Those who have been watching A Place to Call Home on Sunday night Sydney television (and I have been one of them) will be dismayed to have learned last night that we are down to the second last episode.
A Place to Call Home is the Australian version of Downton Abbey, even replacing it at the same time on the same station on the same night after Downton Abbey concluded.
Btw, does anyone else think that the Arianwen Parkes-Lockwod, who plays Olivia (the pregnant wife married to the family grandson who was in love with her brother), sounds exactly like Michelle Dockery/Lady Mary in Downton Abbey? Nonetheless her history is from Oz: she graduated from the National Institute of Dramatic Art, Sydney, in 2008. The name Arianwen, Welsh for silver-white, was chosen by her parents as she was born on a cold, snowy night in her hometown of Armidale, in the Northern Tablelands, NSW.
Fear not, Homers, a second series is in the works. According to Abby Earl, who plays Anna Bligh (the family granddaughter who is in love with the Italian maid’s son, who gets pregnant and, when she asks her aunt to help her get an abortion, finds out that her aunt is really her mother): "We're locked in pre-production in August and then we start filming in September, so there's plenty of time for me to get back in Anna's shoes."
A Place to Call Home is set in northern New South Wales in 1953, a time when the effects and memories of WW2 were still current and when social attitudes were changing. According to creator and writer Bevan Lee (who alsop created Always Greener, Packed to the Rafters and Winners and Losers), “At the end of the day, conflict is drama and we live in relatively conflict-free society. I had to go to a place where there was pain and damage and hurt; after the war there was."
The show is centred on the Bligh Family and the stately rural home of Ash Park in the fictional town of Inverness. In reality the house shown is on the outskirts of Camden in NSW, south west of Sydney, and is called Camelot. Filming is also carried out in the Southern Highlands.
The 55 room mansion was built in 1888 by James White using funds from his winnings from his racehorse Chester which had 19 wins, including winning the 1877 Melbourne Cup. White was the grand-uncle of famous Australian author Patrick White. Camelot is built on the site of explorer John Oxley's Kirkham Mill after an 1810 land grant and was itself originally called Kirkham.
Photos c 1900
White, a gambler, created the garden beds in the shape of a heart, diamond, spade and club.
The ornate stable block, with hammer-arched roofing, featured as Lady Ashley’s stable in Baz Luhrmann’s film, Australia.
Camelot and its gardens have been restored by the current owners, Brendan and Rachel Powers., who make it available for weddings. The property has only had four owners and was last sold in 1999 for $2.6 million.
The property was renamed Camelot by Frances Faithful-Anderson, who, on seeing the property in 1900, was reminded of the opening verse of Tennyson's The Lady of Shalott:
On either side by river lie
Long fields of barley and of rye,
That clothe the world and meet the sky;
And thro' the field the road runs by
To many tower'd Camelot.
Pictured from left, rear:
Aldo Mignone (Angelo “Gino” Poletti), Abby Earl (Anna Bligh), David Barry (James Bligh), Marta Dusseldorp (Sarah Adams), Craig Hall (Dr Jack Duncan), Frankie J Holden (Roy Briggs)
Pictured from left, front row:
Arianwen Parkes-Lockwood (Olivia Bligh), Noni Hazlehurst (Elizabeth Bligh),Brett Climo (George Bligh)
"I wanted to create a story set in a time when people had experienced tougher things than we have in the last decades. My thoughts went to my parents' generation, who experienced the Second World War and then tried to leave the damage of that experience behind them as they entered the optimistic Fifties. I settled on the year 1953 to open my story, as it was the year the Japanese opened their embassy again in Australia, when various restrictions were being lifted off the Germans in Europe, when it seemed to be expected that everyone put the trauma of the war years away and get on with life in a rather conservative society.
I think the era is interesting because it was so conservative compared to our own, yet the same hopes, wishes, desires and dreams existed within that conservative framework. I think the story shows that "the good old days" were indeed good in many ways, but not good in others as so much that was bad was tolerated or swept under the carpet. It was a time when people looked out for each other more, showed more respect for each other, empathised more. But it was also a time when there was much more hypocrisy, racism and prejudice. I want to celebrate that era, but not romanticise away the fact that as much harm as good was done in the name of conservative values. I hope the audience finds a strong message for today in examining this story from the past."
- Bevan Lee, series creator and writer