Kubrick’s old home: Abbots Mead

Stanley Kubrick’s daughter Katharina Kubrick revisits her old home at Abbots Mead. Broadcast on 10th of November 2015 on BBC1’s The One Show. Thanks to the original uploader of the video, UK TV-Cinemania. In January, 2006, the following post originally appeared at the Google Groups.

This is a turn of the (19th) Century house called Abbots Mead in Barnet Lane, sold to him by Simon ‘Pop Idol’ Cowell’s father, where Stanley Kubrick lived from 1965 to 1979. Nothing is really film-related about the houses of most directors unless they’ve been used for location shoots. Except that Kubrick worked almost exclusively from home. So this place was, in effect, ‘The Stanley Kubrick Studios.’ And for 14 years, with some exceptions, he researched, invented special-effects techniques, designed ultra-low light Mitchell cameras and lenses (now available for rent at Elstree Studios), pre-produced, edited, post-produced, advertised, distributed and carefully managed all aspects of four films from his extraordinary body of work from this very house. But always close enough to his chosen locations to drive back from the shoots at night and sleep in his own bed.

Kubrick’s career pretty much peaked in the middle in terms of sheer bravado, creativity and originality whilst he was living right here. You have to wonder just how much the house contributed to the following films:

  • Napoleon (an on and off never-realised project)
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey (1965 to 1968)
  • A Clockwork Orange (1969 to 1971)
  • Barry Lyndon (1972 to 1975)
  • The Shining (1976 to 1980—finished the year after he moved to Childwickbury Green)

It’s almost a shrine to such brilliant filmmaking. For a man who always liked to keep his locations as close to home as possible—within a 10 mile radius you’ll find the following places:

  • The MGM studios (demolished) at Borehamwood, where 2001 was made, including the backlot, (now a housing estate) where the bone waltzed into film history and into a space station.
  • Shepperton was where the first scenes were filmed as the astronauts decended into the Tycho crater, Stanley’s reflection immortalized on one of their space helmets. Too bad London’s orbital motorway hadn’t been built yet. Commuting to Shepperton must have been one long trip, but then again traffic wasn’t what it is now—home still within reach.
  • For A Clockwork Orange, the ‘Korova Milk Bar,’ ‘Alex in F. Alexander’s bathroom,’ ‘Prison Check-in,’ ‘Handmaiden Fantasy’ scene were shot on the corner of Bullhead Road and Elstree Way (now a Shell petrol station).

Thamesmead, in particular Binsey Walk and Yarnton Way for a nocturnal whistleing Alex returning to his beat-up flat.

  • The Police Station was the recently torn down ‘Psychological Testing Unit’ at Brunel University, still visible on some old satellite images. The rest of the buildings remain where the following were shot: ‘Ludovico Reception Check-In,’ ‘Alex’s bedroom,’ ‘Ludovico Treatment theatre’ and the hallway to his flatblock with the broken lift and nude soviet-style painting.
  • The public presentation of a ‘cured’ Alex takes place at the Nettlefold Hall, part of West Norwood’s Library. It remains identical.
  • The ‘Duke Of New York’ a mile south at a pub called ‘The Bottle and Dragon’ (formerly the ‘Old Leather Bottle’) in Stonegrove, Edgware, now demolished but apparently visible on Google Earth as of January 2006. ‘The Apollo’ pub was also used on Pinner Road, Harrow.
  • The Durango 95 coming down the lane and stopping outside ‘HOME’ was in Brickett Wood on the lane running from the Munden House to School Lane as was the Police Landrover/’Trough beating’ scene. The scenes of the Durango running other drivers off the road was shot around Colney Heath.

  • The other fantasy scenes he has in the prison library were shot around the Dashwood Mausoleum. The final ‘Rape Fantasy’ scene was shot at the old (torn down) Handley Page hangar just a few 100 yards from the M25. The Shining’s overturned lorry/snow blizzard scene were shot on the runway.
  • Exterior of F. Alexander’s house (Droogs walking past ponds and up to the entrance) was on Ascott Road, Shipton-under-Wychwood in Oxfordshire. The furthest location from SK’s house.
  • The interior of Alex’s ‘Flat Block Marina’ home, in Canterbury House, a tower block near the old MGM Studios and Estree Studios in Borehamwood, which overlooks the ‘Eastenders’ set.
  • The Catlady’s House, now a school inside Shenley Lodge at Blackhorse Lane by the M25 motorway. New additions to the building mean that the break in at the rear is now gone.
  • Wandsworth Prison, just half a mile from the tramp beating filmed in the underpass at Wandsworth roundabout. The interior of the prison was at the (then) abandoned Cambridge Barracks in Woolwich. The gateway still stands, the rest has been torn down and is now a housing estate.
  • The Prison Chapel and Prison Governor’s Office was shot at the White Father’s buildings in Totteridge Common, Hendon Wood Lane.
  • Albert Bridge where Alex stares into the water and it’s underpass where the tramps take revenge. The record shop a short drive away on the Kings Road.
  • The Edgwarebury Hotel (now ‘Corus Hotel Elstree’—US $75 for Bed & Breakfast) where they play Beethoven loudly (HiFi room scene) and Alex attempts suicide (Prisoner Room scene) is about 500 yards west of Abbots Mead with the entrance sign-posted in Barnet Lane.

If you ever wanted to do the Clockwork Orange grand tour, it could be done in a couple of days. That’s how close all the locations turn out to be, with Bullhead Road half way between the old MGM Studio (2001: A Space Odyssey) and Elstree Studios as the ‘site’ of the Korova Milk Bar.

Ironically, although one of his high-points at this place must have been cosying up on the sofa to watch yourself get an Oscar for 2001, it was here that after receiving hate mail and even death threats he felt physically very vulnerable. So much so, after UK Police advised him, he asked Warner Brothers to withdraw the film from distribution in the UK for his and the family’s own safety. ACO consolidated his tour-de-force after Dr. Strangelove and 2001, but it also introduced a sour note. Hey, it’s not easy being an adventurous young filmmaker whose principal interests are ultra-controversial films, not getting ‘raped’ for them and a lot of classical music.

 
For Barry Lyndon it must have pained him to be away for so long in Ireland and around the UK. Well, it got him out of the house, as they say. Still, he did get to pre and post-produce at home. His next house looks like something out of Barry Lyndon. Truly palatial and grand. So the Boy From the Bronx made it to the top of meritocratic society.

For The Shining it was a ten-minute drive to Elstree Studios in Borehamwood. Practically all the sets were built from scratch on the sound stages and the exterior front of the Overlook Hotel was built on the backlot. If I’m not wrong this area would now be the Tesco supermarket right by the studios. This was statistically his most ‘at-home’ movie. And no location shooting done by Kubrick in person. That was always down to the 2nd Unit. Only the final editing was carried out at his new home in Childwickbury.

Miscellaneous Info:

In 2005 on a Google search, Abotts Mead Lodge with 4 bedrooms turns up for rent via Palmer Mandley & Sparrow for US $5000 per month. I presume that’s the smaller house by the entrance. I wonder how much the big Victorian house is?

Vivian Kubrick, his daughter, coined the alias Abigail Mead on Full Metal Jacket for the credits, partly based on her old home.

The letters ‘Abbots’ appear in gold on the left hand side of the entrance gate and ‘Mead’ on the other side. The house next door to the West is ‘Friars Mead.’

In Taschen’s book ‘The Stanley Kubrick Archives’ a number of photographs taken at this house are included. Cats lounging on Steenbeck editing tables, Stanley comparing two identical takes from Barry Lyndon on two different Steenbecks in the garage where he set up the editing rooms.

Finally:

If you’re a Kubrick fan, then in this world there are not many things of his you can reach out and touch, monolith style. There are the fake autographs on eBay, the remastered DVDs, the bio books and of course the real locations. Visiting them is like walking onto the sets, especially at Thamesmead (where Alex beats Dim and Pete into the water), which is just as ominous today as it was then. You can appreciate how he framed his camera; why he chose certain angles. I’ll let you discover that for yourselves.

Hurry while they last. Stanley filmed quite often in the early morning or late evening to get the light just right. Try and be there at the ‘magic hour.’ Thamesmead is in the process of demolition as of 2008.

Previously unseen photos of Stanley Kubrick editing Barry Lyndon in the converted garage of his home in Abbots Mead, December 1974. Many thanks to Vivian Kubrick for sharing these amazing photos.

 
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