West Horseley House and Grange Park Opera Company

West Horseley Place in Surrey

This is the side elevation of the house, medieval but clad in c16 brick. This is the old part as if any of it is recent! Not exactly art but certainly architecture and the Arts

The house is associated with Henry VIII who gave it to one of his favourites in 1534, a man called Courtenay. This was about the time that Thomas Cromwell was gathering strength, and being more proficient in the black arts, managed to persuade the king, that Courtenay was a Catholic and a subversive. Courtenay was executed. This was about the time of Henry’s break with Rome which was unpopular, and which increased Henry’s paranoia. He was prone to striking down anyone whom he suspected of subversion, with or without evidence

The Raleighs later owned the house. Sir Walter the well-known colonist of North America, who fell foul of James I, was executed in 1618. The house, through his brother-in-law, was left to Raleigh’s surviving son Carew. There is a story, well-known, that Raleigh’s head was rescued from its pike on London Bridge, and dropped onto a waiting boat on the river. The head was kept by his widow wrapped in a velvet cloth, for some years at West Horseley. Later Carew’s two sons and baby daughter, all of whom died of an epidemic, were buried under the floor of St.Mary’s Church nearby. The head was buried with them

To come up-to-date, the house was bequeathed two years, unexpectedly, by the then owner the duchess of Roxburgh, to Bamber Gascoigne. People of my age will remember him as the host of that erudite TV quiz University Challenge, which he presented for many years since its inception. Today it is still running and hosted by Jeremy Paxman, who is good, but not the same. We toured the house recently, with a group from Guildford museum, and were privileged to be shown round by Bamber himself. His voice still sounds the same despite the years. I kept expecting him to say, “Jesus, your starter for ten………………”

And now the most exciting development, the creation of the Theatre in the Woods. About a year or more ago, the Gascoignes were visited by one Lasfi Kani, the major force behind the Grange Park Opera Company. At the time this company had been based at another mansion in Hampshire, and had had their lease summarily terminated, and were looking for a new home. West Horseley was agreed upon and work started

Incredibly from the first sod being cut in June 2016, the programme was published and world class voices engaged with performance dates set for June 2017. Within that last twelve months, Ms Kani raised the £8 million needed to fund the building. The theatre stands now ready for performances next month. The first, Tosca is sold out already. The theatre is ready in that it has seats, and is weatherproof. There is still finishing work to be done

There is no doubt that this will be a venue to rival Glyndebourne

The house itself needs about £8 million spent on it to bring it up to standard, and the surrounding estate houses, another three. A charity has been formed to raise funds necessary

The opera company has its own web site should you want to read more

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One of two c16 century dog kennels near the front door. Two outside the same house are unique. Both are Grade 1 listed

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