Filming Of The Secret Garden: UK Locations

Location, location, location. 

We are familiar with these words, thanks to the real estate industry. Location is one of the most important factors to consider when searching for your dream house. 

The same principle applies to the movie industry. The filming locations of any ideal film rank among the most crucial aspects of its production. And a fantasy drama movie like The Secret Garden, where location practically brings the plot to life, is no exception. 

Where was The Secret Garden filmed? We intend to visit these locations in this article. 

The Secret Garden is a remake of a classic movie based on Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic 1911 novel of the same name. 

Sky Cinema released this fourth film adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s children’s novel starring Colin Firth, Julie Walters and Dixie Egerickx. Produced by David Heyman and Marc Munden, it is set in 1947 England. The plot tells the story of Mary Lennox (Dixie Egerickx), a young orphaned girl arriving from India, who is sent to live with her uncle, Lord Craven (Colin Firth), in his mysterious Yorkshire estate. Her discovery of the titular magical garden on his estate changes everything. 

It is interesting to note that the novel was set in the North York Moors where, incidentally, the movie did most of its filming extensively. Misselthwaite Manor, Colin Firth’s imaginary mansion, was located there as well. 

“Yorkshire is the setting for The Secret Garden, and we were so keen to film here,” gushed the producer, Rosie Allison. “…the beauty of the locations is just breathtaking – and we were blessed with 10 days of continuous spring sunshine during our shoot there.”

From magnificent, walled gardens to stately houses to historical ruins, discover some of the key filming locations that display the beauty of North Yorkshire – both natural and man-made – in The Secret Garden.

The Key Filming Locations

Helmsley Walled Garden

Named by The Times as one of the UK’s loveliest gardens open to the public, Helmsley Walled Garden is the star of the show in The Secret Garden. It has all the trappings of a secret garden – a maze of stone paths, unseen corners, ivy-draped stone walls, amongst other amazing elements. 

Rosie Alison says, “We fell in love with Helmsley Walled Garden when we visited it on our location search. Not only is it an exquisite garden, but the work done there to encourage the therapeutic benefits of gardening is so in tune with The Secret Garden. We were proud to film the children’s unbridled joy there.”

The garden is tucked behind the imposing, 12th-century ruins of Helmsley Castle, including a five-acre garden and a 250-year old walled wonder that was once famous for the flowers, vegetables and fruits that it provided for the Duncombe Park gentry. 

Hemsley Garden is also considered a place for reflection and healing by utilizing the soothing power of nature’s gifts.  

“Being surrounded by nature is far more sensory than being in a studio,” says Dixie Egerickx (Mary Lennox), ”When you can hear the birdsong and smell the flowers and feel the grass, it’s much easier to believe that you’re actually in the story you’re telling.”

Duncombe Park, Helmsley

On the big screen, Duncombe Park is the imposing and fictional Misselthwaite Manor (the ancestral home of Lord Archibald Craven) in The Secret Garden, which also includes a Father Time Sundial sculpture and a splendid passageway of trees.

This location is quite apt for the new movie adaptation. The grounds have a ruined castle as a backdrop and a walled “secret” kitchen garden.  

Duncombe Park is regarded as one of Yorkshire’s prime historic houses and is located near Helmsley, burrowed around 450 acres of North York Moors parkland. 

The large and stately building, which dates to the early 18th century, is no stranger to film and TV crews. Over time, it has become a favourite film setting for period drama productions. Prior to playing host to The Secret Garden, it has been featured earlier in ITV’s Victoria, BBC One’s Parade’s End, The Thirteenth Tale and Dad’s Army.

Knebworth House, Hertfordshire

Film-friendly Knebworth House in Hertfordshire provided the internal scenes of the movie, The Secret Garden. 

Though the exterior holds exquisite, inspirational appeal with its gargoyles, domes and turrets, its interior reveals excellent examples of different periods in history, including extensive gardens, farms, lakes, parkland, cottages and woodland. 

For more than 50 years, Knebworth House has hosted many films and TV crews and music videos. 

Coincidentally, this stately home and Colin Firth have a bit of history together. One of the aforementioned famous acts is the movie The King’s Speech starring Colin Firth. He shot scenes in the house and went on to win an Oscar at the Academy Awards for his role as the future King George who had a speech impediment.

Another of Firth’s films, St. Trinian’s 2: The Legend of Fritton’s Gold, was filmed in Knebworth House and served as the imagined, notorious girls’ school.

Fountains Abbey, Rippon, Yorkshire

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this location also featured in the 1993 film version of The Secret Garden, starring Dame Maggie Smith. It makes a comeback as an adventure playground in this latest screen adaptation of the book, providing breathtaking landscapes for several shots in the movie. 

Fountains Abbey is known as England’s best-preserved specimen of a medieval monastery, and resides in the care of the National Trust.

It may presently be a poor copy of its previous glory, ancient ruins and all, but it is still in great shape and provides the appropriate fantasyland for the children characters in this new movie. 

The location offers a medieval monastery, ruins of cloisters, marble columns and partial stairwells, replete with crawling plants; the kind of setting that would pique interest and arouse curiosity. 

Another section of it made it into the movie as part of the garden. It was the Abbey’s East Guest House, a place that formerly housed important visitors.  

The scenic remains of the Abbey make for a perfect filming location. Other productions featuring Fountains Abbey include Gunpowder, The History Boys, The Secret Garden, and Death Comes to Pemberley.

“Filming in magical environments like these is wonderfully peaceful – a reminder of how dependent we are on nature, and vice versa,” says Colin Firth (Archibald Craven).

Bodnant Garden, Conwy, North Wales

This movie provided this location with its first time as a film setting. It is located in Snowdonia and is another National Trust site. 

The part of the Bodnant Garden site used includes the stream in a scene where the children go to swim. The film crew built a temporary dam to make the water deeper. 

Also used in the movie was the Laburnum Arch in the garden. It is a 55-metre long arch covered in blooming yellow flowers in May.

The Secret Garden Filmed In These Locations Too

Osterley Park, London – Another of National Trust’s filming locations in west London, it appeared in many scenes as the kitchens of Misselthwaite Manor.  

Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens, Weymouth – This sheltered woodland and its gardens in Dorset portrayed Mary’s parents’ home in India. Abbotsbury predates the 18th century and has a distinct weather condition perfect for growing various tropical plants. 

Harlaxton Manor, Grantham – Along with Duncombe Park, the front of this 19th-century building in Lincolnshire was used as the exterior of the fictional Misselthwaite Manor owned by Lord Craven. 

Trebah Gardens, Falmouth  – This 26-acre area of subtropical gardens in Cornwall proved ideal for the extraordinary sections of Mary’s secret garden. The tropical tree dells and the ponds of Trebah also appeared in numerous scenes of the film. 

Puzzlewood, Coleford – This place is a woodland of fairytale proportions and is situated deep in the Forest of Dean. With an otherworldly feel to it, Puzzlewood created the perfect enchanted setting for Mary’s secret, magical garden. Its twisted trees and hidden nooks offered the ultimate childhood adventure.