PHOTOGRAPHY BY RICHARD BOLL
For the BBC-produced miniseries Howards End, adapted from E.M. Forster’s 1910 novel by Oscar-winning screenwriter Kenneth Lonergan and premiering on Starz this month, production designer Luke Hull was tasked with finding period-correct filming locations that could convincingly stand in for Edwardian England. The series examines social and class divisions among three families—the wealthy Wilcoxes, the intellectual Schlegels, and the hapless Basts—and the complications that arise around the inheritance of the Wilcox country estate, Howards End. While much of the filming took place in London and Surrey, Hull found some of the most dramatic backdrops for the series along Dorset’s Jurassic Coast, which UNESCO named a World Heritage Site in 2001 for its 185-million-year-old rock formations.
For this scene, in which headstrong Margaret Schlegel (Hayley Atwell) and Wilcox patriarch Henry (Matthew Macfadyen) discuss the prospect of marriage, Hull was drawn to Dorset’s Swanage Pier. “It felt very elemental, clean, and fresh, in contrast to the busy, hectic lives the Schlegels were experiencing in London,” he explains. The Victorian wharf was built in 1859 but fell into disrepair after World War II. Starting in the mid-’90s, it underwent a series of restorations, and today it’s home to seasonal cruise ships, a diving school, and a small museum. “I think [this setting] allows the audience to breathe in the same way the characters in this scene do, by escaping London for a simpler break in Swanage,” Hull says. “The sea is as important as the pier here, and, as a whole, the image is quintessentially English.”