Big screen boost for local mansion house

Henrietta Dundas, of the Dundas family that owns Arniston House near Gorebridge which recently featured in the movie Churchill.
Henrietta Dundas, of the Dundas family that owns Arniston House near Gorebridge which recently featured in the movie Churchill.

Used as one of the locations in blockbuster cinema release Churchill, Arniston House near Gorebridge is fast becoming a hit on the big screen.

The Georgian mansion house set in acres of parkland has welcomed TV and film crews in recent years including for Tommy’s Honour, The Wicker Tree and BBC drama Murder. For Churchill: The Untold Story of D-Day, starring Brian Cox CBE, Miranda Richardson and John Slattery, the crew were on the estate for around a week last year.

Arniston House has been home to the Dundas family for over 400 years. Originally belonging to the Knight’s Templar, George Dundas and his second wife, Katherine Oliphant from Dundas Castle acquired the land from the Crown in 1571 for a younger son. The present owners Althea Dundas-Bekker and her daughter Henrietta Dundas take great pleasure in guiding visitors around their home.

Henrietta, Arniston Estate manager, speaking about the stately home’s link to the film industry, said: “It’s probably been ten years now, obviously with Arniston being a big stately home word has been getting out to location managers, it’s on their books.

“We were just fortunate this time it fitted the bill of what they were looking for.

“About eight years ago we had the Wicker Tree shot here, they were with us for about two months. That pretty much got it started properly.

“Then we have had others here and there which works well for us as obviously when a film crew comes it’s like a circus coming to town, it’s great fun.

“You would think though that a Georgian House like ours would be used for period dramas but we have not really had much period stuff.”

So what attracted the crew behind Churchill to Arniston?

“It was the oak panelling inside that interested them, and they also did some exterior shots,” said Henrietta.

“They had three days of filming and either side of that they were dressing the stage, so it was pretty much a week all together. It will be great to see it on the big screen, even on the TV advert for it they have one of the external scenes at Arniston House.

“We really enjoyed having them here, it was a pleasure to have them so I can’t wait to see the film. For the scenes shot here we had Brian Cox, John Slattery and lots of extras.

“I’m always a bit shy to go up and talk to the actors. For Tommy’s Honour we had Sam Neil here and I was a bit star struck. But they have always been lovely, no prima donnas.”

So what is Arniston House’s best selling point, the grounds or the building itself?

“I would say a bit of both,” Henrietta said. “When location managers come probably the main attraction is Edinburgh, and we can offer a variety of shots inside and outside, but sometimes it’s very obscure things they are after that the director has in their head, that you or I probably wouldn’t see.

“We are close to Edinburgh but also diverse, we have the ability to offer lots of options, woodland exterior or interior.

“There is also the reservoir nearby and the Esk River. For Tommy’s Honour they used other local locations.”

Henrietta hopes her family home can build on its big screen exposure, particularly with the recent approval of the nearby £250 million film studios. She said: “We want to develop things here at Arniston House, there is lots of potential. We have just taken on our new marketing and events coordinator so we have decided we are going to develop more things at Arniston, weddings and filming, so anything like Churhill will help.

“We are really excited and enthusiastic about the future.

“Pentland Film Studios sounds really exciting. I know it has been controversial but I think it can only be a good thing for the local economy.

“All the things that come with a production are huge so I’m all for these studios.”