When Hollywood came to Ham House – Anna Karenina saves National Trust carpet

The National Trust is committed in everything that it does to protecting special places for ever, for everyone.

From campaigns to restoration, every action is thoroughly considered to make sure that all of our places continue to be looked after, which includes dealing very carefully with how the Trust is captured and portrayed on film.

From appearing in television shows such as CBBC’s Horrible Histories, to Disney’s 2012 film adaptation, John Carter, National Trust places have had a wide and varied career in film, including the extremely beautiful Ham House (link).

 Located alongside the banks of the river in Richmond-upon-Thames, the atmospheric Stuart mansion has paid host to numerous film productions since the 1950’s, including very recently director Joe Wright’s 2012 reworking of Leo Tolstoy’s famous romantic but tragic novel, Anna Karenina.

 Telling the tale of an aristocratic Russian woman stuck in a loveless, political marriage, finding freedom by undertaking an affair with a younger man, Ham’s Long Gallery takes centre-stage, as her lover’s magnificent St. Petersburg apartments.

 Numerous scenes featuring the film’s stars Keira Knightley and Aaron Taylor-Johnson, were shot there, with the setting being described by Katie Spencer (the film’s Oscar and BAFTA nominated set decorator), as a remarkable place reminiscent of a ‘jewel box’, which gave real inspiration for the Russian aspects of the novel. An exhibition currently showing at Ham House reveals not only the setting but some of the main costumes featured within the film, as created by Oscar and BAFTA nominated designer Jacqueline Durran.

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However, what is done to make sure that our places are always protected during this time?

Whilst filming is being completed across any of our places, National Trust representatives and freelance project conservators always ensure that film crews do not disturb or damage any of the material, furniture and other precious items, that we care about so much.

But why is film work so important to the National Trust?

According to Vicky Marsland, a Conservator and Filming Specialist at the National Trust, filming is incredibly important across our places as a result of ‘the benefits that it brings for the income and also for the possibility that it can raise the profile of properties’.

What then makes this even more significant, as Camilla Churchill, an Assistant House Steward at Ham House has said, is that all of the ‘location fees earned at National Trust places, go in their entirety to maintain that specific site, to care for it in the future. Thanks to Ham’s role in Anna Karenina (the National Trust has) been able to replace the underlay beneath one of (it’s) oldest and most precious carpets – a really important piece of conservation work that we wouldn’t have been able to carry out for some years.’

'The carpet that was saved at The Anna Karenina Costume Exhibition at Ham House, to celebrate the DVD release on 4th February, is open until 4th April'. ©Sam Holden.

‘The carpet that was saved at The Anna Karenina Costume Exhibition at Ham House, to celebrate the DVD release on 4th February, is open until 4th April’. ©Sam Holden.

Overall, film work then positively helps our places to become more special and better conserved whilst also allowing them to be enjoyed by a far wider range of audiences.

As Katie Spencer has described, filming ‘brings the houses to life to which is good for the National Trust … as you just couldn’t build some of these houses (and places), they are just exquisite.’

If you wish to visit Ham House and see where production for the film took place, please go to www.nationaltrust.org.uk/hamhouse

For details and opening times of the Anna Karenina costume exhibition currently within Ham House please also go to www.nationaltrust.org.uk/hamhouse

Anna Karenina is available of DVD and BluRay from February 4 from Universal Pictures UK.

Anna Karenina pictures and music copyright of Universal Pictures UK.

Blog by Jamie White, Media and Communications (Press Office) Intern

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