Winchester Celebrates another Golden Age

Winchester showcased its virtuosity as a film location to members of the US press during their tour of southern England last week. The group had been invited by national tourism agency VisitBritain to tour the sites where scenes were filmed for 'The Golden Age', which will appear in cinemas in the UK this autumn.

The follow-up to the popular 'Elizabeth' stars Cate Blanchett once again as Queen Elizabeth I and Geoffrey Rush as Sir Francis Walsingham. The press trip was intended to provide an insight into Elizabeth's England in the lead up to the international release.

The journalists' first stop was Winchester where they stayed overnight at The Winchester Hotel - and where they were thrilled to be shown the suite occupied by Cate Blanchett while she was filming. Then came a champagne reception, hosted by Sher Kent of Winchester Museums at The Westgate.  This included a chance for the visitors to grab a bird's eye view of Winchester from the rooftop.  Winchester Museums heritage information officer Graham Scobie regaled the group with stories from Elizabethan times while leading them through the winding streets to The Wykeham Arms for a fine evening meal.

The following day cathedral staff welcomed the group and delighted them with explanations about the filming process. The nave of Winchester Cathedral had been ingeniously transformed into St Paul's Cathedral and although the finished film segments last for just 5 minutes, setting up took 5 days, followed by 5 days of filming. Film buffs may be able to recognise Winchester's Lady Chapel and The Chapter Lawn in crucial scenes in the film. The enormity of the filming operation was expertly explained by Clerk of Works Carlton Bath who worked closely with the production crew on costings and practicalities for many months beforehand.

The group, still thirsty for more, and with one final highlight still to come in their brief visit to Winchester, enjoyed lunch at The Chesil Rectory.  They were enthralled by the idea that they were eating in Winchester's oldest secular building, dating from 1450.

Pictured here on the roof of The Westgate Museum, the group shows its appreciation of the warm Winchester welcome.  Katrina Sutton, from VisitBritain's Los Angeles office, enthused: "Winchester was a great city to visit. The itinerary was perfect and everyone enjoyed themselves and took away a huge amount of knowledge and ideas for features."

Karen Brazier, Tourism Marketing Manager, said: "We work closely with our VisitBritain colleagues in their offices right around the world to put Winchester on the map for overseas visitors. Thanks to the very positive attitude of Winchester Cathedral, in no small part, film makers now regard Winchester as a great filming location. And at a time when 'set jetting' influences holiday choices across the globe, Winchester visitor economy should certainly benefit."