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29 October 2014

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You are in: Somerset > So Somerset > Hollywood parodies real life drama in Wells

Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth: A Golden Age

Cate returns to her oscar nominated role

Hollywood parodies real life drama in Wells

Wells Cathedral has been plunged into a world of political intrigue for the filming of Elizabeth: The Golden Age. Cathedral administrator John Roberts said it was fitting as the cathedral had a dark history of its own.

The lives of Elizabeth I and Sir Walter Raleigh, the famous explorer, have been given the Hollywood treatment for a film shot in Somerset.

Elizabeth: The Golden Age deals with the defeat of the Spanish Armada and Sir Walter's betrayal of his queen.  It stars Cate Blanchett and Clive Owen as well as a few Somerset extras.

"As well as the Raleigh connection we also have a royal Charter signed by Elizabeth I"

Cathedral administrator John Roberts

In real life, Sir Walter met a brutal end and his nephew Dr Walter Raleigh fared hardly better.

Dr Raleigh, the dean of Wells, was captured by parliamentary rebels when civil war broke out in 1645.

He was widely considered a kind man with a sharp wit.

But his punishment for supporting the King and the Church was to be tied behind a horse and dragged through the parish streets.

His family was evicted and he was made a prisoner in his own home (now The Old Deanery in Cathedral Green).

He was forbidden to see his family, despite his captors giving other prisoners up to two weeks home leave.

Wells Cathedral (by Lynne Newton)

Sir Walter Raleigh's nephew died here

The dispute led to his brutal death.

His jailer was the local shoe maker and city constable, David Barrett, who caught him writing a letter to his wife.

When he refused to surrender it, Mr Barrett ran him through with a sword.

Because of his captivity, Dr Raleigh survived the Plague but died six weeks later from the sword wounds.

The cathedral administrator John Roberts said a sympathetic choir singer had buried Dr Raleigh beneath the Dean Stall Quire in the cathedral.

"The producers were basically interested in filming here because of the medieval architecture. I don't know whether they knew about the Raleigh connection or not."

'Helmets like microwaves'

The cathedral has been used by other film and tv companies in recent years, which brings in vital revenue for its upkeep. Mr Roberts would not disclose the exact amount paid by Working Titles for the use of the cathedral, but he said it was, "in the tens of thousands." 

Wells Cathedral (Lynne Newton)

Mr Roberts said: "The crew didn't disturb us at all. We held all our services as usual and they worked around us. It all helps because it costs £3,000 per day to keep the cathedral open and we are open 365 days of the year.              

"As well as the Raleigh connection we also have a royal charter signed by Elizabeth I granting permission for the cathedral to use choir singers and we still have a choir today, called the vicar choral." 

In addition to some scenes shot in Somerset in Wells Cathedral and Brean Down, Somerset students were used to swell the cast numbers.

Joe Inwood, 22, was studying history at Bristol University when he received an email asking for volunteers to be extras in the film.

He said: “I got to try on five different outfits and run around on the field for a day dressed as a soldier."

His course mate Alex Ormerod went with him and added: "It was one of the hottest days of the year... and the helmets were like microwaves.

"I won't be recognisable to anyone. Even people who know me. I will just be a blur in the background, but I’m looking forward to seeing it when it comes out because it looks like a good film."

last updated: 23/06/2008 at 16:04
created: 25/10/2007

You are in: Somerset > So Somerset > Hollywood parodies real life drama in Wells

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