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TOUR OF THE MONTH
ON THIS DAY IN LONDON
Bentley Priory's Military Legacy
The headquarters of the British air defence core in WW2.
Location: The Common, Lane End, Bushey Heath
Description: This newly restored 18th-century mansion has a heroic history. Air Chief Marshal Hugh Dowding and his staff used this house and associated buildings as an information and strategic planning centre during World War Two.
It was from here that they received information first about the incoming German bombers and used it to deploy Britain's Spitfire and Hurricane squadrons to defend the country.
During World War II, the function of the Royal Observer Corps was to report all aircraft movement over land and offshore to their respective centres. From there the information was relayed to the RAF Reporting and Control Network here.
From 1937 until March 1940 Dowding's operation room was in a converted anteroom until the underground bunker was opened in 1940. It was in the operations rooms that Dowding monitored the intelligence required for his vital decision making in the run up to the key Battle of Britain.
The original Priory, which housed a cell of Augustinian Friars, was believed to have been founded in 1170 by Ranulf de Glanville. In 1546 Henry VIII gave the Priory to private owners. In 1766 the estate was sold to James Duberly, who duly pulled down the original Priory and in the 1770's built the present Bentley Priory to a design prepared by Sir John Soane, on the highest point on the ridge some distance from the original site.
It was the final home of the Dowager Queen Adelaide, widow of William IV, who occupied the Priory from April 1846 until her death there in 1849.
It looks out, then as now, over a sculpted Italianate garden and on, across a big sky, towards Harrow On The Hill and the tall spire of St Mary's church.