Grantchester Filming Locations
One of the many pleasures in watching Grantchester episodes is seeing the picturesque and unspoiled real-life village of Grantchester where most of the action takes place. Discover the iconic Grantchester filming locations in the town (and those nearby), what’s authentic and what’s shot in studio, and get behind-the-scenes detail from the series’ locations manager, David Halstead. With its lush Grantchester Meadows, magnificent medieval church, and a swimming hole once frequented by Lord Byron himself, the only thing the actual Grantchester is missing is a crime-solving vicar!
Grantchester, England is a Very Real Town
Grantchester is an actual historic village about an hour from London where many scenes are filmed for the TV series. Its handsome country homes, thatched-roof cottages, and quaint streets appear in every episode. “It’s a small, very pretty, quiet little village, probably about 300 houses and a church. It doesn’t even have a shop, actually,” says Halstead. Even so, “it did have four pubs—down to three now—and its own gin distillery, which has come in handy!”
The hamlet was first noted in the 1086 Domesday Book and today boasts only about 600 residents. Though the town appears humble, it has the world’s highest concentration of Nobel Prize winners according to the UK’s Daily Mail—perhaps because of its proximity to the University of Cambridge.
Church of St. Andrew and St. Mary
Scenes in the church sanctuary and the churchyard are all filmed at this ancient church, which sits at the southern end of Grantchester. Most of the building dates to the 14th and 15th centuries and features a tower, nave, and a chancel as light-filled and bright as it appears on the show.
The cast seem to especially feel at home inside the space. “They particularly settle in there; they quite like the church. It’s got a good feel to it, very atmospheric,” says Halstead. These days that peaceful space also welcomes tourists. “It gets a lot of people coming to look for it. …There are people there every day of the week, wandering around. And when [they] come through the doors, there’s a life-sized cut out of our lead actors Tom Brittney [as Will Davenport] and Robson Greene [as Inspector Keating]. I think it’s left up during church service, [the Inspector] always on watch, just in case!” (Should fans be interested in attending a service, they can check out a monthly streaming of worship.)
TV viewers get the authentic exterior of the Grantchester vicarage, which sits directly adjacent to the Church of St. Andrew and St. Mary. “The interior, anything past the door, is shot in an old building on a farm site in a little village called Lemsford, about an hour’s drive from Grantchester,” says Halstead. “It was a private residence, but it’s been empty. We’ve rented it on an annual basis. …The shape of it is very similar to the proper vicarage. And the fact that it’s ours, we’ve left it dressed for six or seven years.”
The current vicar’s residence is a structure that is about 300-years-old. Poet Rupert Brooke lived in Grantchester while attending King’s College in the early 1900s and his famous poem, “The Old Vicarage, Grantchester” recalls his time renting accommodations there.
Grantchester Meadows and the River Cam
Scenes of romantic walks, picnics, serious conversations, (and dead bodies!), have all been filmed in the Grantchester Meadows along the River Cam. And while this location is a cast favorite, it’s apparently a challenge for the crew. “It’s quite popular with university students picnicking and partying—tricky place to shoot because it gets so busy,” says Halstead. “We tend to start very first thing in the morning. In summer, it’s quite often mist coming off the river [which is] absolutely stunning, I mean really visually fantastic.” But the crew can’t get vehicles close enough to where scenes are filmed. “It’s a bit of a hike for them. We park as near as we can and then it’s a push down what can be a muddy hill to the riverbank.”
The beauty of the spot has inspired many artistic souls; the Meadows feature in Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, in Sylvia Plath’s poem Watercolor of Grantchester Meadows, and in the track ‘Grantchester Meadows’ for Pink Floyd’s album Ummagumma. And it’s said Lord Byron often took a dip in the Cam while attending Trinity College.
The Green Man Pub
Grantchester’s historic pub, The Green Man, still serves as an exterior filming location for the series, even though COVID has forced its closure. The Green Man was first recorded as a public house in 1847.
If you visit, there are still three active pubs in the village: The Blue Ball Inn, The Rupert Brooke and The Red Lion, but none are used for filming. (While Geordie and his vicar pals mention The Red Lion, it’s not a location for the show: ““It’s quite a modern gastro pub, not suitable for us,” says Halstead.)
Interior scenes of beer and backgammon are filmed across numerous out-of-town locations including The Eagle in Cambridge, The Windmill in Chipperfield, and a defunct, empty pub in Hammersmith, west London. The shuttered Hammersmith location “had been our ‘go to’,” says Halstead because of its two small bars, where the crew had its own space while filming happened in the other. But during COVID, shooting wasn’t allowed there. “We had to measure the room and divide the square footage to tell us how many people would be allowed,” says Halstead. “We could only get three people in the bar! So, we had to recreate the interior in an old stately home—just took a corner of the home that had a bit of a bar in it and turned it into a pub!”
The Historic City of Cambridge
Cast and crew typically visit Cambridge each season to film scenes. They set up on the King’s College campus and in streets that don’t require much ‘dressing’ to fit the 1950s storyline. “We change some shop frontages, put in our own phone box, cover the yellow lines in the road, but it’s not massive,” says Halstead. “I mean there are great streets in Cambridge that you can make feel like the 1950s in minutes. We use King’s Parade quite regularly. Also, Trinity Lane and Senate House Passage.” He adds the bigger issue for filming is cyclists. Given that a big part of the population consists of students, bicycles are exceedingly popular. “You nearly get killed every time you try to film there. They refuse to stop for anybody. They just ring a bell and charge at you. Happens every time we go there!”