Written by Joe Jackson on May 19, 2022. Posted in On Location

Gunnersbury Park Museum transforms into Victorian hospital for The Essex Serpent

Gunnersbury Park Museum plays a Victorian hospital in new mini-series The Essex Serpent. Based on the award-winning novel by Essex author Sarah Perry, the show stars Tom Hiddleston and Claire Danes. The Essex Serpent premiered on Apple TV this week, and London-based location specialists FilmFixer helped transform the museum during the shoot.


“Pots, pans and dishes were replaced with apothecary bottles, instruments and biological models,” explains Adam Huber from FilmFixer’s Private Locations Film Office. “Extensive props and set dressing were brought on site. The walls of Gunnersbury cannot be hammered into, so the production hung posters from existing fixtures and lamps to add wall decorations. Lighting also played a key part in the set dressing. A light was hung above the operating table in the Scullery while equipment was stored in the Pastry Room and Butchery.”



The Essex Serpent follows the activities of widow Cora Seaborne (Claire Danes). She moves from London to Essex to investigate reports of a mythical serpent, forming an unlikely bond with the village vicar (Tom Hiddlestone). When tragedy strikes, locals accuse her of drawing the creature to their home.



Episodes One and Two see Dr Luke Garrett and Dr George Spencer (played by Frank Dillane and Jamael Westman, respectively) attempt - and successfully perform - the world's first open-heart surgery. These scenes were filmed in the Scullery of Gunnersbury Museum's Historic Kitchens. The patient recovers in an elaborate hospital ward, erected in the Drawing Room of the museum.



“The Drawing Room at Gunnersbury Museum (where the hospital recovery ward was set) has a magnificent chandelier in the centre of the room,” Huber details. “This, however, would be too opulent for a hospital of this time. To rectify this, iron lamps where hung below the chandelier from a freestanding structure and the chandelier was kept just out of shot.”



FilmFixer offered the production a range of services across London. Other scenes were shot at Islington’s Charterhouse Square, parking was required in Southwark, and Gunnersbury and Finsbury Park were used as unit bases. “While Gunnersbury Museum has already been shown in the two episodes released so far, we haven't seen the last of it yet as more episodes are due to come out weekly!” teases Huber.


Images courtsey of FilmFixer

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