How Cogges becomes Downton’s Yew Tree Farm March 2015

Tuesday, 17 March 2015
Anyone who follows my blog will be well aware of the fact that I’m a Downton Abbey fan and that I’m immensely pleased that Cogges is used as the setting of Yew Tree Farm, the home of Farmer Drewe and his wife, Margi. Having seen Lady Mary and Tom Branson visit the farm in series 4, in series 5, we found out that Farmer Drewe and his wife, were looking after Marigold, the illegitimate daughter of Lady Edith. The filming took place at Cogges over several days and I was lucky enough to be around for some of it. But how do you go about turning a grand Tudor Manor House into a lowly farmer’s cottage?

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Having featured in 6 out of 8 episodes of the popular period drama, Yew Tree Farm is now an established part of the Downton Abbey estate. So how do you make this lovely Manor house look like a small farmer’s cottage?

20150226_154530Dairy yard as Yew tree

The day before the filming takes place, personnel from Downton’s Art Department arrive to transform Cogges into Yew Tree Farm.  This is achieved by a combination of set dressing and clever camera work. By only filming a small section of the house, the oldest part, this gives the illusion of it being a small cottage.The technical term for this is ‘close filming’. Then with the addition of some milk churns, a mangle and wash tub, plus a child’s wooden cart, the dairy yard is transformed into an early 20th century farmer’s yard.

20150226_154016Yew Tree farm sink

Inside, by adding furniture and other bits and pieces, to give the impression that it is a multi-functional living space, the large kitchen is transformed into a lowly farmer’s cottage. A settle, an old-fashioned type of sofa, and an armchair are placed either side of the black leaded range. Even a false sink is put against the wall where a large wooden cupboard usually stands.

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Using an Ipad, photographs are taken at every stage of the process. This ensures that each object is placed in exactly the same position every time and also helps when it’s time to put everything back in its rightful place, when the filming is over. It usually takes about a day to set up for filming and another day to return the house to normal.

All in all, it’s a fascinating process to watch.Unfortunately, we’re not allowed to watch the filming itself. But as I’m such a massive Downton fan, I find it quite thrilling just being on site when it’s happening, especially if one of the actors says ‘hello’ on their way to and from the set.

Marigold is now living with her mother up at the big house, so Lady Edith no longer needs to visit the farm. But, as I said at the beginning of the blog, the farm is an established part of the Downton estate. So who knows what might happen in series 6. I can’t wait to find out.

Photographs Isabel’s own. With grateful thanks to Downton Abbey.

Visit http://isabeljohnstone.co.uk/

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