The iconic London buses. The red telephone boxes. The well known address of 221B Baker Street being set slap bang in the centre of our Nation’s capital. It will come as no shock to anyone that many of BBC’s Sherlock Film Locations take place in the city of… BRISTOL.
What?! No! I hear you cry. It can’t be! Well believe it, baby. Bristol has been a primary film location for all things Sherlock since day one. And you know what? More people need to know about this. Which is why Destination Bristol got in touch to see if maybe I fancied hanging out in Bristol for a weekend, seeing the sights and taking a self-guided Sherlock Film Locations tour? Erm, yeah, of course I do!
With everyone still reeling from the Season 4 finale only a week or so ago, and faced with the cold hard truth that we may never get another season, there is no better time to delve deeper behind-the-scenes into all things Sherlock. The film locations are nearly always picturesque, often surprising, but 100% Bristolian.
A map of the Sherlock film locations:
Sherlock Film Locations in Bristol
The first stop on my tour was Queen Square. It’s literally a 10 minute walk from Bristol Temple Meads Train Station. If you’ve ever been to London, you’ll know that it boasts a lot of small patches of greenery in the middle of a bustling metropolis. If only to give office workers somewhere nicer to eat their lunch in the summer.
Queen Square looks identical to one of those small, square parks. So, it’s no wonder it was chosen as a quieter, more discreet alternative to a London park.
Where in Sherlock: It was used as many different locations in The Abominable Bride. Firstly, a balcony was used for Emilia Ricoletti’s shoot out before she died. Later, Queen Square morphed into the exterior to The Diogenese Club.
Two streets away from Queen Street, is a road of two time periods. One side has basic modern buildings, whilst the other is (almost) an untouched time warp back to the 17th century. It boasts some of Bristol’s oldest and most historic buildings. This includes the Bristol Old Vic Theatre, The Llandoger Trow and St Nicholas’ Almshouses.
Where in Sherlock: Again, it was transformed into Victorian England for The Abominable Bride as an authentic Victorian London street. You know, with the help of incredibly detailed set dressing, green scene and 100 or so extras in full Old Timey garb.
College Green near Bristol Cathedral
Just to the back of Bristol Cathedral is a small patch of greenery, which was used as a Sherlock film location. Who’d have thought, huh? Just a relatively small area of land behind a Cathedral would make the perfect London-like location from Victorian England.
Where in Sherlock: You’re probably beginning to see a pattern. Bristol has some fantastic untouched Victorian-esque parts of the city that align perfectly with what London would have looked like back in the day. College Green was used for The Abominable Bride as the exterior for the opium den where Emilia Ricoletti takes revenge on her husband.
I think Goldney Hall is one of the most recognisable Sherlock film locations upon first glance as it features in one of the later seasons. It’s an absolutely beautiful estate in Clifton. Surprisingly, also a University of Bristol self-catered Halls of Residence, if you can believe it.
Unfortunately, since it is a University Halls of Residence, the house and the Orangery at the back (where my pictures are taken) aren’t available to the public. However, if you happen to be planning a wedding in Bristol or you’re in town during one of the summer Garden parties, then Goldney Hall is well worth a visit. If not just for the amazing views over the rest of Bristol.
Where in Sherlock: As you have probably guessed, John and Mary got married here in Series 3, Episode 2: A Sign of Three. And didn’t it look just beautiful?!
The Victoria Rooms
Another of the University of Bristol’s secret gems. The Victoria Rooms was built in 1842 and is the University’s music building. It was a performance venue back in the day and looks like it’s of Roman or Greek design. I didn’t go inside the building, as only the exterior was used during filming anyway.
Where in Sherlock: As I said, only the exterior was used in A Sign of Three as the architecture lends itself perfectly to a court house. The court house in question being the one Lastrade and Sgt Donovan exit before coming to Sherlock’s aid.
The Former Bank of England
Right in the heart of Bristol’s city centre is a disused Bank of England building. It’s not open to the public and I didn’t get a chance to visit. However, it’s a Grade I listed building so it must be a time capsule inside.
Where in Sherlock: The short bank robbery scene in A Sign of Three. Even tiny scenes need good, authentic film locations!
As with The Former Bank of England, this is another of the few film locations I didn’t manage to visit. The Guildhall is in the process of being revamped into a boutique 5 star hotel. However, the building used to be a Grade II listed court of law. So, the history and potential for film locations in a place like that must be rife.
Where in Sherlock: The corridors of the soon-to-be hotel stood in for St Bartholomew’s Hospital Morgue in Series 2, Episode 1: The Scandal in Belgravia.
This concert venue is a favourite of Bristol’s music lovers, and is also home to quite a labyrinth of cellars. While the cellars are mainly used for storage and are not open to the public, it is clear to see why the ample space would make excellent jail cells, while still having room to fit in a dozen or so crew members.
Where in Sherlock: The cellars in Colston Hall were built with the original building in 1867, so it makes perfect sense that they would lend themselves well to the Victorian morgue in The Abominable Bride.
Arnos Vale Cemetery
Arnos Vale Cemetery is a real treat. And that’s quite an odd thing to say about a cemetery. It became a cemetery in 1837 and covers a whole 45 acres (whaaaat) and is actually quite a picturesque place to spend a Sunday afternoon.
It has a fantastic cafe called Kate’s cafe which uses lots of fresh, homegrown ingredients and caters really well to vegetarians. Also, if you reeeeeally wanted, you can see the very first crematorium oven and bone breaking machine from when cremation started to get popular at the end of the 19th century. Seriously.
Where in Sherlock: As you’ve probably guessed, it was featured in The Abominable Bride. The plot which was used for Emilia Ricolletti’s grave of course wasn’t a real grave. The plot is quite easy to find as it’s just a short walk from the cafe and opposite the beautiful Hindu tomb belonging to Rajah Rammohun Roy.
Bristol South Swimming Baths
The swimming baths are one of the quirkier Sherlock film locations. This one isn’t a lovely old building and it definitely isn’t Victorian. At least, not anymore. Bristol South Swimming Pool is just south of the river Avon and is just a regular, family swimming pool! It is open to the public but as a, you know, regular pool. Sherlock writer (and actor who plays Mycroft) Mark Gatiss used to go to the swimming baths as a kid *rumour has it.*
Where in Sherlock: Oh, I know you know this one. It’s basically iconic! It’s where Sherlock finally confronts Moriarty at the end of Series 1, Episode 3: The Great Game.
Not unlike the rest of the Sherlock film locations in Bristol, Portland Square was developed in the Victorian era. It resides in one of Bristol’s first suburbs, St. Paul’s. It looks eerily similar to parks you see around London, much like Queen Square. However, Portland Square has the added bonus of a red telephone box for real London authenticity.
Where in Sherlock: We all remember when John Watson nearly met a firey end in Series 3, Episode 1: The Empty Hearse. Well, that took place in Portland Square!
Hengrove Park Leisure Centre
Another recent Sherlock film location is Hengrove Park Leisure Centre. It is primarily a member’s only gym and swimming pool but it is also home a disused aeroplane runway. Again, I didn’t visit this location because it’s quite a trek out of Bristol’s city centre.
Where in Sherlock: The only time a runway is featured in any of the Sherlock episodes is of course The Abominable Bride and the most recent, Series 4, Episode 1: The Six Thatchers.
The Bottle Yard Studios
This isn’t strictly a ‘film location’ as this is an actual, working production studio. However, I thought it was important to mention that a number of interior shots are filmed in Bristol. Popular opinion and logic would probably assume all the indoor shots are filmed in London. However, that’s not the case at all and The Bottle Yard Studios has also hosted Poldark and Wolf Hall!
Where in Sherlock: All of the interior shots of 221B Baker Street, London are filmed in The Bottle Yard Studios in Bristol. Seriously. I bet you’re beginning to question everything you once thought about Sherlock right now, aren’t you?
Ashton Court Mansion
Our final two locations are gorgeous, stately homes that are well worth a visit on their own even if they weren’t Sherlock film locations.
The first is Ashton Court Mansion, set just in the west of Bristol. This stately home is slap bang in the middle of a whopping 860 acre plot of land. It was built around 1400, but after switching owners over the next few hundred years, Bristol City Council took it over in 1959. It’s not really open to the public, it is mainly used for weddings and corporate events, but the 860 acres are free to roam around.
Where in Sherlock: No surprise, it was used for The Abominable Bride for the Afghan war and Carriage scenes.
And last but certainly not least, Tyntesfield is probably the crème de la crème of Sherlock film locations. It’s just outside of Bristol and accessible by car. It is a Grade 1 listed building and currently offers a Sherlock’s Super Sleuth Mystery tour where you can be a detective for the day, solve clues and walk around the beautiful estate!
It only costs £3, and the detective trail will take you all around the estate and, if you manage to crack the case, there’s even a prize at the end! A great inexpensive, family day out.
Where in Sherlock: The Abominable Bride, of course! It was the interior and exterior for the grand stately home of the tragic Lord and Lady Carmichael.
Have you ever been to Bristol before? Did you spot any Sherlock Film Locations around the city without even realising?!
Don’t forget to come back next week for my weekend guide to Bristol!