While the first Fantastic Beasts film was set in 1920s New York, the upcoming sequel, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, comes home to Europe. Shifting the story between Paris and the UK, many of the film’s most fantastical scenes are set in London’s Highgate Cemetery, as well as ancient Lacock Abbey, which has also seen screen action with a young Harry Potter. Here, we take a look at the undisputed charm of the UK’s most famous cemetery and explore what makes Lacock and other historic locations so appealing to the camera and the silver screen.
Highgate Cemetery in north London is one of England’s greatest treasures, a romantic retreat of peace and contemplation. Steeped in history, it features some exquisite funerary architecture. First opened in 1839, it went into decline in the 1970s before being rescued by The Friends of Highgate Cemetery Trust who have restored it to its former glory. In fact, the charity’s restoration work was so impressive, English Heritage has now listed London’s Highgate Cemetery as a Grade 1 Park.
With over 170,000 people buried in 53,000 graves, including 300 war graves, the cemetery is a place of remembrance but also an opportunity to acknowledge the achievements of the many great people who now rest there. The most famous resident is Karl Marx whose monument attracts comrades from around the world. The East Cemetery is also the resting place of George Elliot, Douglas Adams and more recently George Michael.
The West Cemetery perfectly captures the essence and atmosphere of the Victorian cemetery and is only accessible by guided tour. One visit and you’ll see why this stunning landmark was chosen as one of the settings for this Fantastic Beasts sequel.
Lacock Abbey is no stranger to beasts and wizards: the 900-year-old former nunnery has posed as Hogwarts in two Harry Potter movies in addition to being one of the filming locations for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. Now a stunning country house with a museum, park and gardens, Lacock Abbey is situated in the former woollen mill village of Lacock, near Chippenham in Wiltshire.
It’s a picture-perfect setting, with stone and timber-framed cottages lining four central streets. Lacock is one of the oldest villages in England, and is now almost entirely owned and preserved by the National Trust. With such careful protection of its quintessential charm, Lacock enjoys the attention of many TV and film crews. Downtown Abbey, Pride & Prejudice and Cranford are just some of the productions that have set up camp here.
Situated in Buckinghamshire, West Wycombe is another ancient village that’s looked after by Britain’s biggest conservationist. Once privately owned, the village was sold to raise money after the Wall Street Crash of 1929, bought by the Royal Society of Arts, and later passed on to the National Trust.
In its 18th-century heyday, West Wycombe served as a key staging post on the coach road between London and Oxford, with some 17 pubs and coaching inns within the tiny village. Despite its perch on the now busy A40, today West Wycombe still oozes historic charm, with quaint gift shops and tea rooms among the wood-framed cottages.
Head beyond the village and you can visit West Wycombe House, a beautiful Palladian home that has been the residence of the Dashwood family for more than 3 centuries. Set within West Wycombe Park, a verdant 45-acre oasis, both the house and park have featured in numerous films and television programmes including Labyrinth, The Importance of Being Earnest, and Howard’s End. Take a tour of the house and explore the park, or climb West Wycombe Hill for spectacular views.
Chiddingstone is one of the oldest and prettiest villages in Kent: a single Tudor street lined with traditional half-timbered buildings. Some three-quarters of these shops and cottages are more than 200 years old, and retain their original features thanks to the National Trust taking care of the whole village’s preservation.
Chiddingstone owes its name to the local so-called chiding stone. This big sandstone outcrop is believed in medieval folklore to have been used as a place of judgement, punishment and chiding for nagging wives and witches. Paying homage to the stone is a must on any visit. After that, you’re free to swing by the village’s Old Manor House, Castle Inn pub and Tulip Tree shop and tea rooms.
If things start to feel familiar, it may be that you’ve seen Chiddingstone on film. A Room with a View and The Wind in the Willows are just two famous movies that have used this idyllic setting as a backdrop.