Cameo role in latest David Copperfield film

A starring role for a round tower church in a newly-released film was a pleasant surprise, writes Michael Pollitt.

In the opening scenes of Armando Iannucci’s The Personal History of David Copperfield, starring Dev Patel, a round tower church takes centre stage. It begins as he tells his life story to an audience in the regency Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds. And there as a backdrop is the church of St Margaret’s, Hales, near Loddon.

Of course, it is well known that David Copperfield, the creation of the eighth novel written by Charles Dickens, was actually born in the parish served by the round tower church of St Mary’s, Blundeston.

As there seemed to be some confusion about the exact location – and there were some interesting suggestions on social media, an inquiry to the production company was made. There was a speedy response from Harriet Lawrence, of the London-based Key Locations, who spent weeks in early 2018 during the Beast of the East scouting locations for the film. She toured Suffolk and Norfolk looking for the right round tower church – and she’s produced her list of her “Magnificent Seven” churches.

As the chief film scout, she confirmed that St Margaret, Hales, was used for the backdrop. Sadly, Blundeston church didn’t quite fit the requirements for filming.

Apparently, it was the combination of the distinctive shape of the church, and especially the thatched roof that clinched it for Hales.

The film is scheduled for release in the United States on May 8, so maybe it might spark some interest in round tower churches across the Atlantic. See Harriet’s “magificent seven.”