Atonement – On Location In The UK

Tourists worldwide visit the UK each year to learn more about the famous people, places, and events that have played such an important role in history, literature, and the performing arts. Based on its appeal and popularity, it is not surprising that locations throughout the UK have been chosen for film production.

Starring Keira Knightley, Saoirse Ronan as the young Briony, Romola Garai as Briony age 18, and veteran actress Vanessa Redgrave as Briony age 77, the Tallis family lived a life of wealth and privilege. The movie also features Scottish actor James McAvoy as Robbie, the not so fortunate housekeeper’s son, as well as hundreds of British extras from the town of Redcar where filming took place. Based on the book by Ian McEwan, Atonement directed by Joe Wright won an Oscar for the Best Musical Score in 2007 and Best Film of the Year at the 61st British Academy of Film Awards.

Grand English estates are often chosen as settings for British films as seen in Pride and Prejudice, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, and Wuthering Heights. In the movie Atonement, both interior and exterior of the private estate of Stokesay in Shropshire, were used for the Tallis family mansion and the smaller Turner cottage for the housekeeper and her son. Purchased by John Derby-Allcroft, philanthropist and builder of churches in 1886, the mansion was completed in 1892, just 6 months before his death. Wanting to preserve the inherent charm and Victorian décor of an English gentleman’s estate, yet abandoning the dismal atmosphere found in similar estates, Stokesay was designed by Thomas Harris to include modern electric lighting and heating. Built to last, Stokesay was used as a hospital and a home for evacuees during the war, as it passed on from generation to generation. By 1992, it became an English Heritage site, and most of the contents including over 60 bibles were sold in 1994 at a Sotheby auction, the proceeds used for much needed repairs. The filming of Atonement at Stokesay Court, occupied by cast and crew in the summer of 2006, has added another chapter to its historical significance and revival as a tourist attraction.

Group Tours: 20 or more – $22 p/p; 30 or more – $21 p/p. (Not recommended for children.) Tours last about an hour and can be booked Tuesday thru Sunday between 10 am – 3:30 pm. Includes coffee or tea and visitors can explore the grounds after the tour.

Individual Tours: In advance by appointment only – dates currently available this year – 6 & 17 Jul, 3 Aug.


Literary Luncheon: Sponsored by Castle Bookshop, this is an opportunity to meet at Stokesay and visit with well known British authors such as Andrew Taylor, Judith Cutler, and Edward Marston in early fall of this year. Price – $60 p/p.

(Note: Concerts, private parties, and other special events can also be arranged.)

Scenes depicting the French countryside in the late 1930’s were filmed from the poppy fields at Gloucestershire to Lincolnshire and the Ouse Washes in the Fens of Cambridgeshire. Avid birdwatchers and nature lovers will want to visit this area and the Nene Washes near Whittlesey, to view migrating birds, birds of prey, wading birds, and other waterfowl. Open 9 am to 5 pm, every day except Christmas and Boxing Day, admission is free.

Over one million pounds were required to construct the realistic settings for the beach scene of Dunkirk in 1940, which were filmed at the seaport town of Redcar. In comparison, the local townspeople were each paid a mere 50 pounds as the extras in the film who waited onshore for rescue ships and evacuation. Once a small fishing village in the 1300’s, Redcar was named after the petrified redwood rocks along the shore. Fishing proved extremely profitable for the townspeople, and it soon became a favorite vacation spot for tourists to enjoy a variety of other water sports including sailing, windsurfing, and diving. Visitors will find miles of flat, sandy beaches, comfortable B&Bs, holiday cottages, and great seafood, as well as shopping at high end and specialty stores. Every Wednesday there are bargains in wine, clothing, or fresh fish at the outdoor market in the center of town. Besides receiving the UK Seaside Award for the past eight years, Redcar offers numerous other attractions for vacationers who have been coming here long before the filming of Atonement.

The Kirkleatham Old Hall Museum, opening in October 1981, has three floors of exhibitions of shipyard photographs, ironstone mining, archaeology, and history of the area. From April to October, families can reminisce with 50 years of toys and music on display, in addition to games available to check out and play in the gardens or picnic area outside. There are many activities for children including contests, treasure hunts, and family craft workshops during the year. The Museum has a cafè, gift shop, and small playground.

Hours: Summer 10 am – 5 pm, Tues thru Sun; Winter 10 am – 4 pm. Free admission. Handicap accessible.

For visitors interested in the maritime history of Redcar, the Zetland Museum features the world’s oldest lifeboat, built in 1802 by Henry Greathead. With a crew of 13 to 20, it is estimated that over 500 lives were saved in 80 years. Other displays include a fisherman’s cottage, lifesaving equipment, lifelike figures representing rescues off the northeast coast of England, and the Laurie Pickett Gallery of photographs of the old fishing village and crews during the Victorian era.

Hours: May – Oct, 12 Noon to 4 pm. Closed Monday. Free admission. Handicap accessible on ground floor only.

If you are a frequent visitor to the track, and for something different to do, you will enjoy the Redcar Racecourse, a popular destination in Yorkshire for racehorse fans since 1872.

Prices: $22 – grandstand viewing; $5 – closed enclosure. Private suites with all amenities, ideal for groups, are also available. Children under 16 are free when accompanied by an adult. Free parking, restaurants, bars, and snacks. Regular races and featured events are held several times a month from April to October.

The movie Atonement takes travelers past villages and towns to the marshlands and dunes by the sea, as well as to the distant London tourist attractions of Whitehall, University College, Bethnal Green Town Hall, and St John’s Church.

Sharon L Slayton

Filed Under: Movie tourism

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  1. donna says:

    great reasearch! included historical facts and helpful ideas for many different tours to take and areas to visit and explore.


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