RECENTLY ON INSTAGRAM, we posted an English countryside cottage (above) that captured the imaginations of thousands. Many of you asked if it was the cottage from the 2006 Nancy Meyers film, The Holiday. It is not (although there are similarities), as Rosehill Cottage from The Holiday sadly doesn’t exist, its exterior built from scratch in an empty field on a hillside overlooking the town of Shere.
Before the building of Rosehill Cottage, the Production Designer for the film, Jon Hutman, explained, “We were looking for the cutest, smallest, most English cottage that we could find, and we found one, actually, that belonged to the National Trust.” Unfortunately, it was isolated and over four hours from London, where the cast and crew was based, making it much more expensive to film. And so, Rosehill Cottage as we remember it from the film was created, and as it was only an exterior shell, it was torn down after filming finished.
Above, the wonderfully charming exterior of the fictional Rosehill Cottage, where Iris Simpkins (played by Kate Winslet) lived. This fictional cottage is set in a town that is a forty-minute commute to London, where Winslet’s character works as a wedding columnist for The Daily Telegraph. Scenes of the town where Rosehill is supposed to be located are actually filmed in two locations, Shere and Godalming. (More on these villages below.)
The design for Rosehill Cottage was said to be inspired by the very real Honeysuckle Cottage, located in the London commuter village of Holmbury St Mary near Dorking. The three-bedroom period property actually went on the market in 2018 for £650,000. Scroll down to the bottom to see photos of the building of the exterior of Rosehill Cottage.
Scene from The Holiday, starring Cameron Diaz as successful Hollywood executive, Amanda Woods, arriving at Rosehill Cottage
At Rosehill Cottage, scene from The Holiday
The level of detail in the construction of the English countryside cottage was astounding. A prop company was hired to help with the grounds: “As the storyline was set at Christmas we could not attempt to turn the garden at ‘Rosehill Cottage’ into a glorious riot of colour. Instead, through the introduction of some green and sculptural planting in flower beds, rambling vines over stone walls and a collection of terracotta planters and chimney pots with aged lavender and heather, the garden’s subtle charm and character was gently suggested. Adding to the overall feel of winter’s slumber was the 20ft bare winter tree that we installed in the garden with a wooden tree-seat.”
The interiors of Rosehill Cottage were created on a Culver City soundstage in California, and therefore no longer exist, but when they did, they were the most perfect incarnation of a quintessential English country cottage there ever was. All cosy with ceiling beams and roaring fires, it was filled with mismatched furniture that worked perfectly together: a striped sofa and a chintz-y armchair, a velvet tufted ottoman used as a coffee table.
Original plans were to decorate the cottage with more contemporary furnishings to complement the back story that Iris moved there from a small flat in London and brought them with her, but in the end, the modern furniture was not a good fit, making the space look too young and too cheap. In the end, more traditional furnishings were used. According to the Production Designer, Jon Hutman, “A lot of it is trial and error. It comes down to how do you make it feel English without making it look like a grandmother’s house?” Nancy Meyers was in agreement: “We pushed furniture around in there forever. We kept trying different things. But I think we arrived at the right thing.”
Iris’s cosy bedroom, complete with roaring fire, a traditional iron bed, faded painted bedside table, wicker baskets and a touch of chinoiserie.
Still from the film: Cameron Diaz as Amanda Woods, settling into the bedroom at Rosehill Cottage
The kitchen at Rosehill Cottage is utterly charming with its painted stone walls and sky blue cabinet, wicker dinner table, open shelves displaying blue and white dinnerware, and of course a roaring fire.
Scene from the film
The quaint bathroom at Rosehill Cottage withs its tiny roll top tub.
Scene from the film
The reading nook at Rosehill Cottage
Shere & Godalming
Scenes featuring Iris’s quintessential English country village were actually shot in two separate villages: Shere & Godalming.
Shere is charming, idyllic village in the Guildford district of Surrey, set in the Tillingbourne Valley. A popular commuter village south-west of London, Shere has a population just under 4,000 and is nestled in the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The village includes a small museum, a blacksmith, a tearoom, two pubs―The White Horse and The William Bray―as well as a 12th century church. The River Tillingbourne runs through the centre of the village.
Shere is thought to be the prettiest and most photographed of all Surrey towns and has had many other films shot there, including Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994), Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (2004), and The Wedding Date (2005).
Above & below: The 16th century White Horse Tavern where Amanda Woods has dinner with Graham Simpkins, a book editor (and Iris’s brother), actually exists and is located in Shere. It had to be shut for a couple of days for filming.
In the Director’s Commentary section of The Holiday DVD, Producer & Director Nancy Meyers shared the reason why she decided to use Shere as the location for the film: not only is Shere a beautiful, quintessential English country village, but it is also an hour away from London, where the cast and crew were based. Shere made financial and geographical sense. “We came upon Shere in Surrey almost by chance,” says Hutman. “Once we found the perfect site, production [for Iris’s cottage] began just up the hill from St. James Church and down the road from the 16th century White Horse Tavern.” (from Locations Hub)
The Church of St. James has been around since 1190. The spire, built between 1213 and 1300, is an excellent example of a brooch spire. It was covered with cedar shingles which were replaced by handmade oak shakes in 2000. (Source)
Above, the other pub in Shere, The William Bray, was once known as the Prince of Wales and formerly Cook’s Beer House. It was built in the late 18th century, the frontage being an early 20th century addition. (Source)
A clipping from page 43 of the March 2020 edition of Parish Magazine: Shere Parish Council’s statement on filming in the village (from Shere Delight)
Some of the scenes for The Holiday were filmed in Godalming, a medieval market town on the River Wey, about eight miles from Shere. The train station and driving scenes through a picturesque village strung up with fairy lights and Christmas garlands and covered in “snow” were all filmed here. “Combining the square in Shere with Godalming’s Church Street made for the perfect village” says Hutman.
Interesting fact: Godalming was also the world’s first town to have electric street lights.
Adding snow to the streets of Godalming
THE BUILDING OF ROSEHILL COTTAGE
“The cottage … it was quite amazing to watch it being built. It started off as a field and four wooden pegs, and a cross bar held up by two tall men. Within four days, you could actually see the cottage. And then four weeks spent landscaping and gardening the outside to make it look like the garden has been there for, you know, 200 years. As long as the cottage has been there. So the house itself just appeared in one week.” ―Greenacre, from The Holiday DVD