North and South : Locations
A number of locations in London were used. The Great Exhibition scene was filmed at Alexandra Palace in North London. The church scenes (Mrs Hale’s funeral and Fanny’s wedding) were filmed at St-John-at-Hampstead. The interiors of Aunt Shaw’s Harley St house, the mortuary and the mill-owners’ club were all in a house in Portland Place. The interior scenes of the Lyceum, where Mr Hale gives lectures to the workers and where they hold their strike meetings, were filmed at a school in Hampstead. And the scenes inside the Hales’ and Higgins’ houses were shot on a specially built set at Ealing Studios – the Higgins house and the Hales’ kitchen were actually the same room re-dressed. (The interiors of the Thorntons’ house were also filmed in London – see the Marlborough Mills page.)
The scenes at the Great Exhibition were filmed in Alexandra Palace, a Victorian place of entertainment that sits in the middle of a large park overlooking London. The following pictures show the Palm Court, which forms the entrance hall to the Great Hall and the other exhibition spaces. Although it dates from the 1870s, its large areas of arched glazing recall the Crystal Palace where the Great Exhibition was held in 1851.
The rather strained conversation between John Thornton and Margaret Hale was filmed looking towards the Box Office in the Palm Court – the words ‘Box Office’ in gold letters can just be seen to the right of the stone pyramid on the left of the shot. The photograph on the right shows almost the same view – the same stone pyramid is at the right of the picture.
Alexandra Palace has an interesting history. Opened in May 1873 as The People’s Palace, it burnt down just over a fortnight later. It re-opened in 1875. The seven acre palace was an entertainment complex, containing a concert hall, museum, art galleries, lecture hall, library, banqueting room and a theatre. It’s surrounded by nearly 200 acres of parkland that afford superb views out over London – the centre of the city is five miles away.
In the 1930s, the BBC rented part of the palace, and it was from here that the world’s first regular high-definition television service was broadcast in 1936. The BBC continued to use it for several decades. In 1980 another disastrous fire damaged much of the palace but it was re-opened in 1988. It’s now used for large exhibitions, conferences, concerts and the like. The theatre still exists, as does an ice rink. See the links below for more details about the place known affectionately as ‘Ally Pally’.
St John’s church in Hampstead was used for Mrs Hale’s funeral and for Fanny Thornton’s wedding. However, like most of the northern millocracy, the Thorntons would almost certainly have been Nonconformists – there are certainly clues in the novel that point to this. So Fanny’s wedding would actually have taken place in a chapel rather than a Church of England church.
The church doors, painted blue at the time of the filming, have since been repainted red.
(John Thornton’s pew is the fourth from the front on the left-hand side of the church – for those who are interested in such details!)
Although there has been a church on this site for at least seven hundred years, the present building dates from the 1740s. The painter John Constable is buried in the graveyard.
A house in Portland Place provided the settings for three places in the drama.