Thames Pathway

Journal of a Walk Down the River Thames

by Keith Pauling

Oakley Court

Oakley Court
Oakley Court

There is something familiar about Oakley Court, a mock Gothic castle-like building on the opposite bank. I have never walked this stretch before but I have definitely seen that building somewhere before.

It was built in 1859 for Sir Richard Hall Say, and there is a story that he wanted it constructed in the style of an old French Chateau to stop his young French wife from being homesick. What a lovely thought, who said romance was dead? Except that his wife was Ellen Evans from Boveney which is just along the road! As previously stated, let us not let the facts get in the way of a good story.

After several different owners the house was bought in 1919 by Earnest Oliver, who was a somewhat eccentric character. He often entertained foreign diplomats and would fly their national flags as an expression of courtesy while they were staying with him. During the war there are rumours that Oakley Court was the England headquarters of the French Resistance, and that General De Gaulle was a frequent visitor.

Mr Oliver passed away in 1965 and the house lay uninhabited for several years. It was during this time that it was used for the purpose that had sparked something deep in my own memory.

In 1955 the film company, Bray Studios, moved to Down Place, immediately next door to Oakley Court. When their neighbouring property became vacant it provided an immediately accessible location for filming, and so it became St.Trinians School for Young Ladies, the setting for The Rocky Horror Show, Dracula’s Castle and the backdrop for umpteen reels of spooky house footage from Hammer Films.

Oakley Court was converted into a hotel, and has been open since 1981. It is apparently a popular destination for Rocky Horror Show fans, so if you want to book in and do the “Time Warp” in the true location you will very possibly find that you are not the only one.

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