Surrey’s own house of Ghosts

IF, LIKE me, you are a fan of the BBC One comedy Ghosts – currently on our screens every Monday in its third series – you will be familiar with West Horsley Place, which stars as the fictional Button House.

Just six miles from Woking as the crow flies, the 15th century manor house has a starring role throughout the show, which makes use of its period rooms, impressive exterior and gardens.

West Horsley Place, the location for both real-life and fictional restoration quests Picture by Richard Lewisohn

The sitcom follows a collection of ghosts from different historical periods who haunt a dilapidated country house and their interaction with a young woman who has unexpectedly inherited the building from a distant relative.

It’s a story that mirrors real life. West Horsley Place had been unoccupied for 20 years when it was bequeathed in 2014 to former University Challenge presenter Bamber Gascoigne by his great aunt, the Duchess of Roxburghe.

Like Alison Cooper in Ghosts, Bamber set out on a daunting quest to restore the mansion. He set up a trust to raise money for the task and is well known for welcoming Grange Park Opera to build the Theatre in the Woods in the grounds.

In addition to Ghosts, the house and its walled formal gardens have also been used to provide authentic historic interiors and exteriors in a variety of other TV productions, including The Durrells, Guerilla. The Crown, Silent Witness, Cuckoo and Howard’s End.

Alison Cooper (Charlotte Ritchie) and husband Mike (Kiell Smith-Bynoe) with the hosts in Button House, also known as West Horsley Place

The feature films Cousin Rachel, Stan & Ollie and Enola Holmes have used West Horsley Place for location filming.

The West Horsley Place Trust, which aims to bring the house and estate back into good repair so they can be opened to the public, puts all the proceeds from filming into supporting the restoration.

The trust has organised some special open days when visitors can explore the house and walled gardens. Experts will be located in each of the most-prestigious rooms in the house, to share West Horsley Place’s remarkable stories

There will be tales about Guy Fawkes’s time as a footman there, how Walter Raleigh’s head ended up under its stairs, why Elizabeth I had a theatre built in the gardens, and how two of the owners ended up being executed!

The next open day is on Sunday 19 September. Tickets, for either a morning or afternoon session, must be booked at www.westhorsleyplace.org/open-days. Adults are £10, under-16s and carers free.

Or see West Horsley Place in Ghosts on BBC One on Monday evenings. And all previous editions can be enjoyed on BBC iPlayer.

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