Mompesson House is a beautiful Queen Anne house, completed in 1701 and owned by the National Trust. It is located in the glorious Cathedral Close in Salisbury. It is the sort of house I can imagine living in: not too impossibly grand and high-ceilinged and museum-like, with cosy rooms full of interesting and lovely things, and with a pretty walled garden at the back. And of course, that view of the Cathedral to the front! It houses a fantastic collection of 18th century drinking glasses.
In the summer of 1995 I was working on an archaeological project in the storerooms of Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum, which is also situated in the Cathedral Close. If the weather was good I would eat my lunch sitting out on the Close, enjoying the fabulous surroundings and watching the world go by. One lunchtime I noticed a gaggle of people and equipment outside Mompesson House, and so wandered over. Some sort of filming was in progress, but I didn’t know for what. Lots of people were sitting on the grass and watching the goings-on, so I plonked myself down among them. We were very close to the filming set-up, and I was pleasantly surprised that we were allowed to be so close and were not asked to move back. There were lights and reflectors and cameras and cables and endless crew busying around.
And then as I munched on my lunch, filming started, and Alan Rickman rides up to the house and dismounts. Alan Rickman. In breeches. My sandwich hung half way to my mouth, and my mouth hung open. Alan Rickman. Alan Bloody Rickman. In breeches. Right in front of me. There were other scenes filmed too, with a carriage, but all I could think of was Alan Rickman. In breeches. Right in front of me.
Needless to say, I took a rather longer than usual lunch break and didn’t concentrate too well on my work that afternoon.
I asked around and it turned out that I had witnessed some of the filming for the Ang Lee version of Sense and Sensibility, with Alan Rickman playing Colonel Brandon, and Mompesson House standing in for Mrs Jennings’ London townhouse.
I can’t find any online photos of Alan Rickman in this scene. In 1995 not many (if any?) mobile phones had cameras—in this day and age everybody would be snapping away like crazy. I must rewatch the film and get a screengrab.
I was in Salisbury today so snapped the photo above of the view of the Cathedral from the front of Mompesson House. I wandered over to see if I could see the peregrines—I asked a stonemason working on the east front and he said the nest was on the south face of the spire. I stood by the cloisters entrance and watched for ten minutes or so, but didn’t see anything. I could certainly hear one though, squawking away on the spire. So exciting!
Update 10 August 2014: I’ve just watched the film again and the scene is a blink and you’ll miss it one: it’s when Colonel Brandon is leaving Mrs Jennings’ townhouse to take the Dashwood girls back to Devon: he’s on horseback accompanying their carriage: