On the set of BBC's The Village in Hayfield
PUBLISHED: 16:32 04 April 2013 | UPDATED: 15:54 24 December 2014
Roly Smith visits the set of the new blockbuster BBC1 TV drama series that was filmed in and around Hayfield
Hayfield, on the western side of Kinder Scout, is probably best known as the birthplace of Arthur Lowe, who played the bumbling Captain Mainwaring in the long-running BBC TV comedy Dad’s Army. That fact was recognised recently when a blue plaque was unveiled by Derbyshire County Council on his birthplace in Kinder Road.
Hayfield’s other claim to fame was that it was the starting point for the celebrated Mass Trespass on Kinder just over 80 years ago, a fact recognised by another plaque in the Bowden Bridge car park.
More recently, however, Hayfield has assumed a new fame as the setting for the gritty new blockbuster BBC1 TV drama series, The Village, which was shot in and around the village at the end of last year.
The Village stars John Simm (who made his name in The Lakes and Life on Mars) as troubled farmer John Middleton, and Maxine Peake (Dinner Ladies, Shameless and Silk) as his long-suffering wife, Grace. Other leading roles are played by Juliet Stevenson (Lady Clem Allingham) and Annabelle Apsion (Margaret Boden).
BAFTA-winning writer Peter Moffat told me that unlike most recent period dramas such as Downton Abbey, Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice, this drama looks at world events in the early years of the 20th century through the lives of ordinary people.
He explained: ‘As the camera never leaves the village, I wanted to choose somewhere which was truly a bit of England. Not a fishing or mining village but a true rural location in the north.’
Producer Emma Burge, agreed: ‘We were looking for a village which is part of its rural landscape, and Hayfield fitted the bill beautifully. And we had complete co-operation from local people, many of whom have doubled as extras.
‘Any mud you see on womens’ long skirts in this series is real Derbyshire mud!’
John Simm said: ‘I was delighted to be working with such a great director (Antonia Bird) and brilliant writer (Peter Moffat), and alongside such a great cast. I’ve long been a fan of both.’
Maxine Peake (Grace Middleton) told me: ‘My character is a matriarchal figure, I suppose, trying to hold the family together,’ she explained. ‘But she also represents the way that women have been treated through the centuries, and ends up, as so many did during the war, working in the local boot factory. Women were finding independence for the first time, moving into the workplace as the men went off to fight. Peter Moffat’s script was just brilliant, because unlike most, it doesn’t focus on the decision-makers, but on ordinary working people.’
Maxine was taken to the Peak District by her parents often as a child, so knows the area quite well. ‘It’s really beautiful round here, and not far from where we used to live in Salford. Dad would often take us on a 10-mile hike round Kinder Scout, Hucklow or Eyam.’
For Juliet Stevenson, perhaps best-known for her roles in Truly, Madly, Deeply, The Hour and her work with the RSC, filming in Derbyshire is like coming home because her partner, anthropologist Hugh Brody, hails from Sheffield. ‘I just love it round here,’ said Juliet. ‘The people have made us so welcome.
‘It’s a great script, a great cast, and a great idea to tell the story of the century as it affected ordinary people. However, I play the lady at the Big House (Lady Clem Allingham), who is still firmly stuck in the past and finding it very difficult to change.’
Hayfield was subtly transformed into the fictional but anonymous village for the series. Kinder Road was converted to The Village High Street, with period painted shopfronts advertising the village greengrocer, drapers and hardware store.
The popular Rosie’s Café became Hankin’s Drapery Shop. But the filming didn’t stop Andrew and Deidre Stables, the proprietors, from still serving their customers (and the production crew) with Deidre’s delicious home-baked cakes and fresh sandwiches. The couple opened the café (named after their 11-year-old daughter), three years ago, and business has boomed ever since.
Andrew said: ‘The production team only used the exterior of the café for the filming. The interior was converted from an empty house a few doors down, next to Derbyshire’s fruit and vegetable shop – which is how it appears in The Village. Overall, the general opinion is that it’s been a good thing for Hayfield, and people enjoyed having the film crews here.’
Below the ‘High Street’, the surface of the steep incline of Dungeon Brow, so-named because it led past Hayfield’s original lock-up where the trespassers were first incarcerated, was torn-up and converted into a dirt track. And the cobbled alleyway which leads down to The Royal Hotel, passed the wooden porch of the fictional Lamb Inn in The Village.
Dave Ash, former landlord of The Royal, said: ‘The filming of The Village has given Hayfield a tremendous boost. It’s always been a lovely village to live in, with a tremendous community spirit, but it’s not often we get so much attention. We put up several of the actors and crew here, and they were a lovely bunch of people.’
The actual pub interiors seen in the series were shot in the King’s Arms Hotel in nearby Chapel-en-le-Frith, where the town’s Institute was also converted to The Playhouse. The local ‘Big House’, home of the ruling Allingham family, is the Victorian Gothic pile of nearby Bowden Hall, and the estate’s farm and kitchen gardens are those of the National Trust’s historic estate at Tatton Park Farm, near Knutsford, home to a collection of rare breeds of livestock.
John and Grace Middleton’s poverty-stricken farm is Highfield Farm at Upper Booth, Edale, on the opposite, southern side of Kinder Scout, and the village train station, where the soldiers leave for the First World War, is a re-modelled Edale Station, on the Hope Valley line.
Glossop’s restored Parish Church of All Saints doubles as the village church, and the village chapel is the large, Venetian-windowed late 18th century Charlesworth Congregational Chapel, known locally as Top Chapel, on Chapel Brow, Charlesworth.
After the first series, it is hoped that The Village will be continued in further instalments which will follow the lives of the Middletons, Allinghams and Bodens and others through the rest of the 20th century in the village.
• Starting point of the Kinder Mass Trespass in 1932.
• One of the first places in the world to buy its own satellite receiver and launch a wireless internet service.
• Birthplace of actor Arthur Lowe, of Dad’s Army fame, and home for many years of Coronation Street creator Tony Warren and actress Pat Phoenix.
• Local landmark Twenty Trees is a copse of beech trees that is a remnant of the Forest of the Peak.
• Hayfield’s May Queen Festival, ‘the longest standing continuous procession of its kind in the country’, takes place on the second Saturday in May. There’s also a series of Fell Races run throughout the year, annual well dressings (6th to 14th July 2013), and Hayfield Country Show and Sheepdog Trials (21st and 22nd September).
• A cobbled ‘fulling place’ in the River Sett was originally used to beat woollen fabric to make it extra wind- and waterproof.
• Hayfield is on the route of the Pennine Bridleway. It follows a route from the Sett Valley Trail along Church Street and Valley Road by the side of Hayfield Camp Site.