Saltaire is transformed into Lancashire mill town for filming of Netflix drama The English Game

Netflix film crews have spent the past week in Saltaire shooting scenes for a new period drama based on the story of the Football League.

Filming outside a row of shops on Victoria Road in Saltaire
Filming outside a row of shops on Victoria Road in Saltaire

The World Heritage Site between Leeds and Bradford was transformed into the Lancashire mill town of Darwen during filming of The English Game, which was written by Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes. Salts Mill provided the backdrop to street scenes that were shot on a parade of shops on Victoria Road.

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Local business owner Jackie Hopwood runs a sandwich bar and a paint shop on the row, and both properties were transformed into authentic Victorian stores.

The shops had to close for a day while scenes for The English Game were filmed

Jackie herself even got the chance to appear as an extra in the Netflix production, playing a market stall holder.

"We closed for one day - it's a bit disruptive but it was only a one-off and the crew cleared up really well. The sandwich shop became a bakery. The cafe and off-licence on the row took part too, we were all approached."

Stage crew covered the modern shop canopy, fixed wooden panels to the windows and used old wood to panel the door. Fresh bread was placed on a display outside and shelving was installed inside for more products.

The row of shops on Victoria Road

The adjoining shop became a 19th-century butcher's, and a real pig's carcass was hung outside.

"In the scenes we're in, the mill workers are out on strike and there's a football match between a team from Darwen and a local team that ends 5-5."

It's not the first time Jackie's businesses have appeared on screen - Saltaire has become a popular filming location in recent years with appearances in Peaky Blinders, Agatha Christie's The ABC Murders and An Inspector Calls.

"It's created a lot of interest - a lot of people have come down to watch the filming, which is great for businesses. It does bring in tourism and having Julian Fellowes involved, with the Downton Abbey link, does generate interest."

Extras gather for filming

What is The English Game?

The English Game - which will be shown on Netflix in 2020 - tells the story of the creation of the Football League and how the game crossed class divides to capture the imagination of the English public. The six-part series is set in the late 1800s, when the debate about whether to allow professionalism in football was dividing the country.

Saltaire has been chosen as a location because several northern mill owners were instrumental in the founding of the Football League. Although filming is not taking place inside Salts Mill itself, the exterior of the mill will appear as a backdrop.

Kingsman’s Edward Holcroft, Line of Duty’s Craig Parkinson and Charlotte Hope, who played Ramsay Bolton’s lover Myranda in Game of Thrones, are among the cast. Happy Valley's Tim Fywell is one of the directors.

The scenes were set in the Lancashire mill town of Darwen during a workers' strike