THE sights and sounds of Europe’s greatest metropolis in the 17th century are being recreated in Henley for a new drama on the Great Fire of London.
The Henley Standard was invited to Highlands Farm Business Park and the set of The Great Fire, a four-part series set to be aired on ITV in the autumn.
It was written by Tom Bradby, ITN’s political editor, and features stars including Charles Dance, Andrew Buchan, Jack Huston and Daniel Mays.
The story of baker Thomas Farriner and his fabled involvement in the fire of 1666 is being dramatised by Ecosse Films.The drama will unfold over four days as the fire indiscriminately takes hold of the city.
Farriner is played by Broadchurch actor Buchan. Diarist Samuel Pepys, a confidante of the King, will be portrayed by Mays and Boardwalk Empire and American Hustle actor Jack Huston plays the king. Dance is Lord Denton, an emissary of the king.
Filming, which began in March, is currently taking place at Highlands Farm, where Pudding Lane has been recreated.
The timber and fire- retardant plasterwork buildings have been made to look like wood but are durable enough to endure multiple takes.
Stunt sequences have been filmed on roofs with flames coming from the buildings. A fire crew and medics are always on standby.
Mr Bradby said: “The idea is really to engage people. It’s a very, very interesting period in history and I think it will be great if we can inspire people to read about it.
“All the cast are really very good so we’re very lucky.”
Executive producer Douglas Rae said: “The reason this hasn’t been filmed before is because it’s ambitious — build London and then set fire to it. Somebody should have said ‘you’re mad’.
“It’s interesting to take something from history and try to tell the story through the characters because you can’t have four hours of flames and explosions.” Mr Rae said the reason he chose Henley to film was because “all the London studios were full of big American movies”.
He said the area had advantages, such as fewer aircraft flying overhead during takes and being handy for actors and crew who lived on the west side of London. “It’s a stunning part of the world,” he added.
Special effects supervisor Colin Gorry said the actors were given safety briefings at the beginning of each day’s filming.
“The key is getting the preparation right,” he said. “The next tricky thing is doing everything on time.” One scene required 38 windows to be alight as well as terraces and roofs.
Mr Gorry said: “Too often when people do fire they don’t get enough smoke or material in the air so the flames look too clean. What you really want is a dirty red to orange flame.”
The sets took about six months to build. Scenes will also be shot in Kent, Surrey and, of course, central London.