News Archive

Green light for Battle of Britain museum

On the 70th anniversary of the decisive day in the Battle of Britain, Harrow Council, in north London, has given an historic green light to create a museum on the site of the spiritual home of ‘the Few’.

Last night (15 September), the Council’s planning committee approved an application to convert Bentley Priory, the headquarters of Air Chief Marshal Lord Dowding’s Fighter Command during the battle, into a museum and homes for private sale. In total, 103 homes for private sale will be developed on land at the former RAF Bentley Priory site and in Bentley Priory itself.

VSM Estates* has committed the developers who will build the homes to contribute approximately £9.5m to create, maintain and run a Battle of Britain museum in the Grade II* listed mansion house. The museum will educate future generations about the unique heritage and significance of Bentley Priory to the nation and allow its historic rooms to be open to the public for the first time in 80 years. It will also pay respect to the bravery and sacrifice of RAF pilots and ground staff who helped turn the tide against Nazi Germany during World War Two.

All partners, including the Council, VSM Estates, the Bentley Priory Battle of Britain Trust – who will operate the museum – and Defence Estates have worked closely via a steering group led by The Prince’s Regeneration Trust to find a commercially viable solution that preserves the site’s heritage. Considerable investment will be made in the Mansion House and the site’s Italian Gardens will be restored.

The proceeds of the sale of land at Bentley Priory are being used by the Ministry of Defence to upgrade working, living and communal facilities for servicemen and women at RAF Northolt, as part of Project MoDEL (Ministry of Defence Estate in London)*.

In addition, VSM Estates has announced that Barratt Homes will build the majority of the new homes at the site. VSM anticipates that it will be in a position to announce the chosen developers for the new homes and museum at Bentley Priory shortly.

Cllr Bill Stephenson, Leader of Harrow Council, said:

“This historic decision will mean the spiritual home of the Few is preserved for all.

“We must never forget the courage and sacrifice of the RAF pilots and ground staff during the Battle of Britain. Their actions truly changed the course of history in Europe and helped give each and every one of us the freedoms we enjoy today.

“That is why the Council, the Trust and developers have worked so hard to put a Battle of Britain Museum at the heart of the redevelopment.

“The future of the site is now secure and there will be a permanent reminder of Stanmore’s place in British history.”

Guy Gusterson, Land Director, VSM Estates said:

“We have worked tirelessly to find a way forward for Bentley Priory, which preserves its heritage but which also allows much-needed new homes to be built and generates money for the MOD to reinvest in facilities for current service personnel. Collectively, all partners have developed a highly innovative response to this challenge.”

Air Chief Marshal Sir Brian Burridge, Chairman of the Bentley Priory Battle of Britain Trust, said:

“This represents the culmination of five year’s hard work to ensure that the Priory and all that it stands for in our history has a sustainable future as a museum and centre for education about the people, technology and leadership that bought us victory in the Battle of Britain, arguably the most pivotal battle of World War II. There is now much work to do in fundraising and Churchill would have recognised that for the Trust, ‘this is not the beginning of the end, merely the end of the beginning’.”