If you’ve seen any scene from Hot Fuzz, chances are you’ve seen Wells on screen. With the exception of a few locations from the film, Hot Fuzz was filmed almost entirely in director Edgar Wright’s childhood home in the gorgeous county of Somerset.
Wells holds the title of ‘Smallest City in England’ which is one of the many reasons visitors are drawn to it but once you’re there, however, there’s a lot packed in to a tiny city. A stunning cathedral, the oldest residential street in England, Bishop’s Palace with its resident swans, a charming market twice a week and plenty of tea and coffee shops dotted amongst the history. And it’s so small that if you’ve walked around the city, you’ve done the Hot Fuzz tour.
I had some help and inspiration from The Geeky Tourist to whom I have to give credit – my write up and photos might not be in the same league but I share Emma’s enthusiasm and dedication! So – on to Sandford, Gloucestershire – more commonly known as Wells.
Filming for Becoming Elizabeth was happening in Wells for part of the week, meaning certain areas in the Bishop’s Palace and Cathedral would be out of bounds for visitors, but I was fortunate with my timing and saw most of what I wanted before the cast and crew moved in. I’d travelled to Wells via Bath, whch was beautiful but a little overcrowded for me due to the 28 degree weather and the Bank Holiday weekend. Wells was a welcome change in size and pace – and perfect to stroll around in the summer evening.
Let’s start at The Crown. Right in the middle of the market place, The Crown is a cosy hotel and excellent restaurant and is known as the pub where Sergeant Angel goes for his cranberry juice with Danny. It features in the shoot-out at the end of the film (interior scenes were filmed elsewhere) and it’s home to the blue plaque pictured above. Booking for dinner or breakfast was essential as it was Whitsun half term and people were enjoying the rare bank holiday sunshine, but the food and service were first rate.
It’s no coincidence that I stayed in The Swan Hotel during my time in Wells. Again, although the interior scenes (“Fascist.” “Hag.”) were filmed in a studio, this hotel features in the film as Sgt Angel’s temporary home in Sandford. Parts of the hotel date back to the 1420s and you can choose a room overlooking the Cathedral, giving you some of the best views of the city.
Sgt Angel is seen on his morning run around the Bishop’s Palace moat. The Palace and Gardens are some of the main attractions in Wells and there was a fair bit of filming taking place in the gardens and interior; it was great to see the actors in full costume strolling around without looking remotely out of place. The Palace Gardens are also the site of the circle of hooded Sandford Elders (“the greater good”). I walked round here a few times, catching it in the quiet of golden hour as well as the morning and of course said hello to the famous swans.
The swans here are quite famous and the current pair and their little group of cygnets were drawing quite an audience.
Speaking of swans, Angel and Danny are seen in the nearby Recreation Grounds looking for one that’s gone missing…
The entrance to the Bishop’s Palace is known as The Bishop’s Eye, and this gateway is one of the most familiar and unmissable landmarks in the city, built in around 1450 to give the Bishop a prime location to watch over Wells. The first photo is the view looking through into the Palace grounds, the second is looking back towards the market place. It’s also where we see Angel on horseback preparing for the final shoot-out.
A little walk down the high street eventually leads to St Cuthbert’s Church. This 13th Century church was where the Sandford village fete was held, and where reporter Tim Messenger spends his final moments. Near to the church are the Wells Almshouses, which (along with Vicar’s Close) are surely some of the most picturesque residences in the city.
Near to the church is Lover’s Walk. It was deserted when I was location hunting that evening and so I followed in the foosteps of Angel and the mothers, just before Angel and Danny attempt to jump over the fences.
While walking around that part of the city, I went to see the Wells Little Theatre, notable in the film for its infamous production of Romeo and Juliet. In reality, the tiny local theatre has been hit by the closures of the last year but hopes to be rehearsing for its winter pantomime very soon. Near to the bus station I also saw the Film Centre Cinema which hosted the premiere of Hot Fuzz back in February 2007.
Back on the High Street it was time to visit the little shop (“check out his horse”) where Danny and Angel pick up their ice creams. I was extremely happy to see this poster in the window.
At the end of the market place and opposite The Crown is the conduit where you might see some hoodies or enjoy an ice cream. Because it’s such a beautiful city, I’ll finish with some other shots I took in Wells which may or may not be Hot Fuzz-related.
Finally, Wells certainly has its fair share of eateries and I have to give a hearty thankyou to Carly and the staff at Twenty One who fed and watered me several times. Also, as a Brummie I’m used to my Lounge brunches so finding Fosso Lounge was a real treat. On the subject of food, if you’re ever in Bath, I can’t recommend Cortado Cafe highly enough.
Coming up: Nassau – A pirate lover’s tour of The Bahamas