VISIT WEST HORSLEY PLACE THIS SPRING
West Horsley Place reopens to visitors this spring with a programme of special events, guided tours and open days.
From 7 April, visitors will be able to see the GladRags community banner, which will go on public display in Place Farm Barn for the first time. The idea of artist Diana Burch and delivered in partnership with West Horsley Place Trust, the GladRags project launched during the first Covid-19 lockdown in April 2020. Members of the local community were invited to create small textile squares, using whatever they had available, to represent what made them feel glad during this extraordinarily challenging time.
The project continued throughout 2020 and, recently, the squares have been collected and sewn together by a group of local volunteers who have enjoyed meeting weekly at West Horsley Place to create the GladRags banner. Open Wednesday – Friday until 10 June, free with no pre-booking required.
On 12 May, award-winning author and classicist, Daisy Dunn, will give a talk about her latest book, Not far from Brideshead. Recognised as one of the UK’s leading women historians, Daisy Dunn lives locally and this will be her first event at West Horsley Place. Set in the world that Evelyn Waugh immortalised in Brideshead Revisited, Daisy’s new book tells the true and often funny story of the thriving of knowledge and spirit of fun and foreboding that characterised Oxford between the two world wars (pre-booking essential and tickets on sale now).
The first West Horsley Place BioBlitz takes place on 14 May, a community nature survey supported by Surrey Wildlife Trust that focuses on finding and identifying as many species as possible on the estate across a 24 hour period. Learning and recording activities will be available for all age groups, including guided walks, conservation activities and wildlife recording (pre-booking essential here).
Following their sell-out event last summer, the Three Inch Fools return on 28 May to entertain all with The Gunpowder Plot – whose most notorious ‘plotter’, Guy Fawkes, was a footman at West Horsley Place. The performance promises fun for all the family and will be staged outside in Home Paddock (pre-booking essential and tickets on sale now).
Available on dates throughout April and May, the Nooks and Crannies Tour takes visitors to every corner of the house, including areas not previously seen by the public. Guided by one of the charity’s expert volunteer guides, the Tour is an opportunity for visitors to learn about the history and heritage of West Horsley Place and to discover stories from its 600 year past (pre-booking essential and tickets on sale now).
In addition there will be two Open Days, on 24 April and 15 May. At these events, visitors will be able to walk through the main rooms of the house, with volunteer stewards in each room to provide information and answer questions. Visitors can enjoy the walled gardens, where there will be a pop-up café to buy refreshments, and also see the GladRags display (pre-booking is essential and tickets on sale now).
This spring, West Horsley Place is delighted to hold its first Weddings & Celebrations Showcase, on 10 April. Working in partnership with leading event management and catering provider, rhubarb, the Showcase is an opportunity for people planning a special event to explore the beautiful locations available at West Horsley Place.
Significantly, income generated from events and venue hire helps West Horsley Place Trust raise vital funds for the on-going conservation and repair of the manor house and wider estate.
Ben Pearce, Director of West Horsley Place Trust, said:
“We are really looking forward to opening our doors again to welcome our visitors back to West Horsley Place.”
“Our collective vision for West Horsley Place is to make it a welcoming place for everyone in the community to get involved, and enjoy its history through arts, heritage-learning and nature. Our spring programme builds on what we learned last year and we hope has a number of new opportunities to come and get involved within each of these areas.”
“Whilst we mourn the recent loss of Bamber, we are going to build on his wonderful legacy to ensure that as many people as possible can benefit from coming here.”
About West Horsley Place Trust
West Horsley Place Trust is the charity created by Bamber Gascoigne (1935-2022) and Christina Gascoigne to conserve and repair Grade I listed West Horsley Place and its surrounding 380-acre estate so that they can be enjoyed by the public.
Located between the Surrey villages of West and East Horsley, West Horsley Place dates from the 15th century. The manor house has remarkably surviving interiors from the 16th to the 18th century, with little intervention since. As such, West Horsley Place displays the evolution of country house architecture during this period.
The house has passed through the hands of illustrious owners, including Henry VIII – who enjoyed a 35-course lunch in the Stone Hall – Carew Raleigh, son of Sir Walter Raleigh, and Lady Elizabeth Fitzgerald, ‘Fair Geraldine’ of the Earl of Surrey’s famous sonnet. Queen Elizabeth I is known to have stayed on several occasions.
In 2014 historian and former presenter of University Challenge, Bamber Gascoigne, unexpectedly inherited West Horsley Place from his aunt, Mary, Duchess of Roxburghe. Decades of benign neglect had taken their toll on the house and also on the eight Grade II listed structures situated on the estate, and in October 2016, West Horsley Place was placed on the Historic England ‘Heritage at Risk’ register.
To conserve and repair the house, outbuildings and estate, and to give them a new life and purpose, Bamber and Christina Gascoigne generously transferred ownership of West Horsley Place to a charity, the West Horsley Place Trust. The Trust is seeking to establish at West Horsley Place a welcoming space for the community to share and enjoy with arts, culture, community, history and nature at its heart.
Determined that West Horsley Place should be accessible to a wide range of people from the local community to experience how heritage spaces can transform health and wellbeing, the Trust has devised A Historic Estate without Barriers, a two-year programme of public consultation and activity delivered in collaboration with other charities and community groups. The project has received a grant of £126,000 from the Heritage Fund thanks to money raised by National Lottery players. Current activities include Breathing Spaces, working with Woking Mind and local GP surgeries; History Revealed, working with The Arts Society and Surrey History Centre, and Our Stories, an intergenerational oral history project to create new connections and combat loneliness.
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Image: The GladRags Community Banner at West Horsley Place (detail)