Downpatrick steps back in time for History of Tom Jones period drama

Downpatrick steps back in time for History of Tom Jones period drama

24 November 2021

DOWNPATRICK’S English Street became a TV set last week when filming took place for a new period drama series to be broadcast next year.

The historical Judges’ Lodgings close to Down Country Museum were the focus for three days of shooting for the new modern retelling of the dashing Tom Jones.

The production team behind ITV’s four-part drama — based on the 1749 novel, The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling by Henry Fielding— also used the museum’s Ballykinlar Hut for some interior scenes.

It’s the second local location for the drama, which also recently filmed at the former H and J McRoberts Bar in Saintfield’s Main Street.

It will star newcomers Solly McLeod as the hero Tom, alongside Sophie Wilde as the heroine Sophia Western.

Tom Jones, believed to be the illegitimate child of a housemaid, explores the scandalous tale of a young man’s attempt to find a place in the world. 

Regarded as a British classic, it has been adapted previously, notably in the 1963 feature film version starring Albert Finney, and the 1997 TV drama with Max Beesley starring as Tom. 

The new series is written by Gwyneth Jones, creator of the Vanity Fair mini-series. Mammoth Screen, which was behind Poldark and Victoria, is one of the companies behind the series. 

Location manager John Vaughan told the Recorder that choosing English Street was an easy option.

“English Street is absolutely beautiful and it was not a hard decision to choose it,” said John.

“It was used as a location for The Frankenstein Chronicles and it worked brilliantly. It’s prefect as a location, particularly for a period production, and I’m sure we won’t be the last production to use it.

“We also had great co-operation from Newry, Mourne and Down Council to help us plan and make everything go as smooth as possible. We would also like to thank all of the street’s residents for bearing with us while we filmed from Wednesday to Friday.”

John said that while filming was going on in Downpatrick, a second film crew were also filming in Armagh.

He also revealed that the production shared a unit base with the Derry Girls’ production team who returned last week to shoot at the Downpatrick and County Down Railway. 

John said: “The Judges’ Lodgings were a perfect location for what we needed, even though they were built in towards the end of the Georgian period and the Tom Jones story was written in the Regency period.

“We also used the Ballykinlar Hut at the museum which gave us two locations for one site.”

John explained that he initially scouted English Street as a potential location earlier this year before bringing the director and writer to Downpatrick for them to approve it as a set.

He believed that the drama’s main star, Solly McLeod, is a name to watch out for as he also is playing a lead character in the upcoming prequel to Game of Thrones, House of the Dragon.