Broughton Castle
A garden for poets - and film stars

The Daily Telegraph
May 22, 1999
By Val Bourne

The pivotal romantic scene in Shakespeare in Love was shot at Broughton Castle near Banbury.

One damp winter's night I dodged the rush hour traffic and went to see Shakespeare in Love. Within minutes I was immersed in the bustle of a warm Elizabethan summer - the nearest thing to time travel I have experienced. A fairytale unfolded as Joseph Fiennes wooed Gwyneth Paltrow, who was dressed in boy's clothes to get her coveted part in Romeo and Juliet.

The action centres around an Elizabethan theatre which was built by the film crew. But the romantic Tudor manor-house, where Joseph Fiennes courts his love, really does exist. It is an unspoilt building owned by the Fiennes family for more than 600 years. Joseph and Ralph Fiennes are the children of a cousin.

The castle is set in a sheltered valley of rolling parkland. The 21st Lord Saye and Sele, Nathaniel Fiennes, is an old-fashioned aristocrat who workshard, supported by his wife, Mariette. They run the house and garden with their small dedicated staff. A notice at the entrance to the castle proclaims: "Visitors are welcome to walk in the park", even if the house and garden are closed - a typically generous gesture. Broughton Castle has appeared in films before. It was used as the perfect English house in the Tom Selleck film Three Men and a Little Lady. "When my father inherited the house," says Lord Saye, "it was in a bad state. The roof leaked and the stonework needed a lot of attention. The house was covered in scaffolding for 11 years."

A three-acre moat surrounds the castle and I ask Lord Saye if this had stopped the house being extended. "It's an extraordinary paradox, because the family were very affluent in Victorian times. They might have built great wings, or put up a facade, but some of my ancestors were very profligate and squandered their money on gambling and drinking. I'm glad they did, because they could easily have ruined it."

According to Lord Saye, they "open with great enthusiasm in May and close with similar enthusiasm in September. But we do enjoy it. We meet so many interesting people that we wouldn't meet otherwise - about 15,000 peoplecome every year."

The Great Hall, which was used for the Shakespeare in Love banquet scene,reflects the family's role in the Civil War, when the 8th Lord Saye and Sele supported the Parliamentarians. "He didn't like autocracy and he soon disapproved of Cromwell too." The house was captured by the Royalists after the nearby Battle of Edgehill in 1642. But William was known as a fair man and he was finally pardoned by Charles II.

"A good garden compliments an interesting house," says Lord Saye, "but when I inherited it in 1968, the garden at Broughton was very tired."

American garden designer Lanning Roper is a friend and he gave them ablueprint for the borders which they have stuck to faithfully. At that time the garden was a "one gardener garden," and it still is today. The charm of Broughton is the perfect balance between house and garden. The moat limits the garden as it does the house and following Lanning Roper's advice, they have kept the design simple and the colours soft. Chris Hopkins, the gardener, "does everything" and will celebrate his wedding later this year in the Great Hall.

The Lanning Roper design simplified the garden, removing several box hedges that interrupted the view of the moat. The walled garden, used in the film, is very feminine. Roses, clematis and honeysuckle clothe the walls of the Ladies' Garden. Foxgloves, aquilegias, cornflowers, lady's smock and violas vie for space.

Watercress and ferns shelter under the castle walls. The soft planting frames the formal box-edged fleur-de-lis filled with roses. There are tempting glimpses of the moat, stalked by a pair of resident herons who keep their distance from the swans. The Battlement Border runs down to the gatehouse. A framework of shrubs, roses and perennials in soft yellows, warm apricots and white are planted with blue and yellow flowers.

This border catches the evening sun so the mellow colours and blues deepen in the evening light. Campanula lactiflora 'Prichard's Variety', silvery cardoons (Cynara cardunculus), and the stamened rose 'Golden Wings' are all at their best in late June. To compensate for all those blues and yellows, soft rose pinks feature heavily in the West Border. In the far wall, an archway and a mullioned window offer views of the Ladies' Garden. Lord Saye enjoyed watching the film crew build a balcony and make it look as ancient as the house. "It came in three parts and was lifted in by crane," he says.

However, he confesses that he had been uneasy until filming was over, in case anything went wrong. But Lady Saye thoroughly enjoyed it, though she was most impressed by the professionalism of the actors.

Much of the balcony scene was shot on a cold, wet April night. The shops in Banbury did good business that day, selling duvets and hot water bottles.

But for anyone who enjoyed the film, the lasting impression of Broughton Castle - aided by quantities of silk roses painstakingly tied on to real foliage - is of a literary romance played out against a balmy summer's evening.

Getting there

Broughton Castle is two miles west of Banbury on the B34035 Shipston-on-Stour road. House and garden open until September 14 - Wednesdays and Sundays.

Also Thursdays in July and August and all Bank Holiday Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays 2-5pm. Groups welcome by appointment at any time throughout the year.

Telephone: 01295 262624 or 01869 337126.
Tea room, shop and free car park.
Prices: adults pounds 4, children pounds 2, OAPs and students pounds 3.50.

Visit the Broughton Castle website for more information