The Royal Opening, September 2013
Bentley Priory Museum opened in 2013, after 8 years of planning, fundraising, restoration and innovative design.
The Museum was formally opened by TRH The Prince of Wales – Patron of the Bentley Priory Battle of Britain Trust – and The Duchess of Cornwall on 12 September 2013.
The opening of the Museum brought together veterans who flew in the Battle of Britain alongside veteran Fighter Controllers, who were wartime members of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF). Their Royal Highnesses met the lady veterans in the newly recreated ‘Filter Room’ in the Museum, a recreation of the wartime room at Bentley Priory, where 3 of the ladies came face to face with models of their wartime selves.
Patricia Clark, a filterer during the Battle of Britain, said: “’It is really exciting to see Bentley Priory so wonderfully restored after all these years. We, the few remaining veterans, now in our nineties, still have vivid memories of carrying out the vital work of the secret Dowding System during the Battle of Britain. It is rewarding for us to know that this this wonderful Museum is ready to tell future generations the full story behind the victory that saved the free world.”
Wing Commander Bob Foster DFC AE, Chairman of the Battle of Britain Fighter Association, said: “Along with my fellow veterans, I felt it was so important to preserve Bentley Priory because of its enormous symbolic and strategic significance. To see it so beautifully restored as a Museum that tells the story of Dowding and the role of Bentley Priory, as well as of the Battle of Britain aircrew and the huge network that supported us, is fantastic. Today is a day of celebration and I know the Museum has a fine future ahead of it.”
Air Chief Marshal Sir Brian Burridge, Chair of the Trustees reflected: “Today marks the culmination of eight long years of hard work. But we have created an exciting and highly relevant museum and learning centre which will serve as a symbol of the huge significance of the Battle of Britain and of the determination and sacrifice of those involved. Many people and organisations have been generous supporters but fund-raising needs to continue to close the final gap of a quarter of a million pounds. Throughout the project to save this iconic building – and to quote Churchill – ‘the odds were great; our margins small; the stakes infinite.’”
The Trust worked in conjunction with the UK’s leading heritage-led regeneration specialists, The Prince’s Regeneration Trust (PRT) to forge a ground-breaking partnership with the developers of the site.
Handover Ceremony, September 2012
On Saturday 8 September 2012, the Bentley Priory Battle of Britain Trust welcomed 150 veterans, volunteers and stake holders to the handing over ceremony of the museum to the Trust from Barratt Developments and City and Country Group, following £6 million of renovations.
Air Commodore Peter Brothers CBE DSO DFC* and Squadron Leader ‘Bam’ Bamberger DFC* AE* were also remembered with the unveileing of the new Spitfire and renovated Hurricane replica aircraft, painted in their wartime colours.
Sixteen wartime WAAF, former members of the ‘Beauty Chorus’, were welcomed back to Bentley Priory. These amazing ladies are members of the Association of RAF Fighter Controllers, who have sponsored the new ‘Dowding System’ stained glass window. The window highlights the importance of the Dowding System in victory in the Battle of Britain and particularly the important role WAAFs played in identifying and intercepting incoming Luftwaffe bomber raids.