Tour Locations | The Battle of Britain House: A Walk Through Ruislip Woods
You should now be able to see the beginning of a trail leading you back into to the woods. Follow it through the heath to reach the Battle of Britain House. Don't worry, as always I'll let you know where to go.
After the war, the local council planned to purchase the mansion and present it to the community as a war memorial and youth centre. The Royal Air Force was involved by contributing part of the investment required, and Air Chief Marshall Sir James Robb was present at the opening ceremony of the newly renamed Battle of Britain House in 1949. Its dining room now featured the emblems of all squadrons that participated in the Battle of Britain, and its expanded facilities and outbuildings meant that it could accommodate and feed a great number of young guests.
From the 1950s onward, the house was operated by Victor and Gwendolyne Stanyon, a literary couple who operated it as a residential college. Young people from the UK and abroad were able to select a broad range of courses that included board and lodging, a feature that was especially attractive to international students. There's evidence of French, Portuguese and German students residing at the mansion as au-pairs, some of which have shared the fondest memories of the mansion as a residential college, highly praising the Stanyons as hosts, and Ruislip as an interesting, and warmly welcoming place.
Leaflets and newspaper listings from that time show that the college offered courses ranging from art - like pottery or painting - to poetry readings, political science, and current affairs. Some of these courses were run by the Stanyons, both of whom were accomplished painters. Some other courses were run in collaboration with London's universities, to whom the Battle of Britain House appealed as an interesting off-site location at the edge of the idyllic Ruislip Woods.
Sadly, on a very hot summer day in August 1984, the Battle of Britain House burned down to a crisp while undergoing renovation. In a strange twist of fate, both iconic buildings of the Ruislip Woods have been lost to fire. Soon after, the bulldozers razed the charred remains of the estate and took most of the rubble away. No-one knows what happened to the masterful Chinese bronze lions and garden ornaments that would have survived the fire, so keep an eye out for those in case they turn up. Eventually, the entire area has been allowed to be reclaimed by the woods. Only memories remain of the interesting lives lived here, and stories of ingenuity, bravery and sacrifice.
Following the trail through the heath, you will soon be reaching the treeline. Take a few steps inside the woods, and you will be able to see the mansion's steps once more, to your right.
I'll meet you there.