Shepperton Studios

1932 – present

(revised November 2021)

 

From 1955 – when Associated-Rediffusion started to film programmes here because they feared that their Wembley TV studios might not be ready – to the present day (since television dramas are still filmed here), these studios have played a part in our television history.  As well as single camera drama the stages have also from time to time seen various multicamera shows recorded using outside broadcast units.

 

Shepperton currently has 14 stages but is due to double in size over the next few years.  However, it began many years ago – like several UK film studios – growing up around a grand house and estate.  In this case, Littleton Park – a 17th century manor house surrounded by 60 acres.  The house has changed considerably over the years and was extensively rebuilt at the end of the 19th century following a fire.

In 1928 Norman Loudon bought the estate.  He was a camera manufacturer but also made a small fortune selling ‘flicker’ books that gave an impression of movement when flicked with a thumb.  His ambitions were rather greater however and in 1932 he founded Sound City Film Producing and Recording Studios.  Two stages were constructed in the grounds – one at 110ft x 80 ft and later a second stage 80ft x 45ft.  These eventually became stages L and M.  The larger one was destroyed during the Second World War and was rebuilt to a slightly smaller size.  L is now 100ft x 68ft and is still in use in 2020 but is due to be lost in the planned redevelopment.

 

 In 1936 stages A/B and C/D were constructed.  (A and C are 150ft x 120ft; B and D are 100ft x 120ft)  These still form the hub of the site.  They were superbly designed, with excellent sound insulation and ventilation plants.  They form two pairs that are separated by connecting doors, so a very long set can be constructed if necessary.

The ability to link two of the stages was, incidentally, used for the 2008 series of Gladiators – made for Sky 1.  The show was made on stages A and B and was shot using an OB unit for facilities.

 
shepperton late 30s
‘Sound City’ in the late ’30s.  Stages A/B and C/D dominate the site with the earlier L and M beyond.  Littleton House is on the left and still surrounded by gardens.  These gardens and the river were used as locations for many films made here.
shepperton c, d, l and m stages rotten tomatoes 450p
This photo taken in 2009 shows some of the oldest stages at Shepperton, their smart steel panel facing disguising their age.  In the background are the large stages C and A – the B stage is just visible in the background.  In front of A at a slight angle is L – originally constructed in the 1930s and rebuilt after the war.  Foreground on the right is the smaller M stage. This is no longer in use.
photo thanks to Rotten Tomatoes

 

 

 

During the war the four large stages were used at first to store sugar, later to manufacture bomber parts when the Vickers-Armstrong factory a few miles away suffered a direct hit.  Meanwhile, thousands of decoy aircraft, tanks and guns were built in the scenery construction workshops.  These were used to help confuse the pilots of enemy aircraft both in the UK and in North Africa.

Following the war in 1945 Sound City reopened, with all four large stages plus the smaller L stage.  A year later Shepperton was bought by successful film maker Alexander Korda, who renamed it British Lion Studio Company.

 

Probably around 1952/3 the huge H stage was moved here from Worton Hall Studios, Isleworth.  At the time it was the largest stage in Europe at 250ft x 120ft or 30,000 sq ft.  Faced in sheets of corrugated iron, it was probably the ugliest film stage in the UK but my word, it is big.  (It is similar in area to the Attenborough stage and new Q stage at Pinewood but is longer and narrower.)  It has a small tank but what makes the H stage unique is that the entire floor area can be flooded.  This was for example made use of in 2004 when it housed the huge set for the Bat Cave in Batman Begins, complete with flowing river.  A full-scale sailing ship was built in it for Elizabeth: The Golden Age in 2006.

It was also used for the spooky forest in Tim Burton’s Sleepy Hollow in 1998.  Most of this feature was shot at Leavesden but this set consisted of tons of soil and grass, dozens of real trees and was lit with several hundred space lights – each with its own feed back to a row of Portacabins.  The cables were strung across Studio Road on a scaffolding bridge and several generators were parked alongside, the generous electrical feed to the studio being insufficient for this colossal rig.  The spacelights were individually adjusted in brightness for each shot giving the soft ambience required – but also providing direction of light.

It has proved to be one of the most useful stages in the country over many years.  However, it is due to be lost in the plans announced in 2018 for the rebuilding and expansion of Shepperton.

 

isleworth studios aerial 450p

Criterion Studios, Worton Hall, Isleworth in 1937.  The main stage was built by Alexander Korda in 1935 for the film Things To Come.  Amongst many famous films it was used for The African Queen (’51).  Urban legend has it that the parakeets that were used to ‘dress’ the set on that movie escaped and became the ancestors of the thousands of breeding pairs that have inhabited the south-west suburbs of London ever since.  Others claim that this is not true.  They say that the movie was made in Isleworth, not Shepperton which is nearer to where the birds are mostly to be found.  Another source is quite definite that no parakeets were used in the making of the film.  However, other sources are pretty sure that that some scenes were shot on stages at Shepperton – so… if those ones did use a parakeet or two then – maybe???

By the end of 1946 Worton Hall had formed very close links with Shepperton, with several productions using stages on both sites to make their films.

This huge stage was moved from here to Shepperton where it became H stage.  Some sources quote the year 1948 for when that happened but this seems unlikely as Isleworth was busy around then.  The African Queen was filmed in Isleworth in 1951.  Isleworth did not close until 1952, when a loan they had taken out many years before could not be paid off.  This seems a more likely year therefore for the move of the stage.  In fact, as is mentioned below, stages E, F and G were built at Shepperton in 1953.  It seems logical therefore that stage H was re-assembled later that same year, after the other three were completed.

image above thanks to Britain From Above. Link here

 

shepperton h rotten tomatoes 450p
Above – photo thanks to Rotten Tomatoes

 

Further investment was made in the studios and in 1953 E, F and G stages were built.  (E and F are both 72ft x 44ft; G is 94ft x 72ft)  These three stages came into their own in 1955 when Associated-Rediffusion needed a bank of programmes shot on film to get them through the first few weeks of broadcasting.  Their Wembley television studios were only just going to be ready in time for the first transmission date.  In Derek Threadgall’s excellent book ‘Shepperton Studios, an independent view’ he quotes Peter Graham Scott…

 

‘From May 1955 onwards we made a number of quickly shot films at Shepperton.  I directed three scripts I was able to choose – A Call on the Widow, The Guv’nor and All Correct Sir.  Others who made similar films at Shepperton were Robert Hamer, John Moxey, Charles Saunders and Peter Cotes.  A-R had contracted Sir John Barbirolli of the Halle Orchestra and one of his ideas was to record eighteen quarter-hour performances by young unknown soloists.  I spent an enjoyable two weeks filming two of these programmes per day….

I was expected to shoot A Call on the Widow in four studio days at the unheard of rate of twelve and a half minutes screen time per day.  (The average back then in film studios was only two minutes.)

It was a particularly lovely summer that year and stages E, F and G hummed with activity.  There was a great spirit of optimism as we gathered for drinks in the garden of the Old House at the end of each filming day.’

 

 

Korda was one of the greats of the British film industry and under his stewardship several successful films were made.  However, the company’s finances were built on shaky ground.  In 1955 the company was wound up and British Lion Films took over the assets of its predecessor.  Sadly Korda died of a heart attack in 1956.

In 1957 the four main stages were modernised with new roofs and grids but 1961 was the year that saw huge investment here.  New wardrobe blocks for stages A/B, C/D and E F G were constructed.  A ‘new’ stage – I (124ft x 57ft) – was moved here from Walton Studios where it had been used in the filming of The Adventures of Robin Hood which had been made for ATV.  (This stage was demolished in 2006.)  A new dubbing theatre was also built – this probably also came from Walton.

Controversially, in the same year the old stable block and distinctive clock tower were demolished along with the restaurant and bar in the Old House to make way for stages J and K.  These were considerably smaller than the present J and K.  J was 80ft x 36ft and K was a tiny 36ft x 35ft.  They were built specifically for screen tests and to be used for television commercials and dramas – although it is not recorded how much of this use they actually had.  Certainly, J was too small to be used for anything that needed more than a simple set or two and K was too small to be used for much at all other than pack shots or to film a single person for a screen test.

These stages were adapted into a three story admin building in 1996 when the new J and K were built.  This was named the David Lean Building.

 

shepperton in 60s 400p
Shepperton in the late 1960s.  In the foreground is the multistorey car park that was built in 1967.  The dark building at the top right of the studio site is stage H.
Stages L, M and I can be seen behind the 4 main stages.  The I stage had been moved to here from Walton Studios in 1962 when they closed.
E, F and G are in a cluster to the right of I.
The old J and K stages are hardly noticeable in the clutter of buildings, unlike their later replacements.
The original entrance to the site can be seen here in the bottom centre before it was lost to housing in 1977.

 

 

During the ’60s Shepperton was used for a few ITC TV drama series: Man of the World (’62, ’63), Man in a Suitcase (’67, ’68) Strange Report (’68, ’69) and a few episodes of Danger Man (’65) were also shot here although most of it was made at MGM Borehamwood.  The majority of ITC’s dramas were filmed at Elstree Studios.

In 1965 and 1966 the two Peter Cushing Dr Who films were made here.  They built huge sets on the H stage as well as using other stages and also made use of the back lot, which was just to the south of the H stage, in the area now occupied by a housing estate.  Of particular interest was a very detailed city street set, which took up an area just north of the river.  This set consisted of two intersecting roads, with other roads crossing at each end.  It had shops, banks and other buildings up to three stories high.  It was probably originally built in 1964 for Allez France (aka The Counterfeit Constable.)  It was redressed as an 18th century street and used next for The Amorous Adventures of Moll Flanders in 1965.  In 1966 it became present day New York for Promise Her Anything Night Caller from Outer Space used the set next.  Following that, it became Victorian London for A Study In Terror. The set was also used for several episodes of Danger Man and in 1966 The Great St Trinian’s Train Robbery shot some scenes on it.  Following all these, the set was used for several big stunts and effects in  Daleks Invasion Earth 2150AD in 1966. 

It’s amazing just how many films and TV dramas made use of this set over a relatively short length of time.  The idea of having standing sets that could be redressed and used for different productions was revived when Pinewood was planning something similar but on a vastly more ambitious scale in 2007 with ‘Project Pinewood.’  Of course, it never happened.  (Many thanks to the Terry Nation Army YouTube videos for the info on the back lot street set.)

 

In 1965 Stanley Kubrick made a relatively brief return visit to Shepperton.  Here’s a snippet that might be of interest to film buffs of a certain age and disposition.  The first day’s shooting on  2001: A Space Odyssey was on the H stage.  The set was the excavated site on the Moon where the monolith had been discovered.  The ‘hole’ was 150ft x 50ft x 20 ft deep and at one end had an area representing the Moon’s surface.  The first day of shooting this extraordinary film was December 29th 1965, some three and a half years before a man would actually step onto the Moon itself.  (The majority of the film was shot at the MGM studios in Borehamwood, where it occupied most of the stages there for several years.)  Oh well – I think it’s interesting, anyway.

shepperton 2001 stage h billy casper 450p
The 2001 Moon excavation set (with black monolith) on H stage.  The rest of the Moon’s surface was matted on to the final image of course.
photo thanks to Billy Casper

 

 

British Lion’s success grew during the 1960s but they were constantly fighting the overall decline in the British film industry as a whole.  Nevertheless, investment continued – in 1965 L stage was re-equipped.  In fact, between 1958 and 1966 half a million pounds (a great deal of money at the time) was spent on new buildings and equipment.  Unfortunately, during the ’70s the decline began to seriously affect the viability of British Lion.  In 1972, the company was taken over by Barclay Securities.  They intended to redevelop much of the site (a familiar story unfortunately) but luckily and rather surprisingly, tree preservation orders prevented them from carrying out their plans.

A campaign was begun to save the studios which resulted in a deal in 1973 whereby the studio backlot was sold off but twenty acres were retained, which included all the existing stages.  Barclay Securities was at this time taken over by J H Vavasseur and Co., who became the new owners of Shepperton Studios.  A new deal was proposed that increased the site by another two acres and the plans included the proposal to move H stage to another part of the site.  It didn’t happen.

By 1974 the studios were said to be in a run-down state.  Studio equipment was sold off to pay for the rebuilding of some roads and the rewiring of several of the stages.  Yet another owner arrived in June 1975 when British Lion (by then called Lion International) was bought by Spikings and Deeley.  They shortly afterwards changed the name to Mills and Allen International.  I hope you’re keeping up with all this.

In 1977 some more of the site including the original entrance was sold off to be used for housing.  This saved the studios from closure.  Another part of the site was also threatened but was leased by a company owned by The Who (good for them!).  They took over six acres including Littleton House and J and K stages.  The redevelopment of that part of the site was thus prevented.

 

During the 1970s and early ’80s stages E, F and G were occupied by a company called BBRK.  They often also used the giant stage H.  This business was owned by four art directors who specialised in designing sets for distinctive TV and cinema commercials.  If you lived through that period you will definitely have seen their work which helped define the cultural experience of all of us.  Many famous directors shot commercials on their stages on some extraordinary sets.  These included the Cadbury’s Smash Martians, PG Tips chimps, Hamlet cigars and the ad that stopped me dead in my tracks one day in a cinema on my way to buying an ice cream – the Benson and Hedges swimming pool.  Nobody had seen anything like these beautifully made advertisements before.

 

Phil Rutter has written to me with an interesting story.  It seems that the builders Taylor Woodrow decided that they needed a studio to create corporate videos.  An offshoot of the company called Kadek Visionwas created and they took out a lease on a construction workshop in 1977.  This was between stages E, F and G and the canteen block.  The two-storey building was gutted and a TV studio created within it.  Initially it was equipped with low grade Philips Video80 kit but this was later replaced with broadcast quality cameras and RCA quad VTR machines.  They dug a trench to install cables linking their VTRs with the BBRK stages so that some ads could be shot on video rather than film.  Phil tells me that they made quite a few.  This was pretty ground-breaking but to be honest, it never really caught on as a replacement to film.  Ads to this day have always tried to look like 30-second features. 

 

 

In 1984 a major upturn in the fortunes of Shepperton began when the whole site, including The Who’s land was purchased by the Lee brothers for £3.6m.  They also later took back ownership of the land occupied by the old H stage, which you’ll remember had been threatened with demolition to make way for more housing.  Lees were running Wembley studios at the time and had had some success there with a mix of commercials, filmed TV drama and one or two major feature films a year.  Shepperton became Lee International Studios and a programme of investment began.  In fact, they also kept Wembley on until July 1986 – which at the time rather confusingly also had the name ‘Lee International Film Studios.’

During 1985 stages L and M were upgraded and new workshops surrounding stages A/B and C/D were constructed.  These included smart new lighting stores – not surprising considering the new owners.  The following year a stylish new art department building adjoining a large workshop block was completed.

All seemed to be going very well.  The company was so confident in fact, that in 1987 Lee International bought the Panavision company.  This stretched the finances considerably but it looked like a good idea at the time.  Sadly, very shortly afterwards came ‘Black Monday’ and huge amounts were wiped off the value of shares worldwide.  The company was in difficulties and other problems began to emerge which led to a Serious Fraud Office investigation.  Not only that, but film making dried up due to a strike by the US Screen Writers’ Guild.

American investment bankers Warburg-Pincus bought out the company, and the Lee brothers lost the influence they had enjoyed over the industry for many years.  The studios continued to operate under the Lee International name, however.  I have read that the emphasis of operations at Shepperton focused on television production around this time, but I have yet to establish any examples of drama series made here in the late ’80s.

The new owners continued with the steady programme of investment.  In 1994, R and S stages were opened on the northern edge of the site alongside H stage.  (R is 120ft x 85ft and S is 100ft x 100ft)  They were constructed using the steel from the old stage 6 at Elstree, previously built for The Empire Strikes Back.  The original Elstree stage had been dismantled to make way for a Tesco superstore and sold to Shepperton.  R and S are a different shape from the one they were built from and in fact some steel girders remained – they were used on the later construction of the W stage.

 

 

In 1995 a new chapter began when Ridley and Tony Scott bought the studios.  They immediately brought an experienced and fresh eye to the studios which became known simply as ‘Shepperton Studios’.  Within a few months they began to develop much of the site with new facilities.

In 1996 three stages were built.  W is 130ft x 80ft and the double stage J & K are larger – J is 150ft x 100ft and K is 120ft x 100ft.  When it opened, the building was one single very large stage and was used for the film Lost in Space.  After that movie wrapped it was divided into the present two stages – J & K.  The earlier much smaller J and K were adapted to become The David Lean Building.

The next five years saw a period of stability during which the studios were used for many big British and international movies.  By now, Shepperton was equipped with many good sized stages and a useful back lot that were attracting film makers.  However, they were in direct competition with Pinewood which was not helping either of them financially.  Each studio was also having to turn movies down because they weren’t quite big enough to fit in all the potential work.  The answer was to combine assets so on 11th February 2001 a merger with Pinewood was announced and a new company – Pinewood-Shepperton plc – was formed.  They are still known as Shepperton Studios but are now part of the Pinewood Studios Group.

 

shepperton aerial view 2004 400p
Shepperton in 2004.  Top left is the huge Queen Mary reservoir. The river Ash borders the site in the foreground.
Upper right are the original stages A/B and C/D.  In the foreground right is the double stage J/K, on the left are stages R/S.
The site has seen three areas used as the back lot.  Bottom left is some of the housing that was built on the original back lot that was sold off in 1973.
The relatively small area seen in the foreground above occupied by the W stage, a car park and J/K stage was the back lot between 1973 and 1996.
The current very large back lot is reached by crossing a bridge from the main site and is below this picture.  This land was not part of the original site and was purchased in the late ’90s.

 

In May 2004 Pinewood-Shepperton submitted a planning application to carry out a major rebuilding programme over ten years.  It was intended to increase the amount of square footage of stages and supporting areas by more than twenty percent.  There was a similar long-term plan submitted for Pinewood.  The Pinewood plan was partly carried out with some modifications but relatively little redevelopment took place here compared with what was planned.

In September 2006, Pinewood Shepperton plc announced that it had entered into a joint venture with Morley Fund Management Limited on behalf of Aviva plc Life Funds.  The 50:50 joint venture, called Shepperton Studio Property Partnership, acquired the 999 year leasehold interest of Shepperton Studios with a view to further developing the studio in line with the planning consents achieved by the company.  Thus, the new partnership was to release the funding necessary to begin the ambitious construction plans mentioned above.  The demolition of stage I and construction of ‘I block’ began in late 2006 – it was then named the John Mills building and was completed in 2007.  The 60,000 sq ft Gainsborough Building opened in June 2008.  The latter block contains offices and facilities for media companies and additional space for productions currently shooting on the Shepperton stages.  However, despite the announcement, rather disappointingly no new stages were actually built.

 

At the end of 2014 Pinewood-Shepperton bought out Aviva to become sole owners of the studios.  They paid £36.8m.

In June 2014 it was announced that the controversial major development at Pinewood (PSDF) would be going ahead.  At the same time and barely commented upon, Pinewood also stated that 2 new stages would be constructed at Shepperton.  However, for whatever reason, these were not built after all.

 

 

shepperton aerial 2018 450p
The studios in 2018

 

 

In February 2018 there were interesting press reports of a possible major expansion at Shepperton.  The Pinewood Group had bought 100 acres of adjoining land and were preparing a plan to significantly increase the facilities here.  Proposals were being prepared and a planning application would be submitted soon.  This was of course on top of the major expansion taking place at Pinewood itself.

These plans moved a little closer in June 2018 when Shepperton confirmed that they were planning to add new sound stages, offices, workshops, backlots, car parking and infrastructure.  They were actively consulting with local residents and the local council before submitting a planning application.

In October 2018, various major production companies including Disney, Lucasfilm, Marvel Studios and Netflix strongly supported the expansion, stating that they would certainly make use of the increased studio space.  Shepperton estimated that its expansion would create an annual productivity boost of more than £141m to the UK economy.  This would help the government’s ambition to double film and high-end TV investment to the UK from £2bn in 2017 to £4bn by 2025.

In February 2019 the £500m development moved on to the next phase when outline planning permission was narrowly passed by Spelthorne Borough Council.  A detailed application was submitted in December 2020, which was passed in April 2021.  It shows 17 new stages plus workshops and offices to the west and south of the existing studios.  Interestingly, there are also planned to be significant changes to the existing site.  It seems that only the original four stages plus J & K will remain and 8 new stages will be built, making a total of 14, the same as at the present time but mostly much larger.  The old but very useful H stage will at last be going.  Perhaps surprisingly, so will R and S.

 

The masterplan as submitted in December 2020 and passed in April 2021.  The key to this plan is below.

 

In July 2019 it was announced that Netflix would be taking a 10 year lease on all 14 existing stages as well as workshops and offices at Shepperton.  At the time it was not clear how this arrangement would affect the proposed redevelopment.  It appeared that the new stages were separate from this deal.  However, in November 2021 an announcement was made that Netflix would indeed be taking over most of the 17 new stages south of the river and to the north-west of the main site as well as the existing 14.  However, according to some press reports, Netflix will not take up all the new space.  Quite how much of the site will be available for other productions is yet to become clear.  The stages were said to be under construction and would become available from 2023.

What is not yet clear is how this affects the stages and workshops planned to be built on the existing site.  Since these involve demolition of some of the old stages, will this be able to go ahead as planned?  Possibly not until the 10 year Netflix deal is over and by then, who knows?

 

These exciting plans at one our longest established studios are a really encouraging boost to the British film and TV industry.  One of the few industries where the UK genuinely is a world leader.

 

shepperton 1917 450p
In 2020 I happened to look at Shepperton on Google Maps and discovered this set – built on the back lot, where some of the new stages are due to be constructed.  It is the French Village from the excellent movie 1917.  If you are familiar with the film you can trace the move of the hero and the camera from the very top of the set, through all the streets and buildings to his final run at the bottom of the set.  The burning church (seen in the lower part of the square) was actually a scaffold construction covered in an astonishing number of Dinos and Wendy lights which were programmed to flicker.  The flames themselves were added in post production.

 

I have hardly mentioned any films made here in the history of the studio site above.  The list is almost endless and is easily found in several excellent books about Shepperton.  However – it would be wrong not to mention any so here are a few notable ones from the post-war years…

An Ideal Husband (’47), The Third Man (’49), The Wooden Horse (’50), The Sound Barrier (’52), The Colditz Story (’54), Hobson’s Choice (’54), Richard III (’55), Room at the Top (’58), Our Man in Havana (’59), I’m All Right Jack (’59), The Angry Silence (’60) The Guns of Navarone (’61), The L-Shaped Room (’62), Dr Strangelove, Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (’63), Becket (’64), The Spy Who Came in From The Cold (’64), Darling (’65), A Man For All Seasons (’66), Oliver! (’68), The Day of the Jackal (’72), Young Winston (’72), Return of the Pink Panther (’75), Alien (’78), Privates on Parade (’81), Ghandi (’82), Nineteen Eighty-Four (’83), The Company of Wolves (’84), Passage To India (’84), Out Of Africa (’85), Cry Freedom (’86), 84 Charing Cross Road (’86), Gorillas in the Mist (’87), Henry V (’88), Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (’90), The Crying Game (’91), Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (’93), Four Weddings and a Funeral (’93), The Madness of King George (’94), Sense and Sensibility (’94), Shadowlands (’94), Braveheart (’95), Evita (’95), Elizabeth (’96), Sliding Doors (’97), Shakespeare in Love (’98), Notting Hill (’98), Gladiator (’98), The End of the Affair (’98), Billy Elliot (’99), Spy Game (’00), Chocolat (’00), Possession (’01), Love Actually (’02) , K19: The Widowmaker (’02), Finding Neverland (’02), Calender Girls (’02), Troy (’03), Stage Beauty (’03), Mrs Henderson Presents (’04), Batman Begins (’04), The Da Vinci Code (’05), His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass (’06), Black Book (’06), Inkheart (’08), Moon (’08), The Boat that Rocked (’08), FAQs About Time Travel (’08), The Young Victoria (’08), Robin Hood (’09), Nine (’09), Chatroom (’10), Captain America (’10), Hugo Cabret (’10), 47 Ronin (’11), Last Passenger (’11), A Fantastic Fear of Everything (’12), Thor: The Dark World (’13), Gravity (’13), World War Z (’13), Paddington (’14), Guardians of the Galaxy (’14), Into the Woods (’14), Avengers: Age of Ultron (’15), Alice in Wonderland: Through the Looking Glass (’15), Dr Strange (’16), Patient Zero (’16), Life (’16), Beauty and the Beast (’16), Mary Poppins Returns (’17), Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (’17), Detective Pikachu (’18), 1917 (’19), Dolittle (’19), The Old Guard (’19), Cruella (’20)

 

The list above is very impressive and what strikes me is the continuing consistency of the high quality of the films over the years.  It is also nice to see that the studios have produced so many excellent British films.

 

Shepperton has been used for several multicamera TV productions over the years.  These include You Bet (’88-’95), Red Dwarf (’91-’99 then ’12-’15), The National Lottery Big Ticket (’98), The Vicar of Dibley (’97-’06).  (I had the pleasure of lighting the Christmas and new year episodes for 2004/5 on stage B.)  As mentioned above, Sky 1’s Gladiators (’08) was recorded here too – series one on A and B stages and series 2 just on the A stage.  In 2011 ITV’s Dancing on Ice moved to the J and K stages at Shepperton from its previous home at Elstree but it returned to Elstree in 2012.

Due to the lack of available TV studios, in the autumn of 2014 K stage was shared by 8 Out of 10 Cats and Russell Howard’s Good News.  An OB truck provided facilities and the lighting rigs for both shows were suspended on trussing.  The audience seating was shared but the sets were built and struck each week for the two shows.  Neither show returned for their next series but managed to book proper TV studios elsewhere.  You may draw your own conclusions.

I hope to add a list of single-camera television drama and comedy shot here in due course but I have noted that Blackadder Back and Forth was shot here in 1999, Jam and Jerusalem in 2006 and BBC comedy Beautiful People was made here in 2008.  For several years, the longest-running sitcom on British TV was made at Shepperton.  I refer of course to Last of the Summer Wine.  The interiors were shot here on single camera and the final edited programme projected to a studio audience at Teddington to record their reaction.  Interestingly, despite the longevity of the show (and its cast), in its final years it was shot using the latest HD camera technology.  One assumes this was to make the most of the beautiful location sequences rather than revealing all the crags and crevices of the distinguished cast.

 

 

Whilst dealing with Shepperton, a brief mention should be made about Lion Television Services.  This company was an offshoot of British Lion Films and was led by Peter Lloyd, who had previously been running the Granville Studio.  It was formed in 1969 and was an independent company with an OB unit that was based at these studios, occasionally using one of the stages to make programmes.

shepperton lion tv scanner 1969
The brand new 4-camera colour OB scanner in November 1969. According to Kinematograph Weekly, Lion Television Services moved into these new buildings in June of that year.
shepperton peter lloyd 450p
Peter Lloyd, head of Lion TV Services, standing in the grounds of Shepperton – presenting to one of his Philips LDK 3 cameras.
thanks to Geoff Hale for sending me these photos

 

Regarding Lion TV, Mike Fitch has sent me the following…

‘…originally formed by an ex-ATV producer called Peter Lloyd.  We had a garage and offices built on the left hand side just after coming through the main gate.  We didn’t fit out a studio there but we often used the scanner as a plug in to a studio with great success.  We started off with a b&w scanner with Emi 2028 cameras, whilst we were building our colour scanner which was equipped with LDK 3 cameras.  The first Head of Cameras was Roy Garner, ex ATV and then it was the late Dave Swann who tragically died in 1989 in a hotel fire in Bulgaria.  The other cameramen at that time were John Howard, an Oz whereabouts not known, Barrie Dodd, who became Head of Cameras at Visions Mobiles, and Dave Barber (Rocket) who eventually formed his own OB company which is Telegenic.  After a couple of years British Lion put us up for sale and we were bought by Trident Recordings, who renamed us Trilion.’

 

Trilion are covered on the Independent TV Studios page.