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A Moving Movie Church

Camera, lights, action! Scene 1, Take one. Outside Greenwich’s Old Royal Naval College Chapel in the 21st century. Or is it?  

Actually, it isn’t. Not when I took this photograph of filming for Testament of Youth, the story of famous pacifist and feminist Vera Brittain. 

It was miraculously being transformed into a street in Whitehall on Armistice Day, 1918.  

Vera, looking dazed, struggles through the crowd of flag waving, wildly cheering people, stumbles up the stairs and inside. 

Cut to the interior and suddenly we’re miles away in St Bartholomew the Great in Smithfield.  

I watched fascinated as they filmed that Armistice Day scene over and over again. One of the crew said they’d been at it all afternoon.  

The finished product showed 45 seconds of the fictional Whitehall Street and just over a minute inside the church. 

The interior of St Bartholomew the Great which featured in the opening sequence of “Testament of Youth”

It was just one of scores of films shot at the UNESCO World Heritage site.  

Back in 2012, there was a seven-metre high Elephant, which was a replica of a 19th century French monument, and Greenwich suddenly morphed into Paris where the original, the 23-metre high Elephant of the Bastillei, once stood. 

It also became the killing fields in the fictional Battle of Greenwich in Thor: The Dark World, where good guy Thor and his human followers went into action against the Dark Elves intent on destroying the world. 

 Well, I suppose if you’re going to try that you might as well start at the Greenwich Meridian Line! 

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