A Guide to Grange Park Opera

Deep in the rolling hills of Surrey is Grange Park Opera, set in the grounds of West Horsley Place, a magical location where you will find a crinkle-crankle wall, a woodland glade, an ancient orchard with a 300 year-old mulberry tree and a Theatre in the Woods ringing with first class opera. An evening with Grange Park Opera is more than music, song, picnics and champagne: you’ll also be treading in the footsteps of Henry VIII, Elizabeth I and even a BBC Ghost or two.

Grange OperaAbout Grange Park Opera

Grange Park Opera is located in the grounds of West Horsley Place, a 380-acre estate recently owned by broadcaster Bamber Gascoigne and his wife Christine. Grange Park Opera was founded in 1998 by Wasfi Kani. It has staged more than 80 operas, initially from its home in Hampshire, and then more recently from its new home in West Horsley Place when Gascoigne agreed to open his house and gardens to the opera company.

Theatre in the WoodsOperas are staged in the Theatre in the Woods, an auditorium which seats 750 and is modelled on La Scala in Milan.

History of West Horsley Place

West Horsley PlaceThe Grade I listed manor dates from 1425, and it includes 380 acres of which 5 acres is walled. West Horsley Place was owned by Mary Innes-Ker, Duchess of Roxburghe. She unexpectedly gifted it to her great-nephew Bamber Gascoigne on her death, aged 80, in 2014.

BBC Ghosts filming locations

The atmospheric Drawing Room at West Horsley House, made famous in BBC Ghosts. (Image: Richard Lewisohn)

The BBC TV series Ghosts was filmed entirely at West Horsley Place. It was also used as the location for The Crown, Enola Holmes, Vanity Fair, Howard’s End and My Cousin Rachel.

West Horsley Place Henry VIIIThe Stone Hall, where you can dine during Grange Park Opera, was once frequented by Henry VIII. The king, who gifted the house to his cousin Henry Courtenay, once stopped in for a spot of lunch. Poor Courtenay had to dish up a 35-course meal for Henry and his large retinue. Naturellement, Courtenay would later lose his head to Henry’s hot temper, aided and abetted by a jealous Cromwell.

West Horsley PlaceQueen Elizabeth I stayed at West Horsley Place for a week in August 1559. A pop-up theatre was erected for the royal stay.

What’s on at Grange Park Opera this summer

What's on at Grange Park Opera

Tristan and Isolde. (Image: Marc Brenner)

The Summer 2023 Season includes Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde, Puccini’s Tosca, Massenet’s Werther and the Bryn Terfel Gala. On the 7 July, 100 primary school children will be performing in the Theatre in the Woods. You can reserve your free ticket here.

Your arrival at Grange Park Opera

Arrive at least an hour early to soak up the atmosphere of the walled garden, and even longer if you want a pre-performance glass of bubbles. I recommend arriving one and a half hours before the start of the performance.

Pre-ordered champagne and canapes are served on the lawn next to the house, but you can also order drinks on the spot. Or, if it’s tea and cake you prefer, head to Gloria’s Tea Room which is housed in the Croquet Lawn Marquee.

Dining options at Grange Park Opera

There are many dining options at Grange Park Opera some of which are weather-dependant.

Picnics

Bring your own picnic (or order a Grange Park opera one) and pick a favourite spot in which to enjoy it. These include a private Indian Pavilion (£140 for 8-10 people) or a space in a communal marquee on the Croquet Lawn or Orchard Marquee. (£20 per person). Note that the Orchard is closest to the theatre. I have dined in both and prefer the Croquet which is more atmospheric, and I think is a prettier setting.

Grange Park Opera private tentsYou can also bring a picnic rug or chairs and pick a spot throughout the gardens (free).

Grange Park Orchard Marquee

The Orchard Marquee

Grange Park Opera Picnics: The Wagner costs £86 for 2 people and The Verdi is £83 for 2 people.  Note: picnics must be booked seven days in advance.

Restaurant Dining

West Horsley Library

The Library at West Horsley Place

Enjoy a three-course dinner in the Duchess Restaurant for £90 per person.  Note: the restaurant must be booked five days in advance.

Grange Park Opera restaurant

You can also enjoy the same menu in one of the private Rose Garden pavilions (6-10 guests).

West Horsley Place Gardens

Dress Code

what to wear at Grange Park Opera

Mr Londoness strikes a pose

The standard dress code is black tie with long evening gowns, but do feel free to push the fashion boat and wear something a little more unusual. And do go for comfort if you can. I recommend flat and comfortable shoes for your visit so that you can enjoy a walk around the beautiful gardens. Yours truly did trip up last year in her heels and has since learnt her lesson!

How to get to Grange Park Opera

How to get to Grange Park OperaGrange Park Opera is located near Leatherhead in Surrey. Horsley station is one mile away (25 minute walk). You can also drive to West Horsley Place which is off the A246 between Guildford and Leatherhead.

How to get to Grange Park OperaWant to arrive in style? Book a vintage car from Horsley station or from London.

Once you arrive, you will need to walk to or drive to the car park area where attendants will provide guidance. If you’re bringing a picnic, be aware there is a 5-minute walk from the car park to most picnic areas within the grounds. For £25, a porter will carry your picnic hamper to your preferred spot.

Membership at Grange Park Opera

Grange Park Opera receives no public subsidies and therefore membership helps to keep the flame going in more ways than one. There are several levels of membership, and perks include priority booking for future productions, priority to the Grand Winter Dinner, tours with CEO Wasfi Kani and invitations to the stage after a performance. Check out the options here.

Grange Park Opera: The Theatre in the Woods, West Horsley Place, Epsom Road, Leatherhead, Surrey, KT24 6AN. Website.

I was a guest of Grange Park Opera.

A London arts and culture blog featuring articles about art, theatre, opera, dance, music and design.

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