The fictional life of Lyme Park

View of the north front Lyme Park, c. 1700. Acquired with the help of the Art Fund in 1999. ©NTPL/John Hammond

This view of Lyme Park was purchased by the National Trust in 1999 with support from the Art Fund. It shows the north front of the house in about 1700.

These topographical paintings were usually at least partly fictional, an expression of the owners’ pride, their ideals and hopes.

©NTPL/Matthew Antrobus

This is the north front photographed fairly recently.

Although the image is obviously a truthful record of a moment in time, the photographer has also incorporated certain conventions from the tradition of landscape painting, such as the curve of the drive in the the foreground and the mass of the tree on the right. It is a composition just as artfully contrived as the earlier painting.

The south front of Lyme. ©NTPL/Arnhel de Serra

The other, grander front of the house will, for most of us, be associated with the 1995 television adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. In that series Lyme stands in for Darcy’s country house, Pemberley.

It is below the south front of Lyme/Pemberley that Darcy, having just taken a dip in the lake after a strenuous journey on horseback, encounters the mortified Lizzie Bennet, and they have their famously stilted conversation. In this case the reality of Lyme is augmented by both literature and film.

Can we ever see a place without all these associations? Perhaps that is only possible when we are three or four years old.

8 Responses to “The fictional life of Lyme Park”

  1. littleaugury Says:

    No never, and I recognized that facade as “darcy’s” immediately. after seeing Pride and Prejudice at least- a dozen times how could I miss it. one of THE stellar scenes from the series. gaye

  2. Toby Worthington Says:

    Those associational links to country houses can be fairly disconcerting~
    specially when you see a familiar house on the screen. There is that Aha!
    moment upon recognising a well-loved interior, followed by total bewilderment as our heroine strides from the gallery at Osterly Park to the hall at West Wycombe in two minutes flat.

    Worse yet (to me at any rate) is the confusion inspired by seeing the double
    cube room at Wilton used as stand in for Windsor Castle or Buckingham Palace.The ‘suspension of disbelief’ is challenged~to say the least of it! Still, the use of actual rooms and real houses supplies a tone of authority that a set designer can seldom achieve.

  3. K Westerne Says:

    This is such a lovely estate. However, for those fans of the 1980 Pride and Prejudice mini-series, could someon please tell me the name of the estate and house used for that “Pemberley”?

  4. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Gaye, you were probably one of those precocious toddlers discussing the art-historical sources of the kindergarten wallpaper 🙂

    Toby, yes costume dramas can of course be disconcerting for connoisseurs like you 🙂

    I heard somewhere that directors like using real houses as it makes the continuity (the exiting from one room and entering another without visual inconsistencies) easier. But then as you say they sometimes use rooms in entirely different houses.

    However, in the film Gosford Park Robert Altman had the entire basement service area created on set, and I thought that looked pretty convincing.

    K Westerne, I have no idea about the ‘Pemberley’ in the 1980 version (I haven’t seen an image of it), but you could check out and post this question at The Republic of Pemberley ( or Austenonly (, which are run by dedicated Jane Austenites who are bound to know the answer.

  5. Stephen Bishop Says:

    Pemberley in the 1980 version of P&P was Renishaw Hall. The Republic of Pemberley site has a page dealing with locations for various JA films

  6. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Stephen, than you very much. I knew we could rely on you Austenites to supply the answer 🙂

  7. Barbara Says:

    Love that north view from 1700. Thank you.

  8. Emile de Bruijn Says:

    Yes and I like that herd of deer going for a swim in the lake. There are still deer there now.

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