This month began with the very sad news that has touched the whole team at West Horsley Place, as we learned of the passing of our founder, trustee, and inspiration Bamber Gascoigne.

We all know the amazing story of how Bamber and his wife Christina set up the West Horsley Place Trust – but in terms of our most recent operations, Bamber as our founding trustee remained actively involved, attending all Board meetings that I have been at since joining, and for me he was both wise counsel and completely wonderful company.  I can remember in early Autumn of 2020, Bamber coming to meet me at West Horsley Place and to my surprise and delight we were wearing almost exactly the same clothing, down to a matching jacket and his trademark fingerless gloves!  I will miss him and I am grateful to have been given the opportunity to continue his vision for West Horsley Place.

These past few days have also seen Storms Eunice and Franklin hit West Horsley Place. Fortunately our Manor House and outbuildings have remained intact and unscathed – but we have however lost a few trees, which are currently being taken care of by our Estate Team of Matt and Charlie.

Whilst our Winter closure has seen us busy with filming on the estate, we have also been preparing for our April reopening.  We are looking forward to finally exhibiting the amazing GladRags textile artwork, that brought so many talented local crafters together through this difficult Covid-affected period. This will help us reopen Place Farm Barn – a free to attend exhibition which we hope you will all enjoy.outdoor cafe stand with people

At the same time – we will be pleased to welcome back Winnie, our pop-up café run by the amazing Marsha of TigerLilly, part of Surrey Hills Enterprises.  Open this time from Wednesday to Sundays, this will accompany a wider new programme of activity that visitors will soon be able to book on for.

Our projects, including those funded by the NLHF are making great progress. We are launching Seeing Differently, a partnership project with VocalEyes, the national access organisation working to ensure that blind and visually impaired people have the best possible opportunities to experience and enjoy arts and heritage.  We will explore ways to make West Horsley Place accessible to blind and partially blind people, who frequently experience barriers accessing heritage.  It has been devised to make sure that West Horsley Place is as inclusive as possible.  Starting this month with the appointment of an Access Panel representing a wide range of disabled people and people with long-term health conditions, Seeing Differently will include training for our staff and volunteers in audio description and visual awareness, the development of an Audio Descriptive Tour and the co-creation of new multi-sensory heritage experiences here.

girl and boy interviewing older man

In addition, Our Stories – our intergenerational project through which young people aged 15-18 are interviewing local older people about their memories of West Horsley Place and the surrounding area - is now building an important oral history resource and ensuring amazing memories and tales about the estate are not lost over time. 

I end on a related note. After a long time in the making, we are also delighted to release the audio-visual recording of Bamber’s book about the Trust and West Horsley Place,  A New Start  a wonderful and timely legacy as we embark on the next chapters of this magical place.  We look forward to seeing you all back here in Spring.