Welcome to Winslow Hall Opera.
Winslow Hall, a magnificent 17th Century mansion nestled in the heart of the Buckinghamshire countryside. was described by Marcus Binney in the Times as: “The finest surviving house built by England’s greatest architect, Sir Christopher Wren and is a trophy almost without rival. As you approach through the gently rolling north Buckinghamshire countryside, the house, near Aylesbury, stands proud of every building... like a Cunard Queen, complete with soaring funnels... Better still this is the Rolls-Royce of English domestic architecture... which is as handsomely detailed as the Royal Hospital at Chelsea.”
Wren considered himself an architect of public buildings. Born in 1632, he was appointed Surveyor of St. Paul's Cathedral just three years before the Great Fire of London and in 1669 became surveyor of the King's Works. Although thirty five years of his long career were spent in the designing and rebuilding of St. Paul's, his work also included some 55 churches, chapels, government offices, colleges, halls of residence, palaces and theatres.It is perhaps significant that the only exception Wren made to his rule of working on public buildings was for two clients, both of whom held the position of Secretary to the Treasure. Henry Guy turned to Wren when he sought to build Tring Manor House, and William Lowndes, who succeeded Guy and held the post from 1695 until his death 30 years later, also looked to Wren when he set about building Winslow Hall. Despite being in his late 60's Wren took an active role overseeing the building of Winslow, inspecting the book of accounts and where necessary adjusting the payments to the workforce in recognition, or otherwise, of the workmanship. The accounts survive to this day and copies of some of the pages are displayed in the Hall.
Winslow Hall remained in the ownership of the Lowndes family until the end of the 19th century, and was then sold in 1897 to Brigadier McCorquodale.
Just before the outbreak of the Second World War, the Hall was sold and the property entered a period of uncertainty which nearly resulted in its destruction. But two years later it was requisitioned by the Air Ministry and then used by RAF Bomber Command. It is understood that there were as many as 300 people working at the house, controlling RAF stations all over the country, and also that some of the code breakers working at the nearby Bletchley Park lived here. It is not known exactly what condition the house was in at the end of the War, but in 1947 it was offered for sale for £8,000 and bought by Thomas Oakley Limited, a firm of demolition contractors, who no doubt recognised the value of the materials used by Wren.
The Wren Society became aware of the threat to the building and succeeded in persuading Buckinghamshire County Council to invoke their powers under the new Town and Country Planning Act. Once again offered for sale, it was purchased by Geoffrey Houghton Brown, who secured one of the first grants to be given to an historic house by the Ministry of Works to aid the replacement of the original lead roof which had been laid by Matthew Roberts, who had also worked on the roof of St. Paul's Cathedral. Some of the windows had been altered and the intention had been to divide the house into flats. Fortunately, in 1959, before any further alterations could be made, the property was bought by Sir Edward and Lady Tomkins.
Christopher and Mardi Gilmour are the current owners of Winslow Hall, seen here in front of the opera marquee and assorted picnic gazebos, with their 3 daughters Gabriella, Leonora and Christabel