As well as looking forward to the future, this is a time for memories and reflections on the past.  It is not too late to add your contribution to the fantastic GladRags Project; and please do get in touch with us with memories from the past about West Horsley Place whether they are your own, your family’s or from knowledge of people who may have worked at West Horsley Place in the past or been involved in some other way with its life and times.  You will find details on the WHP Memories page.

Work continues apace everywhere at West Horsley Place.  Making the best of the opportunity provided by the dry weather, our contractors have installed field drainage in perfect conditions under the clay soil of the Brewhouse Meadow and Place Farm car parking areas; they will be seeded in the autumn ready for use next year.  This will give us ample parking for events in the house, Place Farm Barn, gardens, Theatre in the Woods and for other indoor and outdoor public visiting once such activities can restart.

17th century windows in need of repairIn the house, brothers Matt and John of our builders RJ Smith are painstakingly and beautifully repairing each of the 17th century south elevation sash windows prior to repainting in a linseed oil based paint.  This work should be completed by the early autumn and will make a big contribution to the presentation of the south face of the house as well as ensuring its preservation against the weather. 

(To digress for a moment, these are important windows dating from the middle of the 17th century, and some of the glass is very old as well.  The relative thickness of the glazing bars points to this age; by the Georgian period improvement in the technique and design for the construction of box sash windows had led to much thinner glazing bars and a more graceful and refined appearance.  If you look carefully from outside at reflections from the panes of glass in our windows, you will also see that some have the bowed appearance typical of crown or cylinder glass, a laborious technique of glassmaking originating in the mediaeval period and continuing until the 19th century when it was overtaken by more modern and mechanised methods to make more perfectly flat (and cheaper) glass.  For all these reasons, these are windows which require – and merit – painstaking repair by a conservation specialist.)

 The last of the electrics for this phase of the project are going in, including completion of the last elements of the fire systems in the house and provision of a permanent power supply in the Stone Kitchen for event caterers to avoid their need for outside generators.  We are also preparing for a limited amount of internal redecoration in the house during the autumn – limited because the patina of the house is so important to its character.  Wherever possible surfaces will be left gracefully to wear their age.

Place Farm Barn interior during restorationPlace Farm Barn is a hive of (socially distanced) activity to prepare it as one of our main event spaces.  It is on the final lap to completion in the autumn and we are already getting increasing numbers of enquiries and taking bookings.  Whether you are planning a wedding, private family celebration, conference, community event or indeed any other event, please do get in touch with us – we would be delighted to hear from you. 

The grass and weeds have not stopped growing but Nicky and Matt have kept abreast of them and the gardens are looking glorious thanks to their efforts.  We have also been delighted to welcome back a small number of our loyal garden volunteers subject of course to the necessary risk assessments and processes required by the current situation.

You can read elsewhere on our website of the fantastic news that we have been successful, at the first attempt, in securing a grant of £126,000 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund for our project West Horsley Place: An Historic Estate without Barriers.  At a time of huge competition for their funds, we particularly value this very generous support and indeed endorsement of our vision for the future of West Horsley Place.  It is exciting to have this strong encouragement to develop detailed plans over the next two years with our partners.

I could not end without mentioning the glad tidings that another (but unrelated) Pearce, Ben, is taking over the reins in September as Director when I retire.  You can read about Ben here,  but we are indeed hugely fortunate to have secured someone of his talents and experience as we move forward to the next phase of our development as a charity and the programmes we are planning. I am looking forward very much to working with Ben over the coming weeks to ensure a smooth transfer of the baton.