Wonka Filming Locations: Imagination on Location

Article by Jane

December 23rd, 2023

Find the Wonka filming locations from to Eltham Palace, Bodiam Castle, Lyme Regis Cobb, Pulteney Bridge, Verulamium Lake, Goring Gap, Oxford’s Bridge of Sighs and Radcliffe Camera, Bath Abbey, Mapledurham Estate, and Warner Bros Studios Leavesden.

We’ll also explore the inspiration behind the imaginative sets that complete Paul King and Simon Farnaby’s 2023 prequel.

Aspiring chocolatier Willy Wonka (Timothee Chalamet) has travelled the world in search of new flavours. Finally he’s ready to take his place in the Galeries Gourmet, the foodie heaven of his mother’s (Sally Hawkins) stories… only to find that the resident chocolatiers have formed a consortium.

Slugworth (Paterson Joseph), Fickelgruber (Mathew Baynton) and Prodnose (Matt Lucas) don’t want another candy-maker in town, and they’ll do anything to keep out the competition.

Together with his new friend, Noodle (Calah Lane), Wonka sets out to take on the chocolatiers. Once he’s evaded the villainous Mrs Scrubitt (Olivia Colman) and Bleacher (Tom Davis), of course.

With appearances from Hugh Grant as Lofty the Oompa Loompa, Charlotte Ritchie as Barbara, Rowan Atkinson as Father Julius, and more, it’s a star-studded chocolatey adventure. And the Willy Wonka prequel features some fantastical filming locations too.

Where Was Wonka Filmed?

Willy Wonka
Wonka was filmed in Oxford, Lyme Regis, Bath, St Albans, East Sussex, the City of London and Royal Borough of Greenwich. The Willy Wonka 2023 movie was also filmed at Warner Bros Studios Leavesden, taking over the backlot and 3 sound stages with 50 sets.

Production designer Nathan Crowley, set decorator Lee Sandales and property master Jamie Wilkinson drew on French, Belgian, Czech, Dutch, Swiss, Italian and German cities to create Wonka’s world. And of course, there’s plenty of inspiration from Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka stories in this Charlie and the Chocolate Factory prequel.

Here are the studio sets, the places that inspired them, and the Wonka filming locations you can visit in real life.

Wonka Locations

Town Square

Wonka’s town square scenes were filmed at Leavesden, including the fountain and cathedral steps. It took 8 months to build the square, with its many shop entrances and the central fountain. The Cathedral entrance section was inspired by St Paul’s in London (more on that later) and the churches of Prague. This location appears throughout the Willy Wonka movie, including some of its wackiest scenes. The giraffe, funeral and fountain scenes all take place here.

The Abbey

Bath Abbey Bath Abbey. Simon Burchell, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
Look out for Bath Abbey in Wonka, one of several locations in the Somerset city that appears in Wonka. Most of the Bath locations appear early in the Willy Wonka prequel, when the chocolate maker reaches his destination after travelling the world. Visit Bath have shared a few behind the scenes secrets from the shoot, including locations that didn’t make it onto the screen.

Wonka’s Bench

The bench location where Willy Wonka rests after arriving in the city is Bath’s Colonnades. Built in the 17th Century, the Colonnades lead from Pulteney Bridge to Parade Gardens. Though of course, Wonka doesn’t get to stay here for long. After settling on the bench with a cup of hot chocolate, Bleach tempts him away to the boarding house.

Scrubitt & Bleach

The Scrubitt and Bleach scenes in the 2023 Wonka movie were filmed at Warner Bros Studios in Leavesden. The guest house and laundry’s twisting and turning corridors, barred windows and mangles were specially constructed sets. In the movie, this is where Wonka befriends Noodle (Calah Lane), Larry Chucklesworth (Rich Fulcher), Lottie Bell (Rakhee Thakrar), and Abacus Crunch (Jim Carter).

Slugworth’s Office

Eltham Palace Eltham Palace. Tom Parnell, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
Eltham Palace is Wonka’s filming location for Slugworth’s office. It’s seen when accountant Abacus Crunch (Jim Carter) visits the Slughorn’s office during a flashback sequence. But believe it or not, this distinctly Art Deco room belongs to a medieval palace.

It was renovated by Stephen and Virginia Courtauld in the 1930s, giving us the Art Deco interior we see in Wonka. The pair earned a reputation for eccentric building projects, leaving Eltham to eventually build a replica French chateau. The unlikely palace has appeared in The Crown as a fashion studio, Misbehaviour as Bob Hope’s mansion and Stan & Ollie as Fox Studios. An eclectic mix for an eclectic location.

If you want to visit a Wonka filming location in London, Eltham Palace in the Royal Borough of Greenwich is easy to explore. It’s an English Heritage property with its own café and travel-themed playground. The Slugworth’s office location opens year-round, but check open days and times in advance.

The Chocolate Cartel’s Vault

The cathedral vault scenes in Wonka were filmed at Warner Bros Studios Leavesden. While the cathedral above is entirely real, the chocolatiers’ cartel hideout was specially built. And that makes sense, because it had to accommodate a song and dance sequence, hundreds of chocolate boxes, vault doors and more.

The Cathedral

St Paul's Cathedral St Paul's Cathedral. Diliff, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
Wonka’s cathedral location is St Paul’s Cathedral in London (though the exterior on the square was replicated at Leavesden). St Paul’s appears in the confession scenes, chanting monks scene, giraffe scene – the list goes on.

If you second-guessed this location because it’s so iconic, you’re probably not alone. St Paul’s Cathedral previously appeared in Paddington 2, another movie by Wonka director Paul King. The London landmark dates back to the early 7th Century, passing through successive rebuilds until the 17th Century. It was destroyed by the Great Fire of London in 1666 and rebuilt by Christopher Wren under instruction from King Charles II.

Canals

The canal boat scenes were filmed at the Mapledurham Estate in Berkshire, Goring Gap and Sutton Bridge. The Mapledurham Estate is home Mapledurham House, acres of land, and the last working watermill on the River Thames. It’s not open by general admission, but does host group tours.

Goring Gap on the Oxfordshire and Berkshire border also appears in Wonka’s narrowboat flashback scenes. Once again, the Thames flows through this Wonka location. And one more Wonka movie canal location is Sutton Bridge in Oxfordshire, close to Goring Gap.

It’s on the western edge of the Chilterns AONB. Worth noting, Willy Wonka creator Roald Dahl was inspired by the Chiltern Hills around his home in Great Missenden, on the eastern edge.

The Zoo

The Wonka zoo location is Verulamium Lake, St Albans in March 2022 – the last location where filming took place. As the Herts Advertiser reported at the time, Timothee Chalamet and Calah Lane were spotted at the Wonka location during night shoots. The Hertfordshire park was covered in fake snow for the scene, adding a touch of wintry magic.

Verulamium Lake may not be a real zoo, but it’s close to the UK’s largest, Whipsnade Zoo – part of ZSL. Roald Dahl fans may recognise its address in Dunstable, because the 2022 Matilda movie was filmed on its doorstep.

Low Bridge

Bridge of Sighs, Oxford David Hallam-Jones / Hertford Bridge, often called the Bridge of Sighs, Oxford
The bridge location in Wonka is Oxford’s Bridge of Sighs, in the centre of the university city. Officially known as Hertford Bridge, it links two parts of Hertford College. And of course, it’s a much-loved local sight and filming location. This Oxford bridge has appeared in detective series and BBC thrillers, X-Men First Class, The Riot Club and everything in between.

Galeries Gourmet

Wonka’s Galeries Gourmet was built at the Warner Bros backlot in Leavesden near Watford. That means you can’t visit, but there’s a very real shopping arcade behind the elaborate set. In an interview with House Beautiful, production designer Nathan Crowley revealed the inspiration behind the Galeries Gourmet.

“...the delicious things in the town square, like many Belgium town square Christmas markets almost. And then you've got to step it up to something like the Milan fashion houses.”
Nathan Crowley, Production Designer

To elevate the Galeries Gourmet set, Crowley was inspired by the glamorous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan. It’s one of the world’s oldest shopping malls, with a reputation for prestige brands. The real shopping arcades can be seen in House of Gucci, which was predominantly filmed in and around Milan.

Wonka’s Chocolate Shop

Willy Wonka’s chocolate shop was built on set at Leavesden Studios using imitation and real, edible chocolate. Chocolatiers handcrafted 1,895 chocolates for Wonka’s chocolate shop, including cherry blossoms and 6 chocolate teacups.

Like the Harry Potter movies (also filmed at Leavesden), the fantastical creations in Wonka’s shop were created with practical effects. The tree and river moved mechanically.

The Harbour

The Wonka harbour location is the Cobb in Lyme Regis. Timothee Chalamet was spotted filming in October 2021, with Love Lyme Regis capturing behind-the-scenes footage of the Wonka harbour scenes. And it reveals some fantastically low-tech movie magic in action.

The Cobb is the name given to the harbour wall, which was built as a breakwater to keep the wind and waves away from the coastal town. It dates back to at least 1294, while Lyme itself was a bustling international port for centuries.

The Library

Noodle’s library location in Wonka is the Radcliffe Camera in Oxford. The Oxford University library building was dusted with fake snow for the shoot, with vintage cars pulling up nearby. Look out for nearby streets and parts of the Bodleian Library complex in the Wonka scene.

The Lane

Jim Carter was spotted filmed scenes as Abacus Crunch in Abbey Mill Lane, St Albans in March 2022. The area used is close to Ye Olde fighting Cocks pub. This Wonka filming location is just around the corner from Verulamium Park, where the zoo scenes were filmed. Abacus is seen walking down the lane, complete with bowler hat and briefcase, accompanied by extras in period dress.

Comedy Club

Larry Chucklesworth’s (Rich Fulcher) comedy club location in Wonka is the Rivoli Ballroom. The venue’s 1950s décor has attracted listed status, and that period appeal makes it a popular filming location. You can catch the Rivoli Ballroom in everything from Legend to Muppets Most Wanted.

The Castle

Bodiam Castle Bodiam Castle. August Schwerdfeger, CC BY 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
The fantasy castle location in Wonka is Bodiam Castle. Look out for the castle ruins later in the movie, when they’re transformed by CGI versions of the factory of Willy Wonka’s dreams.

It was built around 1385 by Sir Edward and Elizabeth Dallingridge, with the fortune Sir Edward accumulated during his military career. As seen in the movie, Bodiam Castle is surrounded by a moat. The castle looks complete from the outside, but the interior reveals tumbling ruins. Inside, you’ll find partial fireplaces, partial turrets and doorways to nowhere. Look closely and you can also find protection marks, designed to guard the residents from evil.

Bodiam Castle is easy for Wonka fans to visit – it’s a National Trust property that regularly opens to the public. Check the current opening dates, times and prices online before you travel to this East Sussex Wonka location.