A MYSTERIOUS Wearside country estate is hosting hundreds of BBC cast and crew in the creation of a multimillion pound costume drama.
The Paradise, which uses around 100 local extras, is in the midst of filming its second series at The Lambton Estate, near Burnmoor.
Though visitors are rarely allowed to get a peek behind the walls of the ancestral home of the Earls of Durham, the estate has signed a long-term contract with the BBC.
The Paradise, which is set in England’s first department store in the 1870s, proved such a hit with viewers when it first aired in the autumn, regularly attracting six million viewers, that it was immediately recommissioned.
Among the stars filming on Wearside for the next few weeks is Ben Daniels, who is in the running to be named as the new Doctor Who when it’s announced tomorrow.
The House of Cards actor will be playing new character Tom Weston, an enigmatic former soldier who has married landowner’s daughter Katherine Glendenning, played by Elaine Cassidy.
For the five month shoot, Lambton Castle has been transformed into the show’s eponymous shop while the estate’s Biddick Hall is home to the Glendenning/Westons.
Producer Simon Lewis said: “Lambton Castle was in a very poor state when we were looking for locations, but what was here were lovely wood panels in the style of Liberty and Fortnum & Mason’s.
“The castle was built at the height of the Lambtons’ wealth, but when we arrived, it hadn’t been lived in for more than 70 years.”
He added: “We looked all over the country for locations, but as well as the castle, we also have Biddick Hall and the woods as part of the package.
“It’s also a good deal because it’s a completely closed set, we get no interruption from the public.”
Simon revealed that although the BBC has a long-term contract with the estate, other contracts relating to the drama are renewed on an annual basis.
But with strong viewing figures and the first series due to be aired on America’s PBS network in the autumn, The Paradise looks set to be a regular TV listings fixture.