Major new BBC drama filmed at York Minster

Broadcast Sunday 17 May 2015

TV viewers will see York Minster’s iconic Kings Screen transformed when BBC One’s hotly anticipated new drama Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell airs on Sunday (17 May).

Film crews spent a week filming at York Minster in February last year to recreate scenes from the bestselling book by Susanna Clarke for the seven part drama.

Set at the beginning of the 19thcentury, the story follows the reclusive Mr Norrell who proves practical magic still exists in England by making statues inside York Minster speak and move. The incident sparks a new enthusiasm for practical magic which takes in war, peace, fairies and even resurrection.

Author Susanna Clarke visited the Minster during the filming and described the surreal experience of recreating a ‘nineteenth-century-England-that-never-was’ in the middle of twenty-first-century York on an ordinary weekday evening.

“We are gathered in York outside the Minster. People are walking home from work, driving their cars through the city centre, eating in restaurants. Everything is quite as normal.

“Except that in just the one spot — before the great West Front — a snowstorm is blowing; and battling their way through it is a covey of black-coated magicians in three-cornered hats with lanterns in their hands. Mr Norrell is about to do magic in York Minster again.”

As well as filming at the cathedral, the team transformed York Minster’s St William’s College into the Old Starre Inn – where the York Society of Magicians meet – and a bookshop stocking rare magical texts. College Street and Chapterhouse Street also feature in the drama.  

Producer Nick Hirschkorn said: “In the original book, the incident at York Minster is a key turning point in the story so it was fantastic to be able to use the actual Minster to film scenes for the drama. The cathedral’s St William’s College and surrounding streets also proved the perfect setting for other parts of the story.”

The production has been backed by Screen Yorkshire’s Yorkshire Content Fund and is the largest scale project the organisation has invested in, with crews spending four months shooting at locations around the county.

"Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell is epic television in every sense,” explained Hugo Heppell, Head of Investments, Screen Yorkshire. “Rooted in Yorkshire, infused with a Yorkshire sensibility, and shot extensively in the region, we couldn't be more proud of this spectacular series and everybody involved in its production."

The cast includes Eddie Marsan (Best of Men, Ray Donovan) as Mr Norrell and Olivier award-winning Bertie Carvel (Restless, Hidden, Matilda) as Jonathan Strange. The series is directed by Toby Haynes (The Musketeers, Doctor Who), the producer is Nick Hirschkorn (Five Children and It) and the writer Peter Harness (Doctor Who, Wallander).

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell will air on BBC One on Sunday 17 May at 9pm.

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Photo captions:

  • JS&MN 1, 2 & 3: Filming for major BBC drama Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell at York Minster. *Please credit Matt Squire, © JSMN Ltd

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