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Lyme Park as Pemberley in Pride and Prejudice

By PeriodDramas.com

One of the most memorable estates featured in the 1995 BBC mini-series version of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice was Lyme Park, which was used for the exteriors and gardens of Pemberley, the estate of the wealthy Mr. Darcy (Colin Firth).

Below is a discussion of Lyme Park's use in the series, along with some information that may especially be of interest if you are planning to visit the property, which is now in the hands of the National Trust. If you are unable to visit in person, make a virtual tour using the tool provided near the bottom of this page.

Lyme Park in Pride and Prejudice

Lyme Park as Pemberley in the BBC's 1995 mini-series version of Pride and Prejudice.
Pemberley (Lyme Park), a screenshot from the BBC's 1995 mini-series version of Pride and Prejudice. This is Lizzy's first view of the house and when she's asked how she likes it she replies "Very well. I don't think I've ever seen a place so happily situated. I like it very well indeed.".

In the series (and novel), Pemberley is located near the fictional town of Lambton, in Derbyshire. Elizabeth/Lizzy Bennet (Jennifer Ehle) visits the estate with her Aunt (Joanna David) and Uncle Gardiner (Tim Wylton), while they are on holiday in the area. Their being in the area was somewhat by chance, since they had originally planned to visit the Lake District, but her Uncle's business commitments did not allow them enough time to travel that far north. Knowing that the estate is Mr. Darcy's home, Lizzy only agrees to visit it after hearing that the family is away. She is therefore very surprised and embarrassed when she runs into Mr. Darcy in the grounds. He is also embarrassed, as he is partially undressed and soaking wet, having just been swimming in his lake after a long journey home. Mr. Darcy swimming in the lake and him subsequently meeting Lizzy is one of the most famous scenes of the entire series. In fact, the Guardian newspaper once declared "the lake scene" or "wet-shirt scene", as it has become to be known, as "one of the most unforgettable moments in British TV history"! You can watch this scene, provided by BBCWorldwide, in the YouTube window below.

The filming of the lake scene was much more complicated than it appears to be on screen. Due to the risk of infection with Weil's disease from the lake water, a stuntman was used for the very brief shot of Mr. Darcy in mid air during his dive into the lake. The stuntman was apparently only allowed to dive in once for insurance reasons. Note that the lake used for this scene was not the lake at the front of the house, but another deeper one also in the grounds of Lyme Park. Colin Firth was also filmed diving, but onto a blue mattress instead. The shot of Mr. Darcy underwater was filmed separately, with Firth in a tank at Ealing Studios in West London. It has been reported that during the first take, Firth unfortunately bashed his nose on a metal girder in the tank. His nose was so bloody and swollen that filming had to be shut down for a day.

As the clip to the left shows (between 44 and 54 seconds), just prior to Lizzy encountering Mr. Darcy after his lake swim, she walks around what is called the "Dutch Garden", which is located south west of the main house, Lyme Hall (see Google Maps' street view shown below for a very similar shot). This garden features four cherub statues representing the elements of Earth, Fire, Air and Water. It is interesting to note that this sunken garden was added in 1850 (by William Legh, 1st Baron Newton), well after Pride and Prejudice is meant to be set. The Dutch garden was destroyed in a flood in 1973, but has been lovingly restored to its former glory.

Note that the interior scenes of Pemberley in the TV series were filmed at Sudbury Hall in Derbyshire, not inside Lyme Hall. This was apparently due to the estate being in the middle of a stocktake.

A new, colour-enhanced and completely digitally restored version of the series, from hi-definition source materials, has recently been released on DVD. You can purchase it from the Amazon.com link on the right.

Lyme Park, a National Trust property

Lyme Park is located near on the edge of the Peak District, in Cheshire. It is about a 40 minute drive from Manchester. The main house is surrounded by 6 hectares (15 acres) of formal gardens in a deer park of about 550 hectares (1,359 acres). Other buildings on the site include an orangery, a tower called "The Cage", and a belvedere known as "The Lantern". The main house dates from the middle of the 16th century, although several changes have been made since then. The estate was privately owned until 1946, when its owner Richard Legh (3rd Baron Newton) donated it to The National Trust.

The back facade of Pemberley, with Mr. Darcy on horseback.
The back (north) facade of Pemberley (Lyme Hall), with Mr. Darcy on horseback. This is a screenshot from the BBC's 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice.

As it is a National Trust property, Lyme Park is open to the public. This is great for fans of the series, and indeed for any period drama enthusiasts. If you have seen the series, make sure to walk around to the south eastern side of the main lake. Here you will be able to see the mansion as Lizzy saw it for the first time (see the picture near the top right), when she was arriving in a horse-drawn carriage with her Aunt and Uncle. If the water of the lake is calm, you'll see a clear reflection of the mansion on the water. You might be able to pick up a brochure showing a map of the "Pemberley Trail" (I'm not sure if The National Trust still make these brochures). This two-mile hike around the estate covers many of the locations featured in the series. Besides spotting the familiar scenery, you can go inside the main house, visit the gift shops and plant sale, visit the children's play area, look at the many red and fallow deer roaming around, and take refreshments at the restaurant or Timber Yard coffee shop. For further, up-to-date information, such as entrance fees and event details, visit the National Trust's pages on Lyme Park.

The use of Lyme Park in Pride and Prejudice has had a huge impact on the number of visitors to the property. It has frequently been reported that the total number of visitors in the year prior to the series being aired was 32,852; in the year following its airing, the visitor number had tripled to 91,437! Another source (Theme Park Landscapes: Antecedents and Variations, edited by Terence Young and Robert Riley, published by Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, D.C.), published in 2002, said that the visitor number was up 10-fold since the series aired.

The address of Lyme Park

Lyme Park, Disley, Stockport, Cheshire SK12 2NR, England

A satellite view of the property, provided by Google, is shown below.

Explore Lyme Park using Google Maps' Street View function

Lizzy and Mr. Darcy walking near Pemberley's main hall (Lyme Hall).
Lizzy and Mr. Darcy walking up the steps to the east of Pemberley's main hall (Lyme Hall). This is a screenshot from the BBC's 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice.

If you are not fortunate enough to be able to visit the property in person, you can actually do a virtual walk around it using Google Maps' street view function, which is embedded below for your convenience. For instance, you can "walk" around the Dutch garden, around the lake in front of the main house, and past the steps that Lizzy and Mr. Darcy ascend when he is about to ask her if she would like to meet his sister (see the picture on the right). You can even walk in the inner courtyard, which Mr. Darcy hurries through when he goes to stop Lizzy and her family from leaving.

The view shown in the current street view (below) is that of Lyme Hall with the Dutch garden in the foreground. You can use the trail with arrows to navigate around a lot of the property. The +/- buttons allow you to zoom in and the compass allows you to look in different directions. If you want to see which roads and paths have been covered by the camera, start by clicking the arrow in the bottom right corner. This gives a box with a satellite image of the area. Clicking the arrow in the top left corner of this box will give a larger view. To get a good view of the estate, zoom in to the satellite picture using the + button. Now click and "hold" the yellow man. The roads and paths that have been photographed will be highlighted in blue. You can take a quick shortcut to another location by clicking, dragging, and dropping the yellow man. This saves you having to navigate each trail.

Lyme Park in other TV series and movies

Lyme Park can be seen in several other TV series and movies. Examples include Brideshead Revisited (1981, TV Mini-series), The Forsyte Saga (2002, TV Mini-Series), Far from the Madding Crowd (1998 TV Movie), and the long-running Australian soap opera Neighbours (TV series, episode 1146, 1990).

2010-04-11




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