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Where was BBC’s ‘The War of the Worlds’ Filmed?

February 16, 2020
5 min read

H.G. Wells’ ‘The War of The Worlds’ is one of those novels that has cemented its place in popular culture, and resultantly, witnessed multiple adaptations. BBC’s 2019 three-part mini-series of the same name attempts to place the work firmly in its authentic setting: Edwardian England.

To begin with, the numerous adaptations before BBC’s ‘The War of the Worlds’ have unfaithfully placed its alien invasion terror in differing time periods and places. Spielberg’s 2005 movie, for instance, is set in the United States.

The setting plays a major role in the original novel’s plot as one of its dominating themes is a commentary on British Imperialism. Surprisingly, the BBC mini-series is the first version to be set in Edwardian England: Surrey and London, to be more specific. Adaptations and faithfulness can be tricky, akin to a double-edged sword.

Here is what Peter Harness, the writer of BBC’s ‘The War of the Worlds’ had to say regarding the matter: “The version of The War of the Worlds that I wanted to make is one that’s faithful to the tone and the spirit of the book, but which also feels contemporary, surprising and full of shocks: a collision of sci-fi, period drama and horror.”

‘The War of the Worlds’ revolves around a couple (George and Amy) whose live-in relationship defies the norms of British society during the period that it is set in. However, they are soon faced with a much bigger threat: a Martian invasion of England whose extra-terrestrial powers are well beyond human comprehension.

War of the Worlds Filming Locations

As mentioned earlier, BBC’s ‘War of the Worlds’ is set in Edwardian London and Surrey. The period that the tale is set in plays an equally crucial role as the visualization of the story’s sci-fi elements. Hence, many people might be wondering whether the mini-series has actually been filmed in London or Surrey.

Liverpool, UK

To begin with, the BBC adaptation was not actually filmed in London or Surrey. In a bid to recreate the period setting, the producers decided to film it in other regions of the United Kingdom. However, a lot of work was also put in to replicate Edwardian London and Surrey in order to make the setting feel authentic despite the dissimilar filming locations.

The city of Liverpool was where a large chunk of the filming was carried out. With its imposing buildings and similar cityscape, it doubled up as Edwardian London well.

For instance, St. George’s Hall on Lime Street is used to depict the Ministry of War in ‘The War of the Worlds.’ The Neoclassical heritage site with towering, Corinthian columns has been a popular filming location, having appeared in works like ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ and ‘Peaky Blinders.’ The ‘The War of the Worlds’ crew filmed both, inside and outside the monument.

Moving on, the Martins Bank building on Water Street doubles up as George’s workplace: the London Evening Chronicle office. The building is often dubbed as one of the most suitable examples of interwar classical architecture.

Furthermore, Croxteth Hall is utilized as a filming location for two different places on the mini-series. Firstly, the former estate doubles up as the home of George’s separated wife (not Amy) and these scenes employ the building’s façade and central staircase. On the other hand, the building’s entrance on the rear and kitchen are utilized to recreate a scene where George, Amy and several others hide.

Moreover, the production also filmed on various streets in Liverpool including Princes Street, Dale Street and Sir Thomas Street. Moreover, Eldon Grove on Eldon Street was also used as a filming location.

Next, in a remarkable feat of production design, the team behind ‘The War of the Worlds’ converted an out-of-use oil-blending plant in Birkenhead (which is not technically in Liverpool, but on the opposite bank of the River Mersey) to a studio as big as the ‘James Bond’ set at Pinewood Studios. Approximately fifty tons of sand, mixed with fake lichen and crystals were used to make the place authentically double up as a planet invaded by Martians.

Moreover, Formby beach was also another filming location for ‘The War of the Worlds.’ Here, the attempted boat evacuation scene in the second episode of the mini-series was filmed. The site has also served as the filming location for the scene in ‘Peaky Blinders’ where Tommy Shelby and Alfie Solomons confront each other.

Ainsdale Nature Reserve, Southport, UK

‘The War of the Worlds’ filmed a major scene at the Ainsdale Nature Reserve, situated less than 17 miles from Liverpool. The reserve served as the filming location for a Martian landing site. The crew needed a place where a large area of forestation needed to be depicted in a burnt state due to the landings. After a painstaking search for a location that would allow for such disruption, the crew selected the Ainsdale Nature Reserve.

Trees in the portion of the nature reserve where the scene was filmed were slated to be cleared anyway. Hence, the crew was able to blacken the tree stumps and make the area appear damaged.

Cheshire, UK

The village of Great Budworth in Cheshire also served as a major filming location for BBC’s ‘The War of the Worlds.’ It doubled up as the leading couple’s hometown, Woking. Filming at Great Budworth was perhaps the most challenging ordeal for the crew as the entire village needed to be shut off for three whole weeks. Fortunately, the residents proved to be co-operative.

Lastly, Delamere Forest in Cheshire was where the scene involving George and an army battalion attacking an alien pod was filmed.

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