Sharp-eyed viewers of BBC TV’s acclaimed series, ‘Wolf Hall’, may have noticed that Cothay Manor provided locations in some episodes. Cothay is one of several medieval and Tudor houses and castles around the country to be used in the 6 part dramatisation of Hilary Mantel’s novels, ‘Wolf Hall’ and ‘Bring Up the Bodies’. Two of Somerset’s National Trust properties, Barrington Court and Montacute House, were also used as settings.
The novels examine the rise to power of Thomas Cromwell, a humble blacksmith’s son, who becomes Henry VIII’s chief minister. In navigating the treacherous corridors of power in Henry’s court, Cromwell’s relationships with Cardinal Wolsey, and Thomas More are explored. Cothay Manor’s Great Hall, Gallery and Winter Parlour feature in the first 4 episodes as rooms in Thomas More’s house which Cromwell visits in 1530 and again in 1533. Cothay’s new Administrator, Janet Alcock, explained: “These were the primary rooms used but a further 8 rooms were used for production and as green rooms, a video village and for make-up and wardrobe.” She added, “There are scenes we know were shot at Cothay which we’ve not yet seen on screen.”
Filming entirely on location in 2014, the cast (including Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell and Anton Lesser as Thomas More) and crew of ‘Wolf Hall’ were based at Cothay in April last year. The manor’s owner, Mary-Anne Robb, said, “It was very exciting. They brought in mobile food vans and we put up our marquees and we sat down – 90 to lunch everyday.”
The 14th century manor house is regarded as ‘one of the finest examples of a small medieval manor house in the country’ but, for filming, “minor period adjustments and redressing by the Art Department were made to ensure period authenticity,” Janet said.
‘Wolf Hall’ is the BBC’s biggest original drama for 10 years. It will be seen in countries around the world this year having already been acquired by broadcast networks in Australia, the USA, Sweden, Denmark, France and Germany. Interest in the many authentic and picturesque locations – including Cothay Manor – is expected to follow.
Cothay Manor’s season begins on the first Sunday in April until the last day of September. It is open on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays from 11am to 5.00pm.