A 365Bristol guide to Bristol in film and TVPosted on: 18 Nov 2022
With its creative atmosphere and intriguing blend of old and new scenery, Bristol has always proved a popular location for film and television productions.
Have you ever been walking through the streets of Bristol and stumbled across a film crew and masses of extras?
There's a high chance that the answer is yes, so we’ve compiled a list of some of the biggest films and TV shows to use our city as a backdrop to help you work out what it was that you witnessed.
Look what’s turned up in #Bristol! ??— BBC Radio Bristol (@BBCRB) June 16, 2022
The TARDIS was nowhere to be seen on the first day of filming the @bbcdoctorwho 60th anniversary celebrations - but we’ve spotted it near the Crown Court ??????? pic.twitter.com/lhWelkjDQr
From timelords causing chaos on the streets of the Old City, to Stephen Merchant and Christopher Walken doing community service in Sea Mills, to a werewolf, a vampire and a ghost trying their best to live in Totterdown, we’ve rounded up all the most interesting uses of Bristol on the big and small screen…
Perhaps the most recent show on this list, Stephen Merchant’s hit BBC One comedy thriller is set and filmed all over Bristol. With a base - like many of the inclusions - at The Bottle Yard Studios on Whitchurch Lane, Outlaws is a local production through and through.
The show follows seven strangers forced to undertake community service and the chaos caused when they go toe to toe with the criminal underworld. Outlaws’ ensemble cast features creator Merchant as well as the likes of Pulp Fiction star Christopher Walken and Bristolian rising star Gamba Cole.
Some of the locations used include Sea Mills Community Centre, Bambalan on Colston Street, Winterstoke Road in Ashton, Broadmead and The Bear Pit to name but a few. Both series of Outlaws are available to watch now on iPlayer.
Another television show set and filmed in Bristol is the cult teen drama Skins. Premiering in 2007, the show was a hard-hitting, coming-of-age romp filled with sex, drugs and all kinds of other madness.
Skins was filmed all over Bristol, but some of the most notable locations include Vauxhall Bridge in the first ever episode, College Green acts as a meeting place throughout, American-style diner Rocotillos makes an appearance, and some mad teenager (Freddie) even travels at high speeds down Park Street on a skateboard.
For a more comprehensive look at some of the show’s iconic locations, read our A Decade of Skins article from back in 2017.
Stan and Ollie
Moving away from the world of teen television for a moment, 2019’s Stan and Ollie is a biopic of the famous comedy double act Laurel and Hardy starring Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly.
In the movie, which documents the duo’s tour of the UK and Ireland, Bristol harbourside doubled as an Irish dock as the crew could not use the true location and the Hippodrome is used in one scene.
The Young Ones
Travelling back to the 1980s with this one and hit BBC sitcom The Young Ones, which of course features the late great Rik Mayall. While the show was set in London, episodes were shot on location around Bristol.
Various sites around the north of the city were used, including a pub, a launderette, Bristol North Swimming Baths on Gloucester Road and the exterior of The Young Ones’ flat on Codrington Road in Bishopston.
On location in Bristol, then and now; #TheYoungOnes house and The Kebab and Calculator pub (Westbury Park Pub and Kitchen) pic.twitter.com/oopmMyGqPr— TheYoungOnes (@youngonesfan) August 6, 2022
Only Fools and Horses
Another classic British comedy that Bristol played a key role in is Only Fools and Horses. First broadcast in 1981, it has gone on to become one of the most successful sitcoms of all time with characters such as Del Boy, Rodney, Uncle Albert, Trigger and Boycie now household names.
While it is set in South London, Only Fools was filmed in Bristol from the late 80s until the show was cancelled in 2003. Whitemead House in Bedminster was used as the iconic Nelson Mandela House from series 6 onwards and a plethora of other locations were featured around the city.
Bristol has played a big role in Doctor Who over the years and it appears that it will continue to do so. Back in June, David Tennant, Neil Patrick Harris and others were spotted filming the show’s 60th anniversary special in various transformed locations around Corn Street and St Nick’s Market.
Kings Weston House has previously been featured, as has Portland Square, Bristol University, Waring House, Arnos Vale and Avonmouth to name but a few. Bristol is a veritable gold mine for Doctor Who fanatics!
Back to films now, and maybe not one that reached its expected heights. The Festival was created by the same team as the Inbetweeners and follows a boy who is taken to a festival by his best friend after a bout of heartbreak.
Chew Magna was transformed into a massive festival for the movie; however, scenes were also filmed in Ashton Court as well as Hengrove Park and The Bottle Yard was used for more set-based moments.
The Bottle Yard has also been home to 18 sets for the historical British drama Poldark starring Irish star Aidan Turner. The show follows Ross Poldark (Turner) and his efforts to rebuild his life after the American War of Independence.
As well as the Whitchurch studio, various other Bristol spots were used including Bristol Old Vic, St Nicholas Market, Ashton Court estate, Redcliffe Caves and John Wesley’s New Room.
Aidan Turner makes another appearance here with Bristol-based horror TV show, Being Human. The premise of the show is simple, a werewolf (Russell Tovey), a vampire (Turner) and a ghost (Annie Sawyer) try to live together in Totterdown.
As well as the three monsters’ South Bristol abode (pictured below), Being Human is filmed at Bristol Docks, Temple Meads, Avonview Cemetery, Curzon Theatre in Clevedon, The Watershed and The Shakespeare pub in Totterdown to name but a few.
His Dark Materials
Another TV show brimming with the weird and wonderful is the BBC and HBO’s adaptation of Philip Pullman’s fantasy epic His Dark Materials. Bristol plays a big part in the programme that stars the likes of Ruth Wilson, James McAvoy and Lin-Manuel Miranda.
The Orangery at Blaise Castle was CGI’d to look dilapidated and brief chase scenes were shot in Trenchard Street, Colston Street, Host Street and Pipe Lane.
Bristol also has a link to Boyish Hollywood heartthrob Timothee Chalamet, known for roles in Dune, Call Me by Your Name and Little Women. The King came out in 2019 and is an epic retelling of the rise of Henry V (Chalamet), loosely based on William Shakespeare’s Henriad.
The film borrowed the city’s famous Matthew of Bristol for a scene depicting Henry’s crossing of the English Channel to invade France. The ship is a replica of John Cabot’s caravel from 1497.
Moving onto another heartthrob, Sherlock - the modern adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary sleuth - has an obsessive cult following both in the UK and the USA, a large part of which is down to star Benedict Cumberbatch.
Throughout the show's four series, Bristol is used as a double for the streets of London. Queen Square takes on the guise of The Diogenes Club, John Watson (Martin Freeman) and Mary (Amanda Abbington) are married at Goldney Hall and Sherlock finally confronts the evil Moriarty (Andrew Scott) at Dean Lane Swimming Pool in Southville (pictured below).
Critically acclaimed crime drama Broadchurch (starring the likes of David Tennant and Olivia Colman) has also borrowed a number of local locations. As well as Bottle Yard Studios, Bristol sites such as Temple Street, Victoria Street and Whitchurch Lane were all used.
Despite, the drama’s main locales were Somerset, West Bay (featuring the show's iconic cliff) and Clevedon. The latter location, only 13 miles outside Bristol, doubles up as the streets and sights around Broadchurch including homes, the high street and the church.
Featuring Keira Knightley in the titular role, the 2008 film is a historical drama based on Amanda Foreman’s biography of the 18th-century English aristocrat Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire (Knightly) and her contracted marriage to William Cavendish (Ralph Fiennes).
The movie uses a variety of grand buildings and locations, mainly in Bath and the countryside. Bristol Old Vic Theatre (the oldest continually operating theatre in the country) is also transformed into Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.
As we approach the end of this list you may be beginning to sense a theme. Another period drama, the BAFTA-winning BBC adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s epic historical novel series Wolf Hall, features a key historical Bristol landmark throughout the show.
Starring Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell, the programme features beautiful sites from all over the UK and Bristol Cathedral plays a very important role. The Cathedral’s Nave doubled as Westminster Abbey for the depiction of the coronation of Anne Boleyn and a number of other locations within the building were used.
We thought we’d finish our rundown with one of the more unusual entries. Hellboy (2019) stars David Harbour (Stranger Things, Marvel) as the comic book hero and is directed by Neil Marshall (The Descent). In the film, Hellboy is forced to face the Blood Queen, who is resurrected in the modern day from England’s Dark Ages.
The movie, which did not exactly receive rave reviews on release, features scenes shot at The Bottle Yard (yet again) as well as Waring House flats in Redcliffe (watch the beginning of the trailer below) and the nearby Wells Cathedral.
Images: Bristol Film Office (Stan and Ollie), The Bottleyard Studios (Only Fools and Horses), Nick Wall (The Festival), Bristol Film Office (His Dark Materials), SWNS (Broadchurch).
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Stan is a born and bred Bristolian, recently graduated from studying English Literature in Sheffield. His passions are music and literature and spends the majority of his time in venues all over the city immersing himself in Bristol’s alternative music scene. A lifelong Bristol City fan, Stan’s Saturday’s are spent watching his team both home and away.