Map: Ordnance Survey 1:2500 County Series from 1875 – Bray, Berkshire.
Down Place country house (1750) and Oakley Court, a castellated and turreted Gothic mansion (1857) were built on the banks of the River Thames between the towns of Bray and Windsor and went on to find fame and fortune as Bray Studios.
In 1951 Hammer Film Productions settled on the derelict Down Place as a way of avoiding the need to build sets and the large grounds were ideal for location work for their budget horror films. The following year Hammer decided to build a full studio in the grounds of Down Place, and name it Bray Studios, after the local town. Oakley Court was acquired in the 1960’s and became an ideal setting for many Bray productions.
Films included the 1950’s films The Quatermass Xperiment, The Curse of Frankenstein, Dracula and the Mummy. The 1960’s saw The Brides of Dracula, The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll, The Curse of the Werewolf, and many, many more. The last Hammer production made at Bray was The Mummy’s Shroud, which wrapped on 21 October 1966.
Bray went on to produce many other films including the St Trinians series and The Rocky Horror Picture Show, as well as special effects and model work for TV and film. including Doctor Who, Space 1999, Alien, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and Terry Gilliam’s 2009 film The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.
Due to the size of its sound stages and it’s relative remoteness, Bray Studios also became a popular rehearsal studio where many artists fine-tuned their performances before going on tour. From Led Zeppelin in the 1970’s to The Kings of Leon in 2008, by way of Queen’s Freddy Mercury tribute concert, Cream, George Harrison, Radiohead and Amy Winehouse, the studios became home to many of the worlds top bands.
On the opposite side of the Thames lies Eton Dorney, the scene of rowing triumphs in the 2012 Olympic rowing events, where Team GB won four gold medals, two silver and three bronze.
The town of Bray is also famed for its culinary delights, boasting two of the four restaurants in the United Kingdom to have three Michelin stars, The Waterside Inn founded by the Roux brothers, and Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck restaurant.
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