorer and mystic Sir Francis Younghusband (buried at Lytchett Minster as he died while at the Manor).
Patrick French's 1994 biography Younghusband notes:

With customary zeal she sought out local actors, engaged the services of a film director by the name of Mr Royal Gornold and started a cafe on the Poole-to-Wareham road to finance the escapade. ‘They're not hanging their heads at Lytchett when anyone mentions de Mille,' proclaimed the Poole & Dorset Herald three years later when it was finished. Voice In The Wilderness told the story of St John the Baptist in glorious Technicolor, shot on location in the sandpits and heathland of south Dorset. ‘The film is in the language of modern youth,' Lady Lees told a reporter; its avowed purpose was ‘to catch the Teddy boys by surprise.'

French adds, "The films are remarkably well made considering the circumstances of their creation, with crowd scenes of up to three or four hundred people. Yet they both bear an unforeseen but undeniable resemblance to Monty Python's Life Of Brian, as men with funny beards and tea-towels charge about the Dorset countryside on Chipperfield circus camels, singing 'Silent Night' and pretending they are in the Holy land.’ It was shown on ITV on completion, and French's 1994 comments indicate the film survived. There was even a sequel, Messiah.

Corfe Castle

Swanage Bay

Purbeck Hills overlooking Lulworth Castle

Northwest Purbeck from Flowers Barrow hill-fort on the coast downs, overlooking Lulworth Castle estate.

There is also an illustrated web page on Corfe, Swanage and the steam railway line connnecting them on our sister site which covers local heritage, here, and another on Lulworth here. For a map of Purbeck, click here.

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