Fit for a Royal Wedding: Starring role for The Guildhall, Rochester in Netflix series The Crown

inside historic room with portraits and paintings on the walls

The wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles, described at the time as 'A Fairytale for Grown Ups,' took place in a civil ceremony at Windsor Guildhall at 12.30pm on 9 April 2005.

Eighteen years later, the events of that day will be streamed around the globe as fans of the acclaimed Netflix TV show The Crown bring out the union flags for the final six episodes of the award-winning series, available to view from today.

But look closely as the Royal couple, played by actors Dominic West and Olivia Williams, exchange their vows and you may just notice historic Rochester in Medway, Kent, rather than Windsor, taking centre stage for the big occasion.

For the first time it can be revealed that The Guildhall, the 17th century courtroom turned council chamber and present day wedding venue and museum, was chosen as the stand-in for the civic ceremony.

With its magnificent plaster ceilings, glittering chandeliers, large decorative oil paintings and grand staircase, it proved the perfect choice for the recreation of the second marriage of the future King Charles III including scenes where the couple exchange wedding rings crafted from 22 carat Welsh gold. The exterior of the building was filmed too including a wonderful shot of the couple leaving the venue in celebration to the sound of a trumpet led brass band.

Cllr Harinder Mahil, Portfolio Holder for Heritage, Culture and Leisure, said: "From ships and riverside castles to perfectly preserved Georgian grandeur, Medway is blessed with some extraordinary wedding venues – so we were delighted when the producers of The Crown came calling.
"The Guildhall is a wonderful venue bursting with character and charm that has been the backdrop for the special moments that leave couples feeling like a King and Queen for the day – so it made for a perfect setting for this Royal celebration.
"It was a huge honour hosting this filming and with amazing historic sites like Rochester and Upnor Castles, Eastgate House and Temple Manor we look forward to hosting many more."

Medway Council was approached by Kent Film Office about the possibility of using the Grade I listed building as the location for one of the key moments in the final season of the long running series about the reign of Queen Elizabeth II.

couple stood at alter
outside of townhall

Sarah Belsom, Heritage Operations Manager, Rochester Castle, Temple Manor and The Guildhall Museum, said: "It's always exciting when we have filming here in Medway, even more so when it is at one of our heritage venues.
"It was obvious why Netflix chose The Guildhall in Rochester with its large portraits and decorative ceiling – it was a perfect fit with the original setting in Windsor."

"We were contacted by a location scout in December last year with the brief, initially for St George's Chapel where the Service of Prayer and Dedication was originally held following the civil ceremony," recalls Gabrielle Lindemann, Kent Film Officer at the Kent Film Office. "We were then asked if we could think of anywhere to host a civil ceremony that could also stand in for Windsor and which was close to the cathedral should that become an option. The Guildhall turned out to be the perfect choice alongside exterior shots of Rochester Cathedral and the High Street."

The stunning surroundings of the venue, nestled in the cobbled historic Rochester High Street make it a popular venue for weddings, with many local people choosing to exchange vows at the Guildhall each year.

The Queens Hall and Princes Hall at Rochester Corn Exchange – named to commemorate a visit by the late Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip in 1961- became one big green room, catering for the needs of the show's star actors and crew. From plugging kit in to providing food and coffee it was a busy few days for venue staff and council teams.

Aside from the space where filming took place the Guildhall team had to find room for the extras as well as the florist who worked wonders recreating the displays under The Colannades – with the air filled with beautiful smell of freshly cut lilies.

"There was film equipment stored in just about every nook and cranny of the museum, which also forms part of The Guildhall – and if there wasn't film equipment there were runners and actors." Sarah Belsom recalls, "It was a wet day, so everyone was keen to stay dry."

couple stood outside hall with white wedding car

Hundreds of extras meanwhile lined the bunting strewn local streets, famous for their links with Charles Dickens, waiting for the cavalcade to arrive for the wedding scenes – along with members of the public in position for a perfect view of the action.

The windows of shops along the High Street, meanwhile were repainted and redesigned to fit in with the scene of a Windsor wedding adding to one incredible atmosphere. Shop owners supported the filming by agreeing to close or divert trade in order for their premises to be redressed as a souvenir shop, cake shop and florist.

A large piece of kit allowed a camera crew to drive in front of the wedding car along the High Street, getting wonderful views of the crowds – extras waving or wearing their union jacks – lining the streets.

The filming outside came with all the pomp and ceremony you would expect from a Royal Wedding and it was replayed every few minutes as the actors and crew repeated take after take. Finally, once they'd wrapped, there was a huge celebration with the actors dancing and hugging to mark the moment – helped along by the live wedding band.

For more details on Medway's historic wedding venues including The Guildhall and Rochester Corn Exchange, historic Eastgate House and the stunning Elizabethan riverside fort, Upnor Castle visit: Medwayweddings

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