2021 has been a year of learning, challenges and triumphs. Most importantly though we finally opened the doors and welcomed you with a regular heritage, arts and public access programme for the first time.

February saw the completion of our works to Place Farm Barn; enabling us to use this beautiful new space for purposes as diverse as art exhibitions, concerts, community events and celebrations.

Following this, the Trust switched its attention back to the Manor House – and we were awarded a grant to begin the detailed, painstaking paint and plaster surveys of our Geraldine Room ceiling (which have just now been completed).

Our Estate Team began work to improve the many bridleways, paths and ditches, ensuring better public access across our beautiful estate – and we have welcomed many more walkers from our local villages and further afield.

Following the conclusion of Grange Park Opera’s season here, we reopened fully to the public with a new range of House Tours, Open Days, a pop-up café in Place Farm Courtyard using local produce – and our programme of NLHF-funded activities ‘Heritage Without Barriers’. This programme works to improve access for those who might find heritage sites and historic houses less accessible in addition to working with marginalised groups.

Throughout the pandemic and numerous lockdowns, we have received many beautiful fabric squares for the GladRags Project – which has just grown and grown. The GladRags gang have formed friendships as well as become a regular welcome part of the wider West Horsley Place team – and we look forward to exhibiting the joint creation as part of our programme of activities in the Barn from next spring.

Our summer holiday programme focused on opening up West Horsley Place for families – with drop in arts and craft activities, performances of The Secret Garden (in our secret garden!) and Robin Hood in the Home Paddock.

It has been a challenging year both personally and professionally for many of us, but in spite of this, so much has been achieved. I took some time out for paternity and shared parental leave this Autumn and I am grateful to the Team and our Board of Trustees for the support I have received during this time.

We were delighted to curate and host the Surrey Hills Christmas Fair at the end of November, this uplifting event took place over 3 days. More than 50 local artists, craftmakers and artisanal businesses took part, attracting more than 1600 visitors. The Fair was housed in the Manor House and Place Farm Barn, not to mention outside catering and craft demonstrations.

During the year we have welcomed 4 new staff members to our Team (most recently Robin James as our new House Officer), and over 100 new volunteers who are now supporting us on tasks in the gardens, the care of our book collection, archival research through to event stewarding and the delivery of new activities. I would like to say a particular huge thank you to our volunteers. This week however we made the difficult decision to postpone our staff and volunteer Christmas drinks – with a stark reminder from news around the world that the pandemic still greatly affects what we do and is not yet behind us.

We are ending the year with two bits of excellent news! We have just been awarded a further £40,000 from Arts Council England and the government’s Culture Recovery Fund. This will enable us to cover some of the core running costs of WHP as we recover from the effects of the pandemic in the coming months. We are also delighted to be recipients of a Guildford Design Award in the category of public conservation project for our amazing visitor loos!

This year we have welcomed approximately 13,000 people to West Horsley Place – to enjoy events from craft workshops to open days, weddings to concerts. We thank each and every one of you for coming and giving us your time and support. Your visit will help us to continue to conserve West Horsley Place and in future open up even more of our house, outbuildings and estate to you.

We are already looking forwards to 2022 when we will focus on participation and partnerships. There will be many opportunities to get involved whether as a volunteer or a visitor. Just some of the events to look forward to are a community archaeology week, a 24hr nature survey, performing arts events, and the village fete. We are excited to develop partnerships such as those with Surrey Mind (exploring the ways in which WHP can help to enrich peoples’ wellbeing), VocalEyes (who will help us make WHP more accessible for people with additional support needs), Shakespeare’s Globe (performing for the first time in Surrey at WHP in August) and Surrey History Centre (who will lead a volunteer project to catalogue our archive materials). Next year will also see us driving forwards with our environmental sustainability agenda across the estate and buildings, following us agreeing ambitious carbon-reduction targets by 2026, 2030 and 2040.

If you would like to further support what we do, (or perhaps are stuck for an alternative Christmas gift for someone!) please do consider making a donation to the Trust. As a charity we are reliant on your support to do what we do.

Thank you and Merry Christmas from me, our Team, and the wider WHP family.

Ben Pearce

Director

West Horsley Place Trust