Netflix’s new production of Persuasion which includes Crazy Rich Asians’ Henry Golding in its ensemble cast, has had Jane Austen purists reaching for the smelling salts. Austen’s final completed novel follows the travails of heartbroken heroine Anne Elliot (Dakota Johnson) who had previously been “persuaded” to reject the marriage proposal of Captain Frederick Wentworth as he had no status or fortune.
When Wentworth re appears several years later Anne is also been wooed by the charming and handsome William Elliot (Henry Golding) who as her distant cousin is heir to her family home, Kellynch Hall in Somerset, south west England. Netflix’s version has been criticised for gauchely including modern day language and breaking the fourth wall with knowing quips direct to the camera à la Fleabag.
But although the adaptation has sparked controversy over its inauthenticity, what Netflix has stayed true to is the locations. Austen’s novel was partly set in the south west England settings of Lyme Regis in Dorset and Bath in Somerset – one of the rare instances the author referenced real life places in her fiction. And both were used as filming locations for the Netflix production.
The streaming company has found that the settings of its dramas are a key part of their appeal to viewers. In a press release last month a spokesperson announced that the location of a Netflix series or film frequently becomes the destination that viewers most want to visit. The release goes on to say that viewers also have an increased interest in the well known landmarks, history and food and drink of said locations as a result and “Now we want to find new ways to connect members to the stories, and the places, that they love.”
So Netflix recently partnered with SANDEMANs New Europe Tours for a series of free guided walking tours of Paris, Madrid and London that not only shared the history of the cities but highlighted locations from Netflix shows such as Emily in Paris and Bridgerton and revealed behind the scenes insights.
Time will tell if the tours will be extended and if Persuasion will be added to the roster. In the meantime, a number of locations in the production are open to the public. Kellynch Hall, which Anne’s vain and feckless father Sir Walter (Richard E Grant) has to rent to Admiral Croft in order to make money, is alas a private house (Trafalgar Park in Wiltshire). But here are the locations you can visit.
Lyme Regis, Dorset
Jane Austen was apparently a fan of “Lyme”, a picturesque and historic seaside town on the south coast of England, and its surrounding countryside. The author stayed there at least twice with her family – as her letters record – and included the location in Persuasion.
In the novel she wrote “ the remarkable situation of the town, the principal street almost hurrying into the water, the walk to the Cobb, skirting round the pleasant little bay, which, in the season, is animated with bathing machines and company; the Cobb itself, its old wonders and new improvements, with the very beautiful line of cliffs stretching out to the east of the town, are what the stranger’s eye will seek; and a very strange stranger it must be, who does not see charms in the immediate environs of Lyme, to make him wish to know it better.”
The town features in several key scenes including where Anne first encounters William. Lyme Cobb – a distinctive harbour wall built to protect the town – is also central. Notably when the party are out for a stroll and Anne’s friend Louisa Musgrove falls. The exact location is thought to be the precarious “granny’s teeth” stone steps that link the upper and low levels of the Cobb.
Lyme Regis has several sand and pebble beaches and cliff top walks which also feature in the film. The scenic South West Coast Path National Trail passes through the town and takes in the Golden Cap, the highest point on the south coast with stunning views over Lyme Bay.
The area is also known for its dramatic Jurassic Coastline – one of the most important sites in the world for fossil hunters.
Lyme Regis Museum, built on the site of 19th century fossil collector and paleontologist Mary Anning’s home, also includes several Austen artifacts loaned by the author’s descendants.
Austen is said to have stayed on Broad Street and a plaque on Pyne House there reads “This is the most likely lodging of Jane Austen”. No doubt it will now become an Instagram hotspot for Netflix Persuasion fans despite the brutal reviews.
Chenies Manor, Buckinghamshire
For the Musgrove family’s Uppercross estate two locations were used. The scenes for “the great house” were filmed at Brympton House, Somerset which is only accessible via private hire. The interiors of Uppercross Cottage – home to Anne’s sister Mary and her husband, Charles Musgrove – were filmed at the sprawling tudor manor house, Chenies, in Rickmansworth.
Guided tours detailing the house’s colourful history – described by architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner as “a fascinating puzzle” – are available, bookable in advance. And the pretty gardens play host to plant and flower festivals in the summer months.
West Wycombe, Buckinghamshire
This beautiful Palladian style house stands in for the grand residence of Lady Dalrymple and her daughter – relations of the Elliots. The bucolic parkland was also the filming location for Uppercross’s woods and meadows – setting for Anne and her friends’ frequent walks.
The house was commissioned in the 18th century by Sir Francis Dashwood, founder of the Hell Fire Club. Not the high school Dungeons and Dragons group from Stranger Things Season Four but the louche club for upper class rakes otherwise known as the Order of the Friars of St. Francis of Wycombe.
The house is open to the public from June to August and the grounds from April to August.
Osterley Park and House, Greater London
Standing in for Bath’s assembly rooms is this Georgian country estate on the far reaches of West London (you can reach it on the Picadilly tube line en route to Heathrow). The house was originally built in the 1570s but transformed in the 1760s and is preserved as it would have been in the 1780s. Its Entrance Hall and Long Gallery (above) is the setting for Bath society gatherings in the Netflix production. Check before visiting as the property is closed for filming (rumoured to be Bridgerton season three) on some dates this summer.
The city renowned for its honey stone Georgian architecture and highly fashionable during Austen’s time makes several appearances in the film. The striking façade of Royal Crescent features in a scene of Anne and Lady Russell (Nikki Amuka-Bird) walking together in intense discussion. The two were also filmed on the colonnaded Bath Street (above) – the high street store windows propped with Regency finery and renamed Madame LeFroy Haberdasher and Milliner. Bath Street is also where you’ll find the entrance to the Thermae Spa – a modern incarnation of the ancient hot springs that drew visitor’s to the town in Austen’s day.
Gravel Walk, a footpath which links Royal Crescent with Queen’s Square, appears both in the book and the film location as the backdrop for – without giving anything away – the most important scene of all.