asbestos removalFollowing the end of the opera season in July, we have had a busy time at West Horsley Place with a filming project, two weddings, a number of house tours and the return of our building team to the house. Floorboards are being lifted, skirting boards carefully taken off and cables and pipes laid through the main ground floor rooms and part of the first floor. This work will see the house equipped with a renewed fire detection system, automist fire suppression (a system to damp down any fire before it can get a hold), smoke separation works, fire exits and emergency lighting. It is a major investment to make the house ready next year to open its arms to the public for events, concerts, weddings, exhibitions and courses. Another major investment is the expensive removal of residual traces of asbestos from the roof space arising from the 1930s heating pipes, which in those days were wrapped in asbestos insulation. This will enable us to prepare for a future major phase of work on the house - to tackle the roof, gutters, parapets and brick facade, all of which are in need of attention. We lack the funds to tackle this work as yet, but on the advice of our consultants we must first address the urgent repairs needed to the stableblock as the most pressing priority.

This lovely listed early eighteenth century building of mellow brick and tile looks relatively sound from the outside. As so often, it is a different story under the skin, and repairing this endangered structure is our next major priority. The main beams have rotted, constructional changes through the centuries have further weakened the fabric, and the elegant clock tower is bearing down on the main walls to push them apart. Open the doors, and you are now greeted by a web of scaffolding holding everything together. Our plan for the building is tripartite; flexible space for schools, for craft courses and for visitor interpretation. We desperately need funds to tackle this major project to safeguard for the next century one of the most important, significant and threatened buildings on the estate, placing it at the heart of the new life of West Horsley Place and available for our community, schools and visitors. We need to raise £1.5 million to restore the stables. Our fundraising efforts are off to a good start thanks to a generous grant of £50,000 from the Country Houses Foundation, but we still have some way to go to secure the future of this building.

aerial view of village feteAbout to start, following the granting of planning consent in August, is the preparation and landscaping of carparking at Place Farm and on the adjacent Brewhouse Meadow east of the house and the Theatre in the Woods. We are raising earth bunds along their eastern boundaries, to be planted with an indigenous hedge and trees, to augment protection from noise and light spill for the benefit of our nearest neighbours several hundred metres away. This work is coupled with the creation of  new circulation tracks linking the two drives for visiting cars and landscaping to improve the setting of Place Farm, soon to become a new venue seating 150 for community use, events and classes. The overriding aim in creating carparking is to retain the character of fields as much as possible; the change to the car parking area at Place Farm, previously in light industrial use and housing a paper recycling business, cannot be other than a great improvement to the landscape.

After many months we have finally secured our legal agreement with Surrey County Council to undertake road improvements to the A246 and create a turning lane into our main drive for visitors, and now await their roadworks license so that works can start. Further information about the timing of this work will be posted on our website soon as we know, as well as through SCC’s normal notification procedures. The speed limit will also be reduced to 40 mph to aid road safety, amongst other improvements.

It was a joy to welcome back the Horsley Fete on a perfect Indian summers day in mid-September. It was wonderfully organised by Judy Young and her loyal team of helpers, and the house, gardens and park were filled with local people enjoying themselves and all the varied stalls, serenaded by Horsley Rocks community choir and an eclectic variety of musicians. visitors in the houseThe Ghosts fan club had a stand at the Fête, raising funds for the Walled Garden Appeal - sincere thanks to them for their passionate enthusiasm and commitment to our cause. Over 800 people toured the house on the Heritage Open Day, and long but patient queues developed in the sun amongst the fine assembly of classic cars on the turning circle. community arts workshopThe West Horsley Place Community Arts Workshop was also a hub of activity with visitors young and old helping to create two large canvas paintings of the manor house amongst other activities including clay and watercolour workshops. We are hugely grateful to our team of wonderful volunteers who made the day the success it was, thank you.  It was a magical day for all involved, and one could not think of a better example of our vision for West Horsley Place; a historic house, garden and estate at the heart of its community, and part of it.