The History Anorak

The History Anorak

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Location Location Location

A Brief Encounter.....
I love you. I love you.
You love me too. It's no use
pretending it hasn't happened
because it has.
So what makes a historic site 'historic'? During a recent trip north west I got to thinking. We drove past Carnforth Station, an attractive little railway stop in quite an interesting little Lancashire town. We didn't call in this time (we'd been before) but the direction signs did make me think.

Carnforth Station is actually quite famous in its own way. It was the "star" of the 1945 David Lean romantic film of the Noel Coward play Brief Encounter. If you're of a certain age you know exactly which film I mean. Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson getting themselves into a middle class pickle over a little sexual attraction.  Lots of stiff upper lips and clipped English vowels.

So my question is this: does being the location for a film (albeit a well-known one) justify the fact that this little out of the way place has a "heritage centre"?  It also has a Brief Encounter Refreshment Room. If you've seen the film you'll know why.

A Brief Encounter.....
That clock
The station itself had fallen into disrepair but was restored in the early 21st century. It officially opened in 2003 after a three-year reconstruction project. The restoration included that clock -  the one that counted down the couple's illicit hours together - although the real one never appeared in the film. Apparently it had to be covered with a fake face so that the correct time for the storyline could be shown on the front. Meanwhile, proper railway time ticked away underneath.

The film was shot in wartime and had to be made outside timetable hours so it didn't interfere with troop movements. The location was chosen because of its isolation. The powers-that-be in the War Office felt it was unlikely to be a target for German bombers so the film crew and stars would be safe there.

All this can be found out at the Carnforth Station Heritage Centre, as well as quite a bit about the role the station played in shifting troops around the country throughout the war. Now that is history. However, does the film location count as well?  I admit I'm a fan. I've loved Brief Encounter for years, and I did spend time sitting in the waiting room watching a hefty chunk of the film, which plays on a loop during opening hours. But is it really heritage?  What do you think?

Some other well-known locations
Castle Howard, North Yorkshire - Brideshead Revisited (1981 Granada TV)
The Historic Dockyard, Chatham, Kent - Call the Midwife (2012-present BBC)
Gloucester Cathedral (and lots of other places) - Harry Potter series (2001-2011 Warner Brothers)
Venice - Don't Look Now (1973 British Lion)
Vienna - The Third Man (1949 London Film Productions)

1 comment:

  1. I agree that the station being the location of a movie would be part of it's history along with it's role in the movement of troops, but not sure about warranting a Heritage Centre. Still, it would generate good income and the stories of how they worked the shooting of the film around life during WWII makes very interesting telling. And of course I want to see that film now.


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