The Wokingham Paper

Bearwood Mansion’s ‘Past Times’ are celebrated

A TEENAGER with a passion for the past is celebrating his school’s heritage with an inaugural exhibition.

The student-led project to revive the ‘past times’ of Bearwood mansion and estate in Sindlesham was spearheaded by Reddam House student, Ben Wheeler.

Likening his school’s impressive exterior to that of Hogwarts, Mr Wheeler explained, “I am deeply intrigued by the untapped history of the estate.”

In his final year at the school, Mr Wheeler channeled this passion for the house’s history into the beginnings of an ongoing project, all whilst completing his A-levels. 

Mr Wheeler raised funds for the exhibition by launching a gofundme page, with a detailed video explaining his desire to showcase Reddam House history, and why he needs community support to do so. 

Reddam House was built by John Walter III, grandson of The Times’ founder, and has a complex and deeply varied history. 

Speaking at the exhibition launch was British actor, Dame Harriet Walter DBE. Granddaughter to the late John Walter V, the last owner of the Bearwood mansion, she expressed her fascination with her family history. 

“I’ve become very interested in the whole ethos of this typically Victorian family who started quite humbly through graft and work. Through a sort of public-spiritedness they acquired wealth and position, and then platform; using The Times newspaper to disseminate quite firmly held views,” said Dame Harriet Walter. 

“They had quite a liberal streak, or certainly had an independence of mind and were willing to go to prison for their opinions.

“They pioneered the whole journalism industry as we know it. Now we take for granted things like foreign correspondents and independent press. They turned down titles in order to keep that independence of the press, which I’m quite proud of.”  

Representing The Times was Chris McKane, former deputy managing editor. 

He said: “The fantastic team who have created this exhibition are bringing the Walters to life in the context of the family home which served them so well, and which has flourished in its different incarnations.”

Previously described as a palace owned by the prince of the press, the house was also a Canadian Convalescence Hospital in the First World War, an orphanage for the children of Merchant Seamen and is now a school. 

The Bearwood estate has an older history, dating back to the time of the Norman conquest in the 11th century.

Whilst the exhibition was a one-evening only event, the fundraising initiative is ongoing as future students interested in the Bearwood estate’s past hope to reveal more with subsequent student-led exhibitions.

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