2018 (- 2027?)
(Revised September 2021)
Arborfield Garrison, three miles west of Wokingham in Berkshire, was a large British Army base established in 1904. It was closed in 2015 but in its latter years it was the HQ of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers. They moved to RAF Lyneham, which had ceased to be used as an airbase. The studio buildings were previously known as Hazebrouck Barracks and were used to train aircraft technicians, avionics technicians and electronics technicians. The site was sold to Wokingham Borough Council, who released it to developers for building houses, a school, shops and other facilities. Two nature parks are also included in the scheme.
In 2017 it was announced that a section of the barracks that includes some large hanger-type buildings would be turned into a temporary film studio. This will be for 9 years, after which the buildings will be handed back to the developer, Crest Nicholson. The studios are being managed by the same team who run Longcross Studios, which are about 16 miles away. Those too are ‘temporary’ film stages on a huge former military site currently being redeveloped although in 2021 an expansion of Longcross was announced, along with a deal with Netflix, so they are now looking permanent.
The first feature film shooting scenes at Arborfield in 2018 was Disney’s Aladdin. Early in 2020 season 2 of The Witcher began filming here for Netflix. A large town set has been constructed on one of the back lots. I have read that they intend to base the series here for a number of years. In fact, season 2 began filming on 4th April 2022. Season 1 was filmed in Hungary so it’s good to see it now being made in the UK.
The studios are offering 4 stages at present – the largest is a very impressive 70,000 sq ft. Another is 16,000 sq ft and the other two are about 13,000 sq ft. The BFI website also mentions two more ‘potential’ stages of about 7,000 sq ft. each. Facilities being offered include extensive space for wardrobe, art dept, construction and props as well as plenty of office space. There are two back lot areas and ample parking but the planning permission does have some restrictions on filming hours and days.
I’m sure that while the current demand for studio space continues, these ‘new’ studios will be fully booked. Wokingham is a pleasant market town, easily reached from central London by rail from Waterloo or Paddington/Reading or by driving down the M4. The studios are only a 40 minute drive from Heathrow. They are also only a short drive from the new Shinfield Studios and Winnersh Studios.