Jane Austen comes to town


At 7.30 am on a freezing cold January 18, filming and preparing to film along Watchbell Street (and in a couple of the houses) started promptly, with grey blankets being passed around to the cast and extras like cigarettes in a war film. They were all wearing period costumes too fine and too thin to be of any use in the minus zero temperatures.

What a lovely spectacle

However, it was a sunny freezing morning! It looked very nice, but the temperature never really rose. I chatted to one extra in a curly-brimmed top hat who said he had two pairs of thermal tights on under his leggings, two vests, and hand warmers under his black leather gloves. He still looked extremely chilly, and he was there until the end of the day, along with most of them.

Bonnie Productions Ltd were filming Miss Austen, which follows the story of Cassandra and Jane Austen focussing on the untold story of their relationship as sisters through the letters they wrote to each other, but which were tragically lost after Jane’s death. However the story, as far as can be deduced, is adapted from the book of the same name, written by author Gill Hornby.


There was also a lot of filming along the street to the west of the church, whose name they changed on a plaque to St. Margaret’s Church, sporting a vicar called the Reverend Barnsley, who gave sermons daily at 9 am!

From viewing the activity, I can confirm that crews come with enormous numbers of large white vans filled with vast amounts of electrical equipment. But, a bit like war, there are hours and hours of boredom interspersed by moments of action. Poor lovies. I had a long chat with the ‘coachman’, who was driving the little gig and the slightly hairy pony up the cobbles in the film, who both waited for a very long time for their moment to shine. The pony also had a stout rug, I was pleased to see.

Horse and trap in Rye

The people who live in Watchbell Street had to park elsewhere for two days, with parking and traffic flow attendants on hand at all times, also getting excessively chilly.

However, they were all very courteous and civil, and we were waved straight through the ‘filming’ when we had to go out on foot, and later in the car.

On a brighter note, the extreme cold put paid to any ambitions I might have ever had to be a budding star, or even an extra!

Image Credits: Col Everett .

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  1. Should Rye benefit financially from film and TV companies using the town as a backdrop for their period dramas? Maybe Rye should look for some recompense for the inconvenience to residents, even if it’s only a couple of thousand quid donation to our Town Council community fund. I suppose one could argue a programme might encourage more tourism and local hotels benefit from the additional custom. To be honest, we could probably do without yet another Jane Austen (or Tudor era) related television or film production, adding to the hundreds already in existence. Why can’t writers come up with something more original? It is a truth universally acknowledged that a person in possession of a brain is not in want of any more Austen biopics, fact based or imagined. ‘A pox on them all!’ cried Mr Darcy.

    • These film companies don’t just turn up and start filming without permission! Of course there will be a fee paid for the ‘inconvenience’ and more than just “a couple of thousand”!
      And if you don’t think that we need any more period dramas, what do you suggest they could use the ancient Medieval & Tudor Rye for, a Western or maybe a Sci-Fi film?

  2. There’s going to have to be a lot of digital work done if this adaption is to be convincing. Many of the paint colours currently used on period properties around Rye would not have existed.


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