Film scout picks her ‘Magnificent Seven’

Chief movie location scout Harriet Lawrence has picked her “magnificent seven” round tower churches.

She came to East Anglia two years ago to scout locations for the recently-released film, “The Personal History of David Copperfield,” which has won much praise from reviewers. Armando Iannucci’s comedy-drama film retells the classic Dickens novel – actually the eighth – and uses locations across East Anglia including King’s Lynn, Weybourne and Bury St Edmunds.

Filming started in July 2018 in Bury St Edmunds – just a few months after Harriet and her colleague, the designer Cristina Casali had been criss-crossing Norfolk and Suffolk for suitable locations. “We had a wonderful few weeks building the look of the film in Norfolk and Suffolk, sheltering from the Beast from the East, following our hunches and coming across absolute gems like the church in Ramsholt,” she said.

“Many of the locations we used in the film were scouting in that first cold month in East Anglia,” she added. Sadly, the round tower church of St Mary the Virgin, Blundeston, the parish near Lowestoft, which was the birthplace of David Copperfield, didn’t quite fit the bill.

In the early draft of the script, the church was to have been a much more significant location. However as the emphasis changed, it ended up being part of David Copperfield’s childhood landscape rather than a key location, she explained.

In the final version of the film, the young David Copperfield (Dev Patel) addresses an audience, actually filmed in The Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds. Against a stage backdrop featuring a round tower church, he chronicles his life from childhood as his lifestory unfolds. And the location of this church . . .  St Margaret, Hales.

Harriet, who is supervising location manager for the London-based Key Location, which was established in 1995, accepted the Round Tower magazine’s challenge to name her top six churches. Actually, she selected a magnificent seven.

“Of the ones I have visited, which is far from all of them, Ramsholt and Hales are by far the most magical! Although I loved most of them – it was about their situation in the landscape that really drew me; mostly isolated. “I’d still love to go and see Aldham, Haddiscoe and Bawburgh . . . .and all the others!

Harriet’s top seven

1 St Margaret’s, Hales – Perfection, inside and out. And that Norman doorway….

2 All Saints, Ramsholt – just heavenly situation, down a farm track on the edge of the river Deben…..

3 All Saints, Edingthorpe – Wow.

4 St Peter’s Merton – I loved the proximity to the manor house and the rural feel of livestock so close.

5 St Margaret’s, Hardley – not the prettiest surroundings, but lovely castellated tower, beautiful box pews and wonderful rood screen.

6 St Andrew, Little Snoring – can’t get more North Norfolk than this! All windswept flint, round tower and dark shiny pantiles.

7 St Mary’s, Fishley – I think this makes seven but I love the way this one feels like it’s on an island; so serene with the beautiful Scots Pines standing guard in amongst the flat chilly fields.

And the way it was finally used as part of the wide big sky Norfolk landscape of David Copperfield’s childhood, in the painted backdrop of the Theatre Royal in Bury St Edmunds where he begins to tell his life story . . . . .  St Margaret’s Hales again.