Page last updated at 15:08 GMT, Wednesday, 31 March 2010 16:08 UK
Shropshire movies: Atonement at Stokesay Court
Caroline Magnus and her dog, Onny, at Stokesay Court
Caroline Magnus owns Stokesay Court where Atonement was filmed

When Caroline Magnus inherited Stokesay Court in South Shropshire she expected her planned restoration of the house to take decades.

That was until it was spotted by a film company who decided it was the perfect setting for their latest project.

Thanks to Working Title Films' production of Atonement, which was largely filmed at the house, the renovations are well advanced.

The film too did well, winning a hatful of BAFTAs and Oscars.

Empty house

The first I discovered was a copy of the will and a compliments slip which was sent to me about a week after Jewell died
Caroline Magnus

Ms Magnus moved into Stokesay Court in 1995 after the death of her aunt by marriage, Jewell Magnus-Allcroft. She was the granddaughter of John Derby Allcroft, who originally built Stokesay Court .

Sadly, he only lived in the house for six months after it was completed in 1892, having waited 16 years to buy the land to build it on.

Ms Magnus had not expected to inherit the house: "The first I discovered was a copy of the will and a compliments slip which was sent to me about a week after Jewell died."

The Gereat Hall at Stokesay Court
The Great Hall at Stokesay Court featured largely in Atonement

When she arrived the house was empty and the roof leaked. The contents of the house were sold and the proceeds used to repair the roof.

Until that was done Ms Magnus said it was a constant battle against the elements: "You would have seen buckets all over the hall, all around the gallery.

"Every time it rained I and my friends would have to go on bucket patrols to the remoter parts of the house and just see where the drips were coming in."

Location Managers

Stokesay had been spotted in an article in Country Life by location managers looking for somewhere to film a screen adaptation of Ian McEwan's novel, Atonement.

Ms Magnus thought nothing would come of it: "I more or less forgot about it because I had had quite a lot of location managers turning up over the years... then suddenly they came back and said 'yes', they really would like to use it."

The statue from the fountain scene at Stokesay Court
The statue from the fountain is now in the house

The house was transformed: "They took all my furniture away into storage for the duration and brought in about seven or eight pantechnicons full of furniture.

"The extraordinary thing was that it all had to be checked in down to the last matchstick almost and then all checked out again at the end of the filming."

The fountain in the grounds from which Keira Knightley emerged during the film was given a total makeover. It has now been restored to its original state, but the huge statue used as a centrepiece is in the Great Hall at Stokesay Court.

Abandoned

Although the house was weather proof and the restoration process had begun when the film crews arrived in the summer of 2006 many of the rooms were in need of decoration.

The wall paper in this room was made in New York
The wall paper in Briony's room at Stokesay was made in New York

Ms Magnus said the master bedroom suite at Stokesay was in a particularly bad state after being abandoned in 1911 and then used as a furniture store.

"The walls were an orange colour and there were chunks of plaster missing and the ceiling was in a very, very sad state.

So when they decorated it for Atonement I was absolutely delighted and even more delighted by the choice of wallpaper, which is simply wonderful."

The paper (which covers the wall of what was used as the character Briony's room) was made by a firm in New York, who used a pattern from their archives for authenticity.

Tennis Balls

Any concerns Ms Magnus had about damage to the house during the filming were dispelled by the presence of a conservation expert.

She had worked with other filmmakers: "That was very beneficial, not just for me but for the film company, because she could tell me not to worry if I was starting to get anxious."

One strategy was to attach tennis balls to the bottom of camera tripod legs to avoid marking the wooden floors.

The cameras have gone, but the effects of Atonement are still evident.

Tours

Caroline Magnus in one of the bedrooms at Stokesay Court
Caroline Magnus in the room used for Cecilia's bedroom in Atonement

Bookcases used for the library scene in the film have been left, along with a few other items. But the greatest legacy of the film is its appeal as a tourist venue.

Since Atonement was released Ms Magnus has been showing regular tour groups around the house. They can look in the bedrooms used by Cecilia (Keira Knightley) and Briony (Saoirse Ronan) and look out of the windows at the fountain and the gardens.

The hotel scenes in the film where the elderly Briony (Vanessa Redgrave), by then a successful writer, reflects on her life and the events of that fateful summer just before the second world war were also filmed at Stokesay Court but ended up on the cutting room floor.




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