Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Downton Abbey at Cogges

Yew Tree farmyard, aka Cogges Manor Farm
Ever had to keep a secret so big, so exciting that you thought that you'd just burst. I have! But now I can reveal all.

A few months ago, 17th May to be precise, I was fortunate enough to be allowed to be on site at Cogges when some of the cast and crew of Downton Abbey came to do some filming. As I've already said, I was sworn to secrecy. a notice had been posted a few days earlier to inform people that the farm would be closed in the morning for filming. There was much speculation and as Downton was being filmed at the time in nearby Bampton, it was the hot favourite. I should have got an Oscar for my performance of keeping a neutral expression on my face so as not to give the game away.

The small wall attached to the larger wall isn't normally there.
For weeks before hand members of the film crew popped in from time to time to check things out and see what had to be done to turn a historical site in the 21st century into a setting in the early 20th century. The day before filming a wall appeared that isn't usually there. A temporary sheep pen was constructed on the grass in front of the stables and on the day of filming some of the sheep from the pastures beyond the woodland area were put in this pen. The old building that housed the toilets had a large security light on it and this was hidden by the addition of a wooden dovecot being built over it. The door to the upper loft of the stables has a hole in it and a hessian sack was draped over the railings in front of it to stop any of the 3 farm cats from sticking their head out and getting in on the action. One of the volunteers, Bob, was asked to be an extra and spent the morning walking around dressed as a 1920's farmer in tweed and wearing a flat cap.

Temporary sheep pen.
The day of filming arrived. Another volunteer and I had been asked to stand with the security guard at the entrance. The security guard was to stop any members of the public from entering and my friend and I had free entry vouchers to give to anyone who had travelled especially to visit Cogges that day. In practice we took it in turns to go into the farmyard to watch the action, such as it was.

 There was an awful lot of hanging about. If the sun went behind a cloud filming was stopped. If the sun came out filming was stopped to ensure of the continuity of the shot, which would be compromised by shadows. Then there were the planes from Brize Norton airbase that flew past at regular intervals.

Tom Branson
At one point during one of these breaks,  I was in the office when the actor who plays Tom Branson came into the office to ask where the toilets were. I directed him back to the area where they'd just been filming. After he’d gone, one of my colleagues asked me why I hadn’t offered to show him the way. Now why didn’t I think of that. I had met him once before at Highclere Castle at the Help For Heroes fundraiser, but of course he wouldn't have remembered that. But he did leave this mature lady in a bit of a flutter.

Everyone that passed Cogges asked us if it was Downton Abbey that was being filmed. My friend and I said that we could only confirm that it was a costume drama. The security guard and film crew on the other hand were quite happy to confirm that it was indeed Downton! Around the other side of the site there is a white gate leading out to a public path and members of the public had stopped to watch some of the filming anyway. So much for keeping it a secret. But I had been told not to tell anyone and  I wasn't going to risk not being allowed on site if they ever come back to film again.

Lady Mary, Tom and Farm er Drewe.
Finally after about 4 hours of being on site they finished filming. A car drew up at the large green gate and the 3 actors emerged and were whisked away to Bampton to film some more scenes there. The film crew stayed behind gradually dismantling the set and removing all trace of the filming and the doors were opened for business as usual. Finally after weeks of agony not being able to tell anyone, the new series of Downton started and last Sunday, 20th October the scenes filmed at Cogges were finally shown. Poor Bob was edited out. But he was well paid, so he didn't mind. It was only a brief scene but who knows? Perhaps they'll need to film more scenes at Yew Tree farm. After all the Crawleys and the farmer, Mr Drew, are meant to be working in close partnership. Watch this space!

Photos with actors courtesy of Katja Partridge.
Additional photos by Isabel Johnstone.

check out my new website at

No comments :

Post a Comment