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The Powell & Pressburger Pages

Dedicated to the work of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger and all the other people, both actors and technicians who helped them make those wonderful films.

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Filming Locations for ACT

From the book A Canterbury Tale - Memories of a classic wartime movie by Paul Tritton

All locations are in Kent, England, unless otherwise specified.

Remember that The Archers were very sneaky and clever when it came to filming. Also, as Powell knew the area very well (he had grown up there) they could pick and choose to get the best locations. A typical problem is in a classic two-shot with two people talking to each other, the view over one person's shoulder will be in one village. The view over the shoulder of the person they are talking to might well be in another village, 20 miles away.

We are indebted to Paul Tritton and the wonderful work he did for his book A Canterbury Tale - Memories of a classic wartime movie for the identification of these locations.

Opening scenes with the Chaucerian pilgrims
On the old Pilgrim's Way that runs through the area.
St Martha-on-the-Hill, Guildford, Surrey TQ 028 483

Road of steel
In Paul Tritton's book on ACT, the only location that he couldn't identify was the valley that the train ran along when we first see it. You know the one I mean, the falcon has just turned into a Spitfire, the carriers trundle off down the hill and it fades to a valley. We pan right and stop as a train comes in from the right. It's all over very quickly - but it always bugged us :)

Christoph Michel has done some screen captures from the DVD to show you the scene we mean.

Mark French has identified this for us as having the camera at about TR 137 501. From the car park at the top of Ranmore (TQ 141 503) go into the field take a diagonal across the field heading South West. The indistinct path goes downhill to the fence line. Go through the gate that you will find there and then walk West following the edge of the woods which should be on your right hand side (do not descend any further) after approximately 500 yds look South and you should be there. I found the spot where they filmed to within approximately 50 yds or so as I say nothing has changed so it is very easy to find.

Pilgrim's Way (North Downs Way), Ranmore Common,
Nr Dorking, Surrey
TR 137 501

Selling Station
"Chillingbourne, this is Chillingbourne. Canterbury next stop"
The train arrives on the real station. When they come out of the station office they are in the studio. I'm not sure about the bridge.
The station is now very bleak & bare, see Steve's visit

Selling Station, Selling TR 052 572

Charing Street
Where they chase the glueman up the street
Studio reconstruction based on Taylor's Hill, Chilham. Built with a false perspective to make the road appear to be a steeper and longer hill. Aided by the "glueman" running away being a child in a scaled down greatcoat.

Taylor's Hill, Chilham TR 067 536

Fordwich Town Hall
Both the exterior and interior were reconstructed in the studio but are very close to the original.
Fordwich Town Hall is the smallest Town Hall in the country. The Town Hall was built in 1544.
Fordwich was awarded "Town" status, despite its small size, because it was the furthest boats could get up the River Stour (it has since become silted up so only very small boats can navigate it now). The stone for Canterbury Cathedral was unloaded there after being brought from Caen in France. The crane that could be swung out over the river to unload boats is still there and the crane arm is seen in the film.
The railway built in 1830 linking Canterbury with Whitstable Harbour meant that Fordwich was no longer used as a port.

Fordwich TR 181 598

The Hand of Glory
See The Meaning of "The Hand of Glory"
The interiors were recreated in the studio. The exteriors are mainly of The Red Lion, Wingham. The view from Bob's bedroom window where he waves at Dick Lucy is the view from The Red Lion but as the hay waggon leaves it is seen leaving from The George and Dragon, Fordwich.

The Red Lion, Wingham TR 243 574
The George and Dragon, Fordwich TR 179 598

Horton's Yard
The wheelwright & blacksmith's yard is Horton's Yard in Shottenden. Ben Horton (wheelwright) and his brother Neville (blacksmith) both appear in the film as assistants to the actors playing them. Ben's son Eric also appears (in leather jacket).
Horton's Yard, Shottenden TR 045 542

As Alison & Bob leave the yard in the cart they go past the old watermill at Wickhambreaux. They then pause by Wickhambreaux Court (Colpeper's house).
Wickhambreaux TR 221 588

Chartham Down
As Bob gets off the cart they are at the edge of Chartham Downs but when they look up to 'The roundel', that can't be seen from where they are and 'The Bend' in the Pilgrim's Road is in yet another place.
Chartham Down TR 131 533
The Roundel TR 079 528
The Bend TR 040 496

Elbridge Farm
Prudence Honeywood's farm where Alison goes to work is really Elbridge Farm.
The scene where Alison takes Fee Baker her lunch is a combination of location and studio shots.

Elbridge Farm, Littlebourne TR 203 597

The Pilgrim's Road
Where Alison is ambushed by the bren carriers led by Peter Gibbs is filmed on Old Wye Lane, Chilham. The camera watches the carriers go down through the Rye Field and another carrier goes across the field on the other side of the Lane.
Old Wye Lane TR 081 531
Rye Field
(camera position)
TR 083 530

Colpeper Institute
The idea of the Colpeper Institute was almost certainly based on the Beaney Institute in Canterbury, the young Michael Powell used to borrow books from the library there.
The exteriors of the Colpeper Institute are the Manor House in Fordwich High Street.

Manor House, Fordwich TR 180 596

River Battle
The river battle takes place on the River Stour near Chilham Mill. Bob boards the boat a short way upstream although some of the scenes of the boat being paddled down the river were actually filmed on the River Stour at Fordwich - over 5 miles away on the other side of Canterbury.
Chilham Mill TR 078 534

Pow-wow Hill
The Pow'wow after the river battle takes place on an ancient long barrow (burial mound) known as Jullieberrie's Grave. Local legend claims it is the burial mound of a Roman tribune killed after a river battle during Julius Caesar's invasion, although it might well be even older than that.
In the film, Chilham Mill can be seen from the hill although now the view is obscured by trees except when they lose their leaves in winter.

Jullieberrie's Grave TR 078 533

Fordwich Church
When Bob leaves the pow'wow he goes off to meet the Horton's at the church. These scenes were filmed at St. Mary's Church, Fordwich although we don't see much of it. Just the view out of the door as they come in and a shot of the bells being rung. [Wasn't the ringing of church bells still banned in 1943? NO, the restriction was relaxed on 21st April 1943 to allow bells to be rung for Sunday services. Then, on 27th May 1943 it was further relaxed to allow ringing for weddings, funerals and just ringing practices.]
St. Mary's Church, Fordwich TR 181 598

Alison's Enquiries
Alison meets Polly Finn as her bus arrives in Chilham Square. She meets Gwaldys Swinton at her signal-box at Harbledown Junction. Then she meets Doroth Bird at Wickhambreaux.
Chilham Square TR 068 536
Harbledown Junction TR 137 574
Wickhambreaux Post Office
(or it was in 1943)
TR 220 587

Salvage Collection
Peter goes to see Mr Colpeper at his house (Wickhambreaux Court).
Bob and Peter meet the boys who have collected the salvage at Chilham Mill

Wickhambreaux Court TR 221 588
Chilham Mill TR 078 534

A Roll in the Grass
After a walk through the beech wood [Sheila looking lovely] Alison thinks she hears the sounds of the old pilgrims. Colpeper is lying in the long grass and Alison lies down beside him.
Bob and Peter come up the hill talking about the tea drinking nations. They survey the 'noble prospect' of the view of Canterbury and the River Stour, neither of which can actually be seen from where they were.
The views of the Cathedral seen when Alison emerges from the wood and later when Bob says 'Cast your eye around that noble prospect' show the Cathedral from the south-west, but the encroachment of chestnut coppices and scribby woodland over what was once open downland has now blocked off any such views that may have been obtained from Chilmans Downs in 1943. However similar 'noble prospects' can be enjoyed from Godmersham Park, the northern end of Church Wood, the eastern end of Howfield Wood and several other vantage points in the Stour Valley.
The view of the River Stour cut into the scene where Peter and Bob pick blackberries and discuss the tea-drinking nations was filmed from Godmersham Downs. We see the River Stour meandering towards a railway bridge near Trimworth Manor and, in the background, Tye Wood and Oxen Lees Wood.

Scene in the long grass TR 078 527
Sandy Lane
The beech wood
TR 075 527
Godmersham Downs
View of the River Stour
TR 058 502
Trimworth Manor TR 062 497
Howfield Wood TR 115 575

The other locations used towards the end of the film are in Canterbury itself.
Note the scenes under the end titles.
The boys playing football (with the new ball bought with the money they were given by Bob) in the car park of the George and Dragon, Fordwich. Also the soldiers going to the lecture with their girlfriends at the Colpeper Institute (Manor House, Fordwich).

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