ST.MARY MAGS IN BOOKS AND FILMS
St Mary Magdalene’s is well known as a film and TV location. The church is prominent in “The Blue Lamp” (1949) which was almost entirely filmed in the area. It is fascinating to see the old streets as they were before the clearances of the 1960s. The climactic car chase starts outside the church and goes towards the old White City stadium. The period of the building of the Warwick Estate was when Joseph Losey made “A Secret Ceremony” here, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Mia Farrow, when the church interior was used, as well as the exterior with redevelopment in progress. The interior of the church was the venue for the memorial service in “The Constant Gardener” and the crypt has been used in a number of films, including “The Oxford Murders” and “Franklyn” recently. The crypt has been used for many television productions, including “Poirot” and “Lewis”.
St. Mary Mags is also the inspiration for a novel by P.D.James, “A Taste for Death” though relocated to the north bank of the canal. Physically James’s church is quite different (apparently modelled on Blomfield’s St.Barnabas, Oxford) but it is clearly based on St. Mary Mags. The Vicar in the novel is said to be a lifelike portrait of a former Vicar of St.Mary Mags.
Thomas Hardy lived just across the railway line in Westbourne Park Villas, and was married at St.Peter’s, Elgin Avenue (half a mile north-west). He must have known the building when it was in construction and he was working for the architect Blomfield.