A new digital tour launching at West Horsley Place this week will give visitors a unique opportunity to discover more about the fascinating history of the Grade I listed Manor House.
The tour, which will be available from Sunday 20 November on the free app Smartify – for visitors to West Horsley Place along with virtual visitors from around the world – features the recollections of people from the local community who knew Mary, Duchess of Roxburghe (1915-2014), the last private owner of West Horsley Place.
From Gordon Bufton, who lived in the house as a boy in the ‘50s and ‘60s when his parents worked for Mary, Duchess of Roxburghe, to Ian Wright, then manager of Squire’s Garden Centre, whose dog was a favourite of the Duchess, the new tour brings to life the recent past of West Horsley Place.
It is the culmination of Our Stories, an intergenerational community project supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund that brought together young people aged 15-18 to interview older people about their memories of West Horsley Place, Mary, Duchess of Roxburghe and the village of West Horsley to create an oral history. 14 young people took part in the project, learning about their local history and gaining new skills, and 29 older people, who shared their stories and were able to create new connections. The full interviews will be held by Surrey History Centre and will be available as a resource for future generations.
Our Stories was devised by West Horsley Place Trust to combat loneliness and to improve wellbeing as part of a wider two-year programme of public consultation and activity supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund that is, for the first time, enabling a wide range of people from the local community to experience how heritage spaces can transform health and wellbeing.
Commenting, Ilona Harris, Director of West Horsley Place Trust, said:
“We’re delighted to be launching this new tour here at West Horsley Place. It’s the perfect way to capture people’s stories and memories, and it has been a pleasure to bring all ages together with this project. Visitors to our Open Days will be able to enjoy this audio tour as they explore our ancient Manor House and, for the first time, we can welcome virtual visitors from anywhere in the world. I’m so looking forward to seeing people experiencing the house in a new way as they listen to Our Stories.”
Ian Wright, who participated in the project, said:
“It was a huge privilege for me to have been invited to participate in the West Horsley Place oral history project as it had a been a huge privilege for me to have known the Duchess and welcomed so many times in to her wonderful home.”
“The Duchess was a unique character full of fascinating stories which she gladly and willingly shared with me. She and her family had lived through, experienced and been part of so much of the history of the 19th and 20th century. We became firm friends and I used to relish my weekly visits to the house. Every visit filled me with wonder as she recounted her life stories to me. Those years are fondly remembered as some of the best years of my life and I have been glad to record the memories of a person the likes of which we won’t see again.”
Our Stories will be available on Smartify from 20 November by searching West Horsley Place.
For further information please visit westhorsleyplace.org
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Image: West Horsley Place by David Harland