Thursday, 19 September 2013

Bentley Priory and the Battle of Britain

September 19thWith  Battle of Britain Day being marked this week, I thought that readers might be interested in learning a little about the history of Bentley Priory in Stanmore, which now houses the recently-opened RAF Battle of Britain Museum.

The – Augustinian - Priory was founded by Ranulf de Glanville in 1170, and dissolved by Henry VIII in 1546, thereafter passing into private ownership. 

The original building was taken down, and the present one, designed by Sir John Soane,  put up in 1777.  

Bentley Priory
The present building was variously owned and occupied by the Marquis of Abercorn, the Prime Minister Lord Aberdeen, the dowager Queen Adelaide (widow of William IV) and Sir John Kelk in the late eighteenth to early nineteenth centuries, before being converted to a hotel in the late nineteenth and a girls' school in the early twentieth, and finally being bought by the RAF in 1926. 

In 1940, it served  as the head-quarters from which the Battle of Britain was directed, by Air Chief Marshall Sir (later Lord) Hugh “Stuffy” Dowding, the Commander-in-Chief of Fighter Command (memorably portrayed by Laurence Olivier in the 1969 film “The Battle of Britain”).

Dowding's office
As intimated above, it now houses the RAF Battle of Britain Museum, officially opened on 12th September 2013.  It  is currently open only for pre-booked group tours, although it will open for general visitors in the new year 2014.  Further information is available on the web-site:

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