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FOYLES WAR.                 »  Read about My Role in Foyle's War  «

Filming of the pilot for Foyle’s War, the ITV WW II detective drama began in Hastings and St Leonards in summer 2001. Later, in April 2002, the programme’s maker, Greenlit Productions, took over Hastings Old Town’s, Hill Street, Swan Terrace, Croft Road and High Street, stretches of which were closed to pedestrians and cars. As filming began, the entrances to the narrow, historic streets were crammed with spectators, hoping to catch a glimpse of somebody famous, while shopkeepers gazed on glumly, wondering how much business they were losing as a result of street closures.

Michael Kitchen with the Hastings FishermenScenes were also shot on Hastings beach, when the 1940 Dunkirk rescue operation was recreated for the second episode. It was local man Graham Bossom’s fishing boat that took the role of Lady Rose, and Graham and fellow fishermen, Charles and Peter White, Paul, Shane and Douglas Joy, Marshall Davey, Mark Ball, Michael Barrow and Clive Stephens had parts as extras, in scenes in which they physically launched and recovered the fishing boat in the old time manner. They also played parts as soldiers. This episode’s depiction of wounded and dying British troops returning to Hastings shores was a fiction, as none actually came here, but to see the painful scenes re-enacted on our local beaches brought home the horror of the real event.

Often, when watching the programme, I was torn between following the story and spotting the locations. The solution was to record the two-hour episode and see it twice, in no way an imposition, as every aspect of the production was pleasing, particularly its low-key, gentle pace, which reflected Hastings as it was and still is.

In episode one, the fishermens’ tall, black net huts were the backdrop to a Filming of Foyles War at Hastingsgripping confrontation and chase; the sequence began outside a beachside, formerchurch, now the Fishermen’s Museum. The museum’s Shipmaster, Curator Phil Ormsby, says he is hoping to mount a special exhibition connected to Foyle’s War. He told me that no Hastings fishermen went on the Dunkirk mission but two fishing boats were volunteered to Dover to help, as was the Hastings Lifeboat.

Throughout the series there were many shots of the picturesque views over the closely clustered rooftops of Hastings Old Town, which is crammed into the little valley between the East and West Hill’s sandstone cliffs. Foyle’s fictional home is situated in Croft Road, behind St Clements Church, the tower of which was frequently visible during scenes in his study.

One summer afternoon, during later, location filming, I slipped past the policeman in Croft Road who was holding back cars and pedestrians and I saw the take of a short segment, when a girl in WAAF uniform crossed the road to Foyle’s house, as an elderly lady in 1940s dress passed by, shopping basket in hand. (I was amused to see that the kerbside yellow lines had been painted with glue and scattered with what looked like cat-litter, to obscure the modern traffic markings). It was fun to spot that brief moment during the transmission of the final episode.

Squerryes Court in Westerham I was convinced that the scenes featuring a Georgian house hotel were filmed in Hastings’ Beauport Park Hotel but the staff there informed me that it was Squerryes Court in Westerham. You many recognise here some of Interior of Squerryes Court in Westerhamthe pictures of it, taken from their website. Several of Hastings’ many Olde Worlde pubs were deployed for interior scenes. Locations other than Hastings were certainly used but the illusion of the story being set mostly in Hastings was maintained, as was the charm of the town itself, in spite of some grisly story-lines.

The cast of Foyles War is headed by veteran actor, Michael Kitchen, best known internationally for his role as Bill Tanner, Chief of Staff, in the two James Bond films, Goldeneye and The World Is Not Enough. Inspector Foyle, played by Kitchen, was a real life policeman, appointed in WWII to investigate war-related crimes such as spying and racketeering.

The series proved to be a Sunday night hit, screened over four weeks in November 2002, attracting up to 10 million viewers. I understand that further episodes will be screened in 2003 and hope Foyle’s War will do for Hastings what the tremendously popular detective series, Inspector Morse, did for Oxford in terms of tourist interest.

By sheer chance, coinciding with the showing of Foyle’s War, my book, Letters From Lavender Cottage-Hastings in WWII and Austerity, was published. The book is a biography that portrays the everyday and factual life of Hastings’ people, struggling with the effects and aftermath of war

My thanks to The Hastings Observer, Greenlit Productions and Squerryes Court for the use of their images
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My role in Foyle's War

In the Foyle’s War, episode “War of Nerves” I was magistrates’ courts advisor to Greenlit Productions who make the series.

The court scene on which I worked - from War of Nerves, Foyle's War. Courtesy of Greenlit RightsThe court scene was actually shot at St Albans because the local authority there had been circumspect in not gutting their old magistrates’ court (unlike Hastings), and they now rent out the oak-panelled room to film and TV companies and for corporate and social events.

In working for Greenlit I learned how much attention to detail goes into period TV productions: I was asked advice not just on magistrate court procedure but also on dress, hair and cosmetic styles for the female magistrate and on the deportment and language of court officials.

Lady Idina Brassey, a Hastings woman mentioned many times in my book Letters from Lavender Cottage was a magistrate in WWII Hastings and my previous research on her gave me a very good idea of how a female magistrate in those times would have appeared. So you could say that the lady chairing the bench in the Foyle’s War scene bears some resemblance to Lady Idina.

The only known picture of the interior of Hastings Magistrates' Court
I mentioned to the Greenlit design director that the hand-painted heraldic shields that used to hang in Hastings’ old court are now displayed above the new court’s stairway. Greenlit sent a photographer from their design department to meet me in Hastings and we went to the courts, where he took pictures of the shields, so that they could be reproduced for the Foyle’s War court scene.

The episode in which ‘my’ scene was set was the last in series three. I waited for the appearance of the scene very nervously. As far as the shields were concerned it was a ‘blink and you miss it’ moment but every period detail seemed perfect to me.

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September 4th. 2003 This actricle appeared in Hastings' "Homes" magazine

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Charming Kitchen Enhances Hastings Property


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