Monday 10 April 2023

Walking The Beatles' London - October 2022 (part eight): Chiswick House

Day 2 - Part 2

Chiswick House and Gardens,
Burlington Lane,
Chiswick, W4

Despite some strong competition from St Pancras Old Church and the area around Soho, our penultimate location on this trip was quite possibly the best location of the entire weekend.

The Beatles came here on 20 May 1966 with director Michael Lindsay-Hogg to film promotional films for both sides of their new 'Paperback Writer' / 'Rain' single. 

They had spent the previous day being filmed at EMI studios by Lindsay-Hogg - with whom they would later  make both the ‘Hey Jude’ and ‘Revolution’ promo clips in 1968 and the ‘Let It Be’ film in 1969 - giving straight to camera mimed performances of both sides of the single.  Multiple black and white takes of the both 'Paperback Writer' and 'Rain' were filmed (in black and white) in addition to a colour clip for each, the latter intended for broadcast on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’, with Ringo explaining in the specially taped introduction that they were too busy with the washing and the cooking (and recording 'Revolver') to fly over to New York and appear on the show in person.

Those clips were shot on video tape, and have visually dated. For the following day’s filming at Chiswick House, Lindsay-Hogg decided to use colour 35mm film, resulting in images that despite being 56 years old still look as crisp and sharp today as they did when they were recorded.  Arguably the Beatles' two greatest promotional films, they are now considered to be the precursors for today's ubiquitous music videos.      

'The idea was that we'd use them in America as well as the UK, because we thought, we can't go everywhere. We're stopping touring and we'll send these films out to promote the record... These days obviously everybody does that - it's part of the promotion for a single - so I suppose in a way we invented MTV' (George Harrison)

Paperback Writer

Filming for the A-side of the single took part in primarily two locations, the fabs miming to the song in the statue garden and entrance to the conservatory, with insert shots of the group sitting on one of the benches in front of the latter. 

The statue garden

After individual shots of each Beatle's face, the film opens on a close-up of this Socrates-like-bust at the entrance to the statue garden. 

Walking in from the car park past a gate featured in the 'Rain' film (see below) we seemed to happen upon the statue garden almost immediately.  Steve had visited before but this was my first time and I felt like we were walking onto a film set - which of course we were. It's completely unchanged from 1966.

Fortuitously, November's edition of Mojo magazine carried a review of the Revolver super-deluxe set and included a free print of the Beatles in the statue garden!

Joining the Beatle's usual crew of Neil, Mal, Brian Epstein, Tony Barrow and Alf Bicknell for the shoot at Chiswick was their current favourite photographer, Robert Whitaker, who took many superb shots of the group during and in-between takes.  

Personally, I don't think any musical act has ever looked better than the Beatles during the latter part of their mop-toppery, the period encompassing the 1965 'Help!' film through to  the end of the US tour in 1966. Whitaker was on hand to photograph much of it, and his best pictures have been published in several collections of his work.  His individual photos of George, who was having a fantastic hair day at Chiswick House, are particularly magnificent.

The conservatory (glass house)

The group were filmed miming 'Paperback Writer' in the central section of the Grade I listed glass house, John, Paul and George performing standing up, Ringo sitting, somewhat self-consciously, on the circular mosaic, surrounded by a 200 year old Camelia collection, which has since been moved. 

(Left) The entrance to the glass house today, shot from the same direction as the 'Paperback Writer' film. (Right) Beatles' historian Steve Bradley giving it his best 'Ringo on the mosaic' pose. 

The whole structure looks immaculate following a £12 million restoration of the estate in 2010 and is now a popular setting for weddings, film and fashion shoots. Of course,  it still brings in the Beatle nuts too, although thankfully we didn't spot any during our visit.

The bench

Just outside the conservatory, to the right of the entrance is a bench on which the fabs were filmed sitting, each leaning forward in turn.


The film opens with a longshot of Ringo walking from the gate between the car park (where we came in, and where in May 1966 a group of local secondary school children had assembled) and the walled garden.

Unfortunately the gate was locked so we had to photograph it from the vantage point of the schoolchildren who stood on these steps trying to catch a glimpse of the Beatles within the walled garden (above) and from the opposite end (middle image) showing the path on which Ringo walks toward the camera. 

This is my fabgearfaverave pic of George from the day. Unable to access the aforementioned gate we improvised and used the gate at the other end of the garden for an approximate 'now and then'. Disclaimer: No actual cigarettes were inhaled during the recreation of this image. 

The 'Rain' promo then cuts to shots of the Beatles' frontline performing the song sitting in the low branch of a cedar tree facing the statue garden where they had stood for 'Paperback Writer', while Ringo sits atop a plinth (today occupied by an ornate urn).     

No doubt countless fans have visited Chiswick House since 1966 and sat on the Beatles’ tree, which is why the  area is now roped off, to stop people like me.

One of Robert Whitaker's photos appeared on the sleeve of the ‘Nowhere Man’ EP, in 1966.  

They are also seen walking, slightly trance-like, around the interior of the conservatory, and performing 'Rain' amongst some leafy bushes in an area of the park known as the wilderness, found to the north east of the car park.

In 1966, the side wing of the conservatory, had a chicken wire fence across it, providing the Beatles with some privacy as it was not open to the public.  One of Whitaker’s shots was used on the rear cover of some the 1970s reissued UK singles.  Today ,there is still no public access although the fence has gone.

Whenever we visit a Beatles location we always look to see whether the current owner is aware of the connection, and whether they have chosen to mark it in some way, for example with a plaque or photograph.

Chiswick House has this large information panel in the conservatory (see left).

They proudly state that they have a claim to be the birthplace of the music video, which although by later standards are 'comparably slow-moving' have many of the typical characteristics: Quick editing, artistic close-ups and plenty of shots of the singers starting into the middle distance oozing cool'. 

They're not wrong.


Fifteens years later, on Monday 31 August 1981, another of my favourite UK bands, The Jam (serious sixties-nuts) also went on location to Chiswick House to shoot photos for their forthcoming single 'Absolute Beginners'/'Tales From the Riverbank'. Derek D'Souza got invited to take the photos.

If I may, I'd like to stop Beatling for a moment and indulge in some.... er... Jamming? 

They posed in the statue garden next to the statue that George sat on in 1966... 

On the steps of the Ionic Temple near the obelisk ...

By a bust in front of the main house...

On the steps of the main house ... 

and at the Inigo Jones Gateway.


All photographs of the Beatles copyright Robert Whitaker, Apple and Subafilms.

The Jam photographs copyright Derek D'Souza. Check out his fantastic work here:

Chiswick House is one of the ultimate Beatles' sites outside of Liverpool. Find out more here: Chiswick House & Gardens (

Information sourced from The Beatles' London book and Kenwood's blog (see link in sidebar).


1 comment:

  1. I visited Chiswick House in November 2021, and did the same thing with recreating photos (I was even tricked into some air guitar video in the statue garden), but with one exception - although usually a stickler for the rules, there was no way I was travelling 10,000 miles from Australia and not be photographed sitting on that tree branch!