Simon recorded this short video as a tribute to Bamber Gascoigne, who died on 08 February 2022.
Grange Park Opera's Theatre in the Woods stands in the grounds of Bamber Gascoigne's house at West Horsley Place. The following tribute is taken from the Grange Park Opera website:
Bamber Gascoigne CBE
24 January 1935 - 8 February 2022
"We are sad to announce TV presenter and author Bamber Gascoigne has died at his home in Richmond after a short illness.
The 87-year-old – famous for being the original host of BBC’s University Challenge – had been married to his wife Christina, a potter, for 55 years. In 2014 Bamber Gascoigne inherited from his aunt, the Duchess of Roxburghe, the Surrey estate of 14th century West Horsley Place. He was quick to agree with Grange Park Opera, that they should build an opera house in the woods behind the ancient orchard.
Bamber and Christina have been very closely involved in everything that has happened at the Theatre in the Woods.
Writing in 2016, these are Bamber’s own words:
“I have had two very great surprises in the past eighteen months. The first was the unexpected news that I had been left, by a 99-year-old aunt, Mary Roxburghe, a beautiful house in the country. A week after her death I received a request to go to a solicitor’s office. On arrival I was handed her will. I did my best to look calm and collected while they provided a cup of coffee and biscuits.
The other great surprise was provided by Grange Park Opera. A small group of their trustees paid a visit. Again over coffee and biscuits, they described their proposal and asked Christina and me if it might be acceptable. It didn’t take us long to say ‘Yes, indeed’.
It isn’t every day that you are invited to have an opera house in your garden.
It was obvious from the start that West Horsley Place is perfect for an opera season. They are planning to build the theatre tucked away romantically in a wood. A short path through the wood will bring opera-goers to our orchard, a magical place of amazingly old fruit trees. A wrought-iron gate leads visitors into semi-formal gardens, areas of mown grass separated by ancient box hedges, which I can imagine already full of the bright tented pavilions for which Grange Park Opera is famous.
And then the house itself. Amazing . . . and I could go on and on. But it is enough to say that the ground floor, an unbroken sequence of Tudor stone flags leading into the garden, has space for 150 people to dine in style.
Roll on the first night!”
He will be sadly missed by all at Grange Park Opera."