Drama filmed in Wakefield hits screen

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A 19th century drama that was partly shot in the St John’s area of the city will be screened by the BBC later this month.

Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell will debut on BBC One at 9pm on Sunday, May 17.

The seven-part series, based on the novel by Susanna Clarke, tells the story of a time at the beginning of the 19th century, when England no longer believed in practical magic.

However, Mr Norrell, of Hurtfew Abbey, stuns the city of York when he brings the minster’s statues to life before being invited to London to help the government in the war against Napoleon.

Meanwhile, the charming and dissolute Jonathan Strange, more interested in drinking wine and winning the hand of the beautiful Arabella than reading dusty magical books, discovers that he also has magical powers.

In January last year, film crews transformed St John’s Square, St John’s North and South Parade into the world-famous Harley Street, Hanover Square and Soho Square in London.

The area was chosen by Wakefield-born location manager Gary Barnes, who used to live in St John’s.

He said: “I always wanted to live there because I used to think it was the most exciting place in the world because it was really posh.

“There is not much of this type of architecture around Yorkshire, so it was the perfect choice of location.

“The basis of what we needed to set the scene was there, we just needed to move a few lamposts and parking meters and put a temporary road surface down to cover modern day road markings.”

The series has an all-star cast, including Eddie Marsan – of Best of Men, Donovan and Filth fame – who will play Mr Norrell. Jonathan Strange will be played by Vertie Carvel, known for roles in Restless, Hidden and Matilda.

Other well-known faces will include Paul Kaye, of Game of Thrones and Stella, plus Marc Warren from Hustle and Mad Dogs, and Alice Englert, who starred in Ginger and Rosa and Beautiful Creatures.

In the first episode – the Friends of English Magic – Mr Norrell makes a pact with a mysterious being as he tries to prove himself as England’s greatest magician while Jonathan Strange learns he too has magical gifts.

Mr Barnes, who was brought up in Darnley and later lived in Agbrigg, said: “It’s an epic tale and the adaptation has been a labour of love for those who masterminded it.

“I loved coming back to Wakefield and I can’t believe how much it has changed.”