There has long been speculation as to the locations of various scenes in the Dirk Bogarde film ‘Hunted’. Bogarde, and his young companion Jon Whiteley, first arrive in The Potteries after hitching a ride in the back of a lorry “up north.” The first scene, where the camera pans across the city and the lorry is seen travelling down the road, is taken from Honeywall, just above the junction with Boon Avenue.
The scene then cuts to the lorry being driven up Sutherland Road, Longton, dropping the pair off near to Paragon Road.
This is where Bogarde and Whiteley spend the evening in a lodging house. This, however, was No.4 Oxford Street, Penkhull, just round the corner from the first scene at Honeywall. This same setting is also used the morning after showing workers walking across the street.
The scene which builds up to the now-legendary jump, beginning with the enforced departure from the lodging house, sweeps passed numerous bottle ovens. Unfortunately these have disappeared and so cannot be used to fix a location, so rapidly has the landscape changed during the last sixty years.
A few theories have evolved as to the location of the bridge from which both Bogarde and Whiteley leaped. However, it is definitely not on the Stoke to Derby line in the vicinity of Sutherland Road, Longton. Immediately before Bogarde jumps the film clearly shows three bridges in close proximity. No three bridges so close together ever existed on this section of the Stoke to Derby line. This is also true of the Longton, Adderley Green and Bucknall branch line that ran from Millfield Junction halfway between the bridge that carries Weston Coyney Road over the main line and where Normacot station once stood.
A few years ago I remember seeing a photograph of the Potteries Loop Line and the three bridges taken from a similar viewpoint as in the film. The caption beneath the photograph dated it to 1967 and added that it was taken alongside the site of Sneyd Colliery (on the right). The first of the three bridges was identical to that used in the film, the position of the telegraph poles, and the building that stood immediately to the left of the bridge.
The 1937 large-scale Ordnance Survey map clearly shows these three bridges. The one that the jump was made from was a bridge that connected Sneyd Colliery to the Brickworks on the other side of the embankment, as was the second one. The third bridge in the distance carried a rail line that linked the two sites. Sadly none of these three bridges exist today. The closest is the one that carries Lingard Street, although this is not seen in the film.
To confuse matters further, after Whiteley jumps Bogarde runs towards him along the tops of the moving trucks. When Bogarde picks him up and lifts him into an empty wagon this scene showing numerous bottle ovens is super-imposed behind the actors, possibly filmed afterwards in the studio.
Back in 1998 The Sentinel newspaper published a letter from John Dunn who played the uncredited paper boy who delivered the morning paper to the lodging house at 4 Oxford Street. He recalled that while being taken to school by his father a taxi drew up alongside them and the driver asked to find a young boy to appear in a film. His father agreed and he was taken to where the filming was taking place at Penkhull. “Two buses were being used by people in the film. I sat right by Dirk Bogarde and remember thinking that he looked a completely ordinary person. I was filmed pushing a special newspaper through the letterbox. It had an article on the front about Dirk Bogarde as the man being hunted. They also recruited people from the dole in Stoke to walk past the end of the street as if they were going to work.”
Incidentally, ever wondered what happened to the young Jon Whiteley who celebrated his 65th birthday this year? He did make a few more films as a child actor but is now the Curator of Western Art at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.
On a slightly different note regarding the film ‘The Smallest Show on Earth’ with Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna. It is a misconception that the cinema was near to Longton Railway Station. In the film the dilapidated Bijou cinema was not real. The exterior was a set squeezed in between two railway bridges in Kilburn London. However, it is rumoured that some of the interior scenes were filmed at a cinema in Longton. If this is true, it would probably have been the Empire.