The BBC descended on Shrewsbury this week to film street scenes for its upcoming production of Great Expectations, starring Olivia Colman, delighting residents and visitors to the town. My Shrewsbury's Katy Rink managed to snap a few images of them in action.
Shrewsbury's beautiful Georgian terraces, half-timbered buildings and historic alleyways are to feature in a new six-part BBC adaptation of Charles Dickens' coming of age story Great Expectations. It's the biggest coup yet by newly-formed Film Shropshire, which aims to promote the merits of our county as a filming location.
Film crews descended on the county town at the weekend and amazed residents by creating Victorian streetscapes overnight, even using a giant crane to lever in a huge blue screen on St John's Hill - presumably to replace the view of our 1960s market hall.
Further filming took place in the Council House Gateway and St Mary's Water Lane, which slopes down to an attractive, 13th century gateway beside the River Severn.
It was jaw-dropping to watch them at work and the speed and efficiency with which they transformed neighbourhoods by stripping away the trappings of modern life, removing road signs and even importing gravel street coverings (and horse poo!).
One of the crew was tasked with blowing smoke across the street to create an authentic 'pea-souper' fog, others were seen pasting playbills for Victorian-era productions (Dickens wrote his novel in 1860, but the story begins in the early part of the 1800s).
There were rumblings on social media of (unconfirmed) sightings of the executive producer Tom Hardy, but it was presumed that Olivia Colman, who plays Miss Havisham, was not needed for the outdoor street scenes, since the jilted bride remains inside her ruined mansion in the Dickens tale.
Other cast members for the BBC/FX Productions series include comedy star Matt Berry (Toast of London, What We Do in the Shadows) as Mr Pumblechook, Fionn Whitehead (Dunkirk, Black Mirror) as Pip, along with Ashley Thomas, Johnny Harris, Shalom Brune-Franklin, Hayley Squires, Owen McDonnell and Trystan Gravelle.
We all felt very sorry for the actors and extras who had to withstand torrential downpours in Victorian costume.
The filming brought back wonderful memories for those Shrewsbury residents who had been involved in the 1984 film A Christmas Carol, starring George C Scott, including photographer Richard Bishop who played an extra: "It's great to see the crews back in Shrewsbury," he said. "It was a big thing for the town when they filmed A Christmas Carol. I think you could see the back of my head about six times in the film!"
Filming has also taken place in Salisbury's Cathedral Close and in the former shipbuilding village of Buckler's Hard in Hampshire.
The project is the second in a series of Dickens adaptations commissioned by the Disney-owned cable network FX and the BBC. The first was A Christmas Carol, which aired in December 2019, starring Guy Pearce as Ebenezer Scrooge and was enjoyed by some 10 millions viewers.
Lucy Forbes, who previously worked on the BBC Series This is Going to Hurt is lead director for Great Expectations, with Mark Kinsella as producer. The script is by Bafta-winning Steven Knight, writer and creator of Peaky Blinders and Ridley Scott, Dean Baker, David W. Zucker, Kate Crowe and Mona Qureshi are also listed as exec producers.