The film club: school movie locations and their star alumni

Cobham Hall, near Gravesend, as seen from the air

Cobham Hall, near Gravesend, as seen from the air - Credit: Archant

From stunning locations to inspiring fictional alumni and the real life A-listers too, our area’s schools have had quite an impact on screen. Matthew Williams digs up some movie trivia

The cinematic facade of Royal Holloway in Egham, Surrey

The cinematic facade of Royal Holloway in Egham, Surrey - Credit: Archant

From the Spring 2014 edition of A+ education magazine South East

The distinctive silhouette of Lancing College in West Sussex

The distinctive silhouette of Lancing College in West Sussex - Credit: Archant



Actors Steve Coogan and Anna Friel visited Eastbourne College for the filming of King of Soho. The film crew came to Eastbourne to shoot a 1950s scene on the pier and two scenes at a private school – which Eastbourne College stood in for.

While it was scouted for the Harry Potter series of films, it might come as a surprise to learn that Lancing College has never actually appeared in a feature film – at least visually. It was, however, used for the 2008 film version of Brideshead Revisited, where the voices of boys chattering and footsteps in the cloisters were recorded for background sounds. The original author, Evelyn Waugh, was also a Lancing pupil.

Christ’s Hospital in Horsham has a number of theatrical ‘Old Blues’ including actor Roger Allam, who is perhaps most famous for playing propagandist Lewis Prothero in 2006 flick V for Vendetta; actor Jason Flemyng, who has appeared in films including Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, among others; TV screenwriter Clive Exton; and comedian Mark Thomas.

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Playing Georgiana Darcy in Joe Wright’s 2005 film adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice whilst still at Brighton College, Tamzin Merchant has also played Katherine Howard in Showtime’s The Tudors. Born in Haywards Heath, she also attended Windlesham School in Brighton.

Roedean School has an unusually impressive selection of fictional alumni. In the novel Atonement, Cecilia Talli (played by Keira Knightley in the film) was said to be a Roedeanian, while Lady Penelope in Thunderbirds was also said to be a former pupil of the Brighton-based independent school.



The spectacular Royal Holloway University in Egham has provided the backdrop for scenes in Basic Instinct 2 and Howards End among others.

Designed to reflect the cloistered walkways of the 14th century Carthusian monastery in Smithfield (home to the original School), Charterhouse near Godalming has featured in films such as Ideal Husband, Bedazzled, Shooting Dogs and St Trinian’s 2 – in the latter, the boys’ choir filmed at Charterhouse was the Guildford Cathedral Choir.

Kingston University has turned out a number of actors who have shone brightly in recent years. Ben Barnes, who played Prince Caspian in The Chronicles of Narnia and a lead role in Stardust, and Howard Charles, who has recently been seen playing Porthos in the BBC’s remake of The Musketeers, both stand out.

It is now well known that the actress Carey Mulligan used three places on her UCAS form to secretly apply to drama schools but was turned down by them all. She had the last laugh though after receiving an Oscar nomination for her celebrated role in 2009’s An Education. Her own education was at Woldingham School.

Born in Caterham, Bill Nighy is perhaps best-known for films such as Love Actually but left the John Fisher School in Purley at 16 with acting not his first choice of profession. Later, he went on to train at the Guildford School of Acting, which these days forms part of Guildford’s ever- expanding University of Surrey.



The impressive Cobham Hall, near Gravesend, was used as the home of Lord and Lady Dedlock in the BBC adaptation of Bleak House starring Gillian Anderson. The building also doubled as Abbey Mount boarding school in the 2008 film Wild Child, which was written by Lucy Dahl, daughter of Roald.

St Peter’s Church of England Primary School in Folkestone was featured in the Sir Michael Caine starring film of 2008, Is Anybody There?. The building was used to double as Edward’s School.

Lord of the Rings and Pirates of the Caribbean actor Orlando Bloom attended The King’s School and St Edmund’s School, both in Canterbury, before his onscreen adventures started. He also went on to receive an honorary degree from the University of Kent in Canterbury in 2010.

Another Pirates star (who originally made his name in The Office), actor Mackenzie Crook was educated at the Wilmington Grammar School for Boys, in Dartford, where he was also the illustrator and cartoonist for the school magazine. At 15, he went on to join the Orchard Youth Theatre in the town.

Bond girl Gemma Arterton was born and raised in Gravesend, where she attended Gravesend Grammar School for Girls (now Mayfield Grammar School) and made her stage debut there in an amateur production of Alan Ayckbourn’s The Boy Who Fell Into a Book. At 16, she attended the Miskin Theatre School in Dartford.


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