Bentley Priory, located in Stanmore, Harrow has a rich and varied history that spans over centuries, one of which some of our readers may not know about.
Originally a medieval priory or ‘cell of Augustinian Canons’, the site has been home to a grand mansion house, a hotel, a girls’ school, and the headquarters of the Royal Air Force (RAF) Fighter Command during the Second World War – crucial to our victory indeed.
The original priory, which stood near Priory House off Clamp Hill, is no longer visible. However, in 1775, Sir John Soane designed a large mansion house north of the original priory, which was named Bentley Priory after the site’s earlier history.
The mansion was built for James Duberley, a wealthy businessman in the area, and was expanded upon throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries by various owners.
The most significant expansion occurred in 1788, when John Hamilton, 1st Marquess of Abercorn, commissioned Sir John Soane to undertake further renovations.
Bentley Priory’s grandeur and prime location made it a desirable place to live for high society figures. In 1848, it became the final home of Queen Adelaide, widow of King William IV. She passed away there in 1849. Following her death, Bentley Priory changed hands several times and served as a hotel and a girls’ school.
In 1926, the Royal Air Force acquired Bentley Priory and transformed it into the headquarters of RAF Fighter Command during the Second World War. It was from here that the famous Battle of Britain was directed, with Air Chief Marshal Sir Hugh Dowding playing a crucial role in the victory. The site continued to serve in various RAF roles until 2008.
Despite its illustrious past, Bentley Priory’s future was uncertain after the RAF vacated the site. In 2013, a developer purchased the property with plans to convert parts of the building into luxury apartments and build new houses on the surrounding land.
However, the Bentley Priory Battle of Britain Trust secured a portion of the building to create a museum and memorial dedicated to those who served in the RAF. This museum and memorial will serve as a reminder of the bravery and sacrifice of those who fought to protect Britain during the Second World War.
Bentley Priory’s rich history demonstrates the power and perseverance of those who have called it home. From the medieval Augustinian Canons to the RAF pilots who fought in the skies above Britain, Bentley Priory in Stanmore has been witness to some of the most significant moments in British history. As the site transforms once again, it will continue to serve as a reminder of the past and a symbol of hope for the future.