Troll in the cloisters? The UK’s most beautiful cathedrals used in famous films

22 November 2021, 12:28

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was filmed in Gloucester Cathedral
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was filmed in Gloucester Cathedral. Picture: Alamy

By Sophia Alexandra Hall

Some of the UK’s most famous cathedrals have featured in blockbuster film projects.

As well as being places of worship, cathedrals, abbeys and ancient monasteries, have served as the stunning backdrops to many films and TV series.

Here are some of our favourites, from across the UK...

  1. Gloucester Cathedral

    This historic building is maybe most recognisable from the Harry Potter franchise, where it portrays part of the wizarding school, Hogwarts.

    A famous shot at the cathedral sees a troll going on a rampage through the cloisters in the first film of the series, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

    The cathedral has also been the setting of other major productions, including Margot Robbie and Saoirse Ronan’s hit tudor-period film Mary Queen of Scots, and the Sky fantasy drama A Discovery of Witches.

    Gloucester Cathedral cloisters
    Gloucester Cathedral cloisters. Picture: Alamy
  2. Ely Cathedral

    Ely Cathedral is a favourite venue among producers, with multiple high-profile productions having filmed at this grand Cambridgeshire venue.

    Notable examples include The Crown, The King's Speech, The Other Boleyn Girl, and more unexpectedly, the 2015 space opera film starring Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum, Jupiter Ascending.

    Ely Cathedral in Cambridgeshire
    Ely Cathedral in Cambridgeshire. Picture: Alamy

    Imelda Staunton delivers message from the set of The Crown as she reveals Season 5 will come in November 22

  3. Guildford Cathedral

    Described by critics as one of the ‘best horror movies of the 1970s’, The Omen features Guildford Cathedral as one of its stars.

    The isolated and plain exterior of this Surrey cathedral, adds to the unsettling nature of a scene in which the primary antagonist, Damian, has a tantrum as the main family arrives in a car outside of the cathedral.

    Guildford Cathedral in Surrey
    Guildford Cathedral in Surrey. Picture: Alamy

    The Omen (1976) Location - Guildford Catherdral, Guildford, Surrey

    The cathedral is also rumoured to feature in the new Netflix series, DC Comics 'The Sandman', as Guildford Live reported multiple instances of film crews working at the location earlier this year.

    Watch the trailer for The Sandman

  4. York Minster

    York Minster is one of the largest cathedrals of its kind in Northern Europe. It has featured in multiple television series including ITV’s historical drama, Victoria, starring Jenna Coleman.

    The Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of Saint Peter in York
    The Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of Saint Peter in York. Picture: Alamy
  5. Westminster Abbey

    The Collegiate Church of Saint Peter at Westminster, better known as Westminster Abbey, is a large church in the City of Westminster, London.

    Films such as Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, and Daniel Craig’s James Bond film, Spectre, have been filmed in and around the iconic London landmark.

    Westminster Abbey
    Westminster Abbey. Picture: Alamy
  6. Fountains Abbey

    The scenic remains of Fountains Abbey in North Yorkshire, made the perfect backdrop for the 1993, and 2020 film of the same name, The Secret Garden.

    In the 2020 adaptation, the ancient abbey ruins were transformed into a sunken temple complete with vine-covered walls.

    Ruins of Fountains Abbey at Studley Royal Water Garden, North Yorkshire, UK
    Ruins of Fountains Abbey at Studley Royal Water Garden, North Yorkshire, UK. Picture: Alamy

    The ruins also featured in the Channel 5 psychological thriller, Anne Boleyn, and the location is pegged to appear in season 2 of Netflix’s fantasy-drama, The Witcher.

    The Secret Garden, 2020
    The Secret Garden, 2020. Picture: STX Films
  7. Waverley Abbey

    Founded in 1128, Waverley Abbey in Surrey was the first Cistercian monastery (order of catholic monks) to be established in Britain.

    The ruins of this building have featured in multiple high-profile productions including the zombie flick, 28 Days Later, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, and the 2017 remake of The Mummy.

    Waverley Abbey, Farnham, Surrey
    Waverley Abbey, Farnham, Surrey. Picture: Alamy
  8. St Paul’s Cathedral

    Another iconic London landmark for our list is St Paul’s Cathedral. The original church on this site was founded in AD 604, and the current cathedral, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, has dominated the capital’s skyline for over 300 years.

    Films such as Marvel’s, Thor: The Dark World, Mission: Impossible - Fallout, and Robert Downey Jr’s Sherlock Holmes, have all featured the cathedral.

    St Paul’s Cathedral
    St Paul’s Cathedral. Picture: Alamy