The stately homes behind the Pursuit of Love

The stately homes behind the Pursuit of Love: How BBC’s period drama uses Rousham House in Oxforshire and world-famous Badminton to stand in for the Radletts’ country pile

  • BBC’s adaptation of Pursuit of Love premiered last night, featuring Britain’s stately homes as filming locations
  • A number of properties stand in for the Radletts’ family home at Alconleigh, including Rousham House 
  • Badminton and Dyrham Park in Gloucestershire are used for their stunning gardens and period facades 

The BBC adaptation of Nancy Mitford’s Pursuit of Love, which premiered last night, transported viewers to Alconleigh, the fictional country home of the Radlett family. 

‘It was a large, ugly, north facing house, high on a hill in Oxfordshire,’ Linda explains in the opening minutes of the episode, as the camera showed a large, imposing home with a flag blowing in the wind.  

These exterior shots were filmed at Rousham House, a grand 17th century home nestled in the Oxfordshire countryside, but the interior shots are made up of a hodgepodge of English country estates and film studio sets. 

Badminton House and Dyrham Park, both in Gloucestershire, both stand in for rooms at Alconleigh. 

Also featured is Stourhead, in Wiltshire, whose gardens are used as Lord Merlin’s estate. Badminton House doubles up as the exterior of his country home. 

Here, FEMAIL goes behind the camera to reveal the filming locations of last night’s episode… 

ROUSHAM HOUSE, OXFORDSHIRE

ALCONLEIGH EXTERIOR AND INTERIORS 

‘A large, ugly, north facing house, high on a hill in Oxfordshire’: This is how Fanny describes Alconleigh, the Radlett family home, in the opening minutes of Pursuit of Love, which premiered on BBC1 last night

In real life: The exterior shots were filmed at Rousham House, a grand 17th century home in Oxfordshire, pictured

Inside: Rousham also provides crucial interiors for Alconleigh, including the entrance hall and the red dining room (pictured)

The Radletts’ country house Alconleigh is partly based on the Mitford home Swinbrook. It was an ugly north-facing pile designed by Nancy’s father after he sold their stately home. 

Much of the drama of the first episode takes place here, with Linda (Lily James) desperate to leave and begin her life. 

Rousham House, in Oxfordshire, stands in for the exterior shots of Alconleigh. Nestling in the first great English landscape garden, the chunky, castellated, original house has been in the ownership of the same family since 1635.

Classical stables and wings were added by the great architect and interior designer William Kent.

He was also responsible for the 18th-century follies in the garden: temples, sham ruins, bridges, cascades, all half-hidden in the landscape, although these do not appear in the Pursuit of Love.

Speaking to Conde Nast Traveller, executive producer Charles Collier explained they were partially drawn to Rousham because it has hardly been seen on screen. One of its only appearances was an episode of Lewis.

‘There’s so much filming going on and people see the same houses again and again,’ he said.

‘The other thing we loved about it was its eccentricity. We needed something that was a fabulous hotchpotch, that looked like Uncle Matthew’s private lair, fortified and slightly forbidding, but also had the other side of his personality, of a man who loved his children. 

‘It had a wonderful paradox, this house: on one hand butch and slightly overwhelming and on the other kind and quirky.’

Rousham also provides crucial interiors for Alconleigh, including the entrance hall and the red dining room featured in the opening minutes of the episode. 

However other rooms, including the bathroom and laundry room where the children gossip, were recreated in a Bristol studio.

BADMINTON HOUSE, GLOUCESTERSHIRE 

THE HUNTING ROOM AT ALCONLEIGH AND LORD MERLIN’S ESTATE

Brief shot: The Old Hall of Badminton House is used in a scene showing young Linda being disciplined

In real life: The room, mounted with antlers, as seen in a photograph from the Badminton Estate website

Sun-soaked: Badminton also serves as the exterior of Lord Merlin’s country pile. Producers opted for the lesser seen east front

Filmmakers favourite: Badminton House, pictured, also features in Bridgerton but this east front is seen less often

Gloucestershire’s 52,000-acre Badminton Estate is best known as the home of the Badminton Horse Trials and the place where the sport of badminton was invented. 

But it is also a popular filming location, with films and television shows frequently making the most of the diverse landscape and stunning Badminton House.

Among the most recent examples is Bridgerton, which used the interiors of Badminton – home of the Duke and Duchess of Beaufort – for Daphne and the Duke’s marital home. 

Producers of Pursuit of Love made the most of their time at Badminton, using both the house itself and its grounds for filming. 

The east front of the property was selected as the exterior of Lord Merlin’s (Andrew Scott’s) country home. Collier explained he chose it over the more famous south front because it is seen on screen less often. 

The interiors of Badminton also feature, with the antler-mounted Old Hall, which has served as a dining room since the 18th century, being reimagined as a room of punishment used by Uncle Matthew (Dominic West). 

In the opening minutes of the episode, Uncle Matthew is seen lashing Linda in the room, where she also eats dinner alone. 

Finally, Badminton’s sprawling grounds were used in hunting scenes. The ornamental pond in the garden will stand in for an Italian swimming pool later in the series. 

DYRHAM PARK, GLOUCESTERSHIRE 

THE BALLROOM AT ALCONLEIGH

Making an entrance: Lord Merlin (Andrew Scott) makes his first appearance at a coming out party for Louisa

Hardly touched: Over the years little of the interiors has changed, making Dyrham the perfect location for period dramas. The wallpapered Drawing Room, pictured, formerly the library, features in The Pursuit of Love as the Radletts’ ballroom

Dyrham Park, in Oxfordshire, is a stunning 17th century Baroque mansion built in two stages between 1692 and 1704 for King William III’s Secretary of State, William Blathwayt. 

Over the last 60 years the National Trust has conserved, repaired and re-opened more of Dyrham Park. Little of the interiors has changed, making Dyrham the perfect location for period dramas.

Among the rooms that have been restored are the whole kitchen and basement areas. In 2015 a major project replaced the house roof.  

The rooms, which also feature in Sense and Sensibility (2008), feature oak wainscoting, walnut panelling and leather-hung walls. 

The hugely spacious Great Hall is at the heart of the property but it is the wallpapered Drawing Room, formerly the library, which features in The Pursuit of Love. 

The room stands in for the Radletts’ ballroom where Louisa’s coming out party is held and Lord Merlin makes his first appearance. 

It is used once more later in the episode for Fanny and Linda’s coming out parties. It is here where she is swept off her feet by Tony Kroesig (Freddie Fox).

Although the room is typically full of light, the curtains were drawn and a party atmosphere created for filming.

STOURHEAD, WILTSHIRE 

LORD MERLIN’S GARDENS 

Breathtaking: In one scene Merlin and Linda look across his garden to the Pantheon, which is actually in Stourhead, pictured

World-renowned: Built between 1753-54, the Pantheon is the largest of several garden buildings at Stourhead. The temple is filled with statues of classical deities, including a marble Hercules created by Rysbrack

Only eagle-eyed viewers will have spotted the stunning shots of Stourhead, in Wiltshire, in last night’s episode. 

In a brief moment while Linda and Merlin are getting to know each other, they look across the lake in the grounds of Merlin’s home to the Pantheon on the other side. 

Although Dyrham is principally used for the gardens, producers could not resist including the stunning shot of Stourhead’s picturesque grounds with the lake at its centre. 

The lake, which was created by damming the river, was planned by Henry ‘the Magnificent’ and his architect Henry Flitcroft, who are also responsible for the garden buildings including the Temple of Flora, Pantheon and Grotto.

It is the Pantheon, inspired by the Pantheon in Rome, that is seen on the other side of the lake in the Pursuit of Love. 

Built 1753-54, the temple is filled with statues of classical deities, including a marble Hercules created by Rysbrack.

Near the Pantheon is the Palladian Bridge, which was built in 1762 and inspired by the work of 16th-century architect Palladio.

Although ornamental, the bridge was intended to look practical. It was designed to create the illusion that a river flows through the village and under the bridge. 

BOTTLE YARD STUDIOS, BRISTOL 

ALCONLEIGH’S BATHROOM AND LAUNDRY ROOM

Work of fiction: Some of the most important locations were built at Bottle Yard Studios, in Bristol, including the bathroom

On set: The laundry room, pictured, was also built at Bottle Yard Studios, in Bristol

Some of the most important locations in the Pursuit of Love were actually built at Bottle Yard Studios, in Bristol. 

Among them is the bathroom where Fanny and Linda bathe and the laundry room where the children gather to share secrets. 

The set designers and production team paid close attention to the smallest details to recreate the feeling and scope of a country home, selecting tiles, wallpaper and light fixtures reflective of the period. 

Much of Lord Merlin’s property was also recreated on a purpose built set, perhaps to allow for greater creative freedom in reflecting the character’s eccentricities.       

Bottle Yard Studios is a filming hub and has welcomed TV dramas including The Salisbury Poisonings and The Trial of Christine Keeler. 

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