Bentley Priory

A chance glance at BBC Floggit one murky winters afternoon gave me an idea that MX5 car club members would find a visit to Bentley Priory Museum, Stanmore interesting.

From Monastic origins in 1170, to family homes including royalty, boarding school, hotel and then purchased by the Air Ministry in 1926, Bentley Priory became home to The Royal Air Force until 2008, the museum was then created by The Battle of Britain Trust and opened by HRH Prince Charles in September 2013. Bentley Priory tells the fascinating story of the Battle of Britain, which was fought above the skies of Britain between July and October in 1940. Highlighting the vision of Air Chief Marshall, Sir Hugh Dowding, Commander in Chief of Fighter Command during this pivotal time in history.

When we arrived we were given permission to park on the drive in front of the house in a semi-circle and of course photos were taken. We were invited into the main entrance foyer and stickers were issued after paying a modest entrance fee. Russell our guide introduced himself and showed us to the pretty flower painted tea room where we all had refreshments before starting our tour back at the entrance hall. This has several stained glass windows depicting Battle of Britain scenes, and a gold and
black vaulted ceiling which was uncovered during restoration work after a fire in 1979. There are marble floors and columns surrounding you as you admire the architecture.

We were shown a film in what used to be Dowdings office and then onto the Rotunda room with its domed glass ceiling. Stories and memorabilia of the aircrew who flew and fought during the Battle of Britain cover the walls. Then we saw a re-creation of the Filter and Operations rooms which were in a bunker in the grounds of the Priory during the actual Battle of Britain. This was where all the information was received from other radar stations and by plotting enemy aircrafts positions on a large table top map, our aircraft were then sent up in the skies to intercept them.

With so many thoughts of that time in our heads we headed to the picnic room that Russell had kindly found for us to use. We had hoped to picnic in the gardens but the weather was too cool and blustery for that. After lunch everyone took themselves off to the gardens, or to revisit the rooms.
We certainly enjoyed the trip and the tour and apologies for the slight hiccup on that huge roundabout after leaving the M25, which confused you all! Margaret and Pete.