The world famous Bray Studios near Windsor, England is under threat. According to local news reports in the Maidenhead Advertiser (picked up by The Mirror) this week the current owners have put in an application for refurbishment work on the Grade II listed Down Place - the building at the centre of the studio complex.
However, they have also strongly intimated that they will propose to turn the building back into residential dwellings in the forms of flats, and indeed the entire Bray Studios complex will be turned from a working studio into private dwellings.
If this happens the character of the Bray Studios site will be irreparably altered and a piece of British film history will be written off.
Bray Studios came into existence when Hammer Films/Exclusive Films moved into Down Place from their temporary home next door in Oakley Court (now a hotel) in 1951. Taking on a 1 year lease before buying the site, Hammer would convert the main house into a workable studio space eventually building purpose-built studios in the grounds.
Known for a while as Exclusive Studios, it would soon be renamed Bray Film Studios. and Hammer would remain there until 1966, finally selling the property at the end of the decade. During that time Hammer made some of their most fondly remembered films and some of the most important cult British films ever - The Quatermass Xperiment, The Curse of Frankenstein, Dracula, The Camp On Blood Island and Plague of the Zombies.
The space was also hired out - the Errol Flynn Theatre filmed there in the 1950s, The Who recorded and rehearsed at Bray during the 1970s, The Rocky Horror Picture Show was made there, and tv series like Inspector Morse and Doctor Who have used the space.
Bray celebrates 60 years as a film studio next year, a rare survivor from the era of classic British cinema. Its the only one of the Hammer house studios that survives as a working studio. It would be a shame to see the premises closed and the history levelled.
This site is intended to alert people to the threat against the studios, and to share something of the history of Bray. If you're interested in contributing, get in touch.
Unless another film production company can invest time and money into the site it looks like the writing is on the wall. Perhaps it could be turned into a living film museum, an authentic film experience? A theatre? Anything but levelled and turned into a series of flats.
Photo: Bray Studios, August 2007. (c) Robert J.E. Simpson. All Rights Reserved.