Every time I watch Christopher Nolan’s first Batman movie I experience a moment of confusion. No, it’s not due to the fact that Gary Oldman is not playing one of the bad guys. Nor is it because I can’t get past the fact that I know Gotham will somehow turn into Chicago in the following instalment.
It’s because I grew up with Arkham Asylum in my peripheral vision. Or, more accurately The National Institute for Medical Research, so you can imagine my surprise when it was somehow airlifted from London’s Mill Hill to Gotham City.
Growing up in North London it struck an imposing if distant feature on the skyline. With its impressive green copper dome it’s apparent why Christopher Nolan chose this building to be the template for his vision of Arkham Asylum. Rumour even has it that some scenes were even filmed inside.
In reality, it’s not a place of gothic nightmares but rather one of important medical breakthroughs.
Unlike its fantasy facsimile, the original isn’t surrounded by urban decay, but rather by the fine countryside of North London’s green belt. Being on a hill it’s clearly visible from much of the surrounding areas, as far afield as North Finchley.
If you live in London or even if you’re just visiting, it’s pretty easy to reach from central London. Just take the Northern Line North towards High Barnet, changing trains at at Finchley Central to reach Mill Hill East. From there, you can take the 240 bus from right outside the station going towards Edgware.
UPDATE (January 2023): Sadly in 2018 this iconic building was demolished. It was always visible on the skyline when I was growing up, and I even went past it every day on the way to school. At leats it will live on forever in cinema.