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Bentley Priory 1 (redirected from Bentley Priory)

Page history last edited by Alan Hartley-Smith 7 years, 4 months ago

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Extract from The Times - 7 September 2012

 

Bentley Priory has been given a new lease of life - this magnificent property was the nerve-centre of the Battle of Britain during the Second World War


Bentley Priory has a wartime pedigree to admire
 
Bentley Priory hosted famous politicians, writers and royalty in its 19th-century heyday, but its more recent history is far more fascinating. The 18th-century mansion, located near Stanmore on the northwest edge of London, is where the Battle of Britain was planned, directed and, it could be said, won in 1940.
 
In 1936, Bentley Priory became the RAF headquarters for the newly formed Fighter Command, led by Air Chief Marshal Hugh Dowding, who choose the priory for its sweeping views across North London. It was here that Dowding created the system to defend Britain from air attack and commanded the battle.


Dowding turned the magnificent ballroom into an experimental operations room, complete with plotting map and balcony. The adjoining room became the filter room. Air Chief Marshal Sir Brian Burridge, the chairman of the Bentley Priory Battle of Britain Trust, says: “This room dealt with all the information which overwhelmed the process. It was initially set up in secret by staff because Dowding was such a control freak. Ultimately it was demonstrated to Dowding that it was working and it was added to the system.”
 
Bentley Priory is a lavish country house enlarged and remodelled by the architect Sir John Soane, which was further adorned with a Tuscan portico, clock tower and orangery by Sir John Kelk, its former owner. From its grand façade and lavish interiors to its Italianate gardens, the Grade II* listed house has plenty to delight fans of grand country houses. Yet, despite its fine pedigree, the estate has had a (sic) chequered past. When it was owned by the Marquess of Abercorn, William Pitt and the Duke of Wellington were among his guests, as were literary stars such as Sir Walter Scott and William Wordsworth. It was then lived in by Queen Adelaide (there is a room in the house named after her) who was regularly visited by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.
 
After failed attempts to turn it into a hotel and then a school, half of the estate was bought by the Royal Air Force in 1926. By the time the Ministry of Defence put the estate on the market in 2007 as part of its programme to sell off land assets for housing development, it needed a huge amount of work. Barratt, the housebuilder, bought the estate last year and it is building a range of 85 high-spec homes, a mix of apartments and townhouses, within the grounds.
 
In the first phase of four-bedroom townhouses released, on Claridge Crescent, prices start from £1.8 million. Barratt sold the mansion and the adjoining period buildings to City & Country, the restoration and conservation specialist. The nine mansion apartments, on the upper floors of Bentley, are on the market from £575,000 for a one-bedroom flat. A further 16 homes in the officers’ mess, dining rooms and the orangery will be released in future phases.
 
As part of the planning deal, the ground floor of the mansion house will become a museum to commemorate those who fought in the Battle of Britain. City & Country has funded and carried out the renovation, while Barratt has contributed £3 million to the ongoing running costs. It will officially be handed over to the Battle of Britain Trust tomorrow and the recently restored replica Hurricane and Spitfire (two fighter planes that Allied pilots flew) located at the entrance of the house will also be unveiled. The trust is planning to reproduce the operations room and filter room, as well as Dowding’s office, in the museum, which will open to the public next year.
 
In addition to its military history, Bentley Priory has a glorious setting just a five-minute drive from Stanmore Tube station on the Jubilee line. The museum, with its education centre and café, is likely to be a social hub for Bentley Priory residents. The museum will be open all year round but there is a limit on the number of visitors each year. Burridge says: “In this sort of development the history and ambience will appeal but you don’t have to be an avid Battle of Britain fan to want to live here. It is such a beautiful spot.”

 

 

 

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Ian Gillis said

at 4:32 pm on Feb 10, 2016

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