An Inspector Calls

Discover the industrial landscapes where JB Priestley's dark mystery, An Inspector Calls, was brought to life on the BBC.

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Attracting nearly 6 million viewers when first broadcast on 13th September 2015, (and available on iPlayer until 13/10/15), JB Priestley’s dramatic mystery, An Inspector Calls, is set in the entrepreneurial Midlands of 1912. To get your fix of the brooding industrial landscape of the BBC’s popular adaptation you’ll need to head further North, however, to Yorkshire.

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Howard Ella, Producer of An Inspector Calls said that “Yorkshire offered the perfect backdrop… providing a wealth of period locations, brilliant access to stunning countryside and coast and flexible spaces for the creation of specific sets” – which reads as rather a good tourist advertisement for an extended exploration of the area. 

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If you are drawn to the dark, brooding interiors where the Birling family faced the investigations of Inspector Goole, you’ll have to wait until 29th May 2016 to step inside Scampston Hall in Rydale, North Yorkshire.

But until the end of October you can still explore the exceptional, contemporary gardens surrounding the house. Landscaped by Dutch plantsman, Piet Oudolf, modern, perennial meadow planting challenges more traditional walled areas. Enjoy the Garden Restaurant, stock up at the plant nursery and admire the imposing exterior of the 17th century hall (pictured above).

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Fans of the programme will get a lot of satisfaction from a visit to the old market town of Malton, with Roman origins, close to the North Yorkshire Moors near the picturesque River Derwent. Look out for Hardcastle Franks Accountants on Chancery Lane, which featured as the exterior of Eva’s bed-sit boarding house. The interior scenes were shot inside elegant, 17th-century York House (pictured above), which sadly can’t be visited by the public, though Malton Estate owner, Tom Naylor-Leyland, told BBC Countryfile Magazine that there were plans afoot to link it to the Grade II-listed Talbot Hotel.

With 300 buildings in the Malton Estate, most of which can be available to film crews through one central contact, it’s an attractive site for location scouts. Scenes from the BBC adaptation involving the fictional Palace Variety Theatre Bar, Milward’s Department Store and the dining room of the County Hotel were all shot on location in the Green Man pub in Malton.

Malton has also claimed for itself the title of ‘Yorkshire’s Food Capital’, with a bi-annual food festival that attracts up to 30,000 people, a twice-a-month market and a central street blossoming with traditional food shops. You can step inside Talbot Yard to watch artisans making bread, ice-cream, fishcakes and beer, or take a course at Malton Cookery School.

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If you prefer to focus on the more austere, underlying social commentary of class oppression and the effect of industry on the British landscape that are hinted at in the production, visit Salt’s Mill in Saltaire, Bradford, which was used as the exterior of “hard-headed businessman”, Mr Birling’s, factory. The vast building is now an exhibition centre with works by David Hockney as well as interesting background to the mill’s working life.

Queens Mill in Burnley (pictured above), was also used for the interior where Eva worked and has a wealth of activities available to visitors, while nearby Saltaire Village featured additional street scenes.

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Words by Agnes Davis