The Mary Roxburghe Trust wishes all our friends and supporters a very merry festive season and a happy 2018. November and December have been full of activity at West Horsley Place. We passed an important milestone on 1 November when Guildford Borough Council’s Planning Committee voted to approve our proposals for changes of use at West Horsley Place to enable our vision for the future. We were delighted that, save for a single abstention, the Committee’s vote was unanimous. We were also grateful for the considerable and widespread support we received for our application from our local communities. All this support gives us renewed vigour to press forward with our plans in the knowledge that we have such fulsome backing.
One of the most pressing repairs to the house was completed as planned just in time for the arrival of a film unit at West Horsley Place who will now be with us until the end of January. (This is for an exciting historical drama project for television but we can’t say more than that just yet.) The repair in question was to the large first floor “Serliana” arched window on the south west front to Lady Crewe’s bedroom. This involved dismantling the whole window structure after bracing the brickwork opening prior to the repair of widespread rot and decay in its timbers, which in turn threatened the stability of the whole wall – hence the precautionary bracing scaffold seen by visitors to the opera in the summer.
Opening up the fabric revealed a number of discoveries. We already believed that this wing had at some point been reduced by at least one bay of the Tudor timber framed structure in this, the oldest part of the house dating from 1425. The discovery of charred timbers beneath the floorboards suggested a fire might have been the cause, with a new brick elevation then added to the truncated wing. We found this “new” brickwork was not bonded properly to the side walls or the first floor joists, making the whole structure unstable; this has now been fully strengthened in our repair.
A new steel frame now stabilises the opening, hidden behind the repaired and reinstalled window which has been expertly repaired in oak by Dan, Phil and John of R.J. Smith Ltd, retaining as much as possible of the original timber. Opening up also revealed one of the massive 1425 posts in the thickness of the wing’s side wall, complete with tenon slot for a now vanished archbrace presumably removed when the room was later given its present classical style.
We have also taken the opportunity to stabilise the central brick pediment above the front door and take down a tottering chimney above the small dining room prior to rebuilding. Inside the house, we have relined several of the flues so that they can be safely used. The presently derelict northwest corner of the house is being prepared for major structural repairs to rotted timbers and brickwork, and the installation of new toilets which will be available for house guests and visitors. This work will proceed around filming commitments through this winter and into the spring.