DiCamillo Companion
England

Wispers

  • Built / Designed For: Alexander Scrimgeour

    House & Family History: In 1928 Wispers was purchased for Mary, wife of the 11th Duke of Bedford. Known as the Flying Duchess, in the 1930s she had a grass runway installed in a field on the grounds and constructed a hangar for her collection of moths, the British de Havilland biplanes she famously flew. The story of this remarkable woman is told by Meriel Buxton in her 2008 book, “The High-Flying Duchess.” In 1926, at the age of 61, the duchess became interested in flying when she took her first lessons. In June of 1928 she accompanied her first pilot, Captain Charles Douglas Barnard, on an attempt to break the speed record from England to India (Lympne Airport, Kent, to Karachi); this attempt had to be abandoned, but was successful the following year. On April 10, 1930 she embarked on a record-breaking flight from Lympne Airport to Cape Town; in 1934 the duchess made extensive flights from Britain to the Western Sahara and Northern Nigeria. In March 1937 the duchess took off in her de Havilland Gipsy Moth to view the flooded Fens and never returned. Parts of her aircraft were eventually washed ashore near Great Yarmouth, Norfolk. Wispers was sold after the death of the Flying Duchess and served as St. Cuthman's School from 1939 until 2004. In 2010 Wispers was sold for £3 million to Durand Primary School, near Brixton, who planned to redevelop Wispers into Durand Academy, a secondary boarding school. In 2013 planning permission for the development of the site was refused; the South Downs National Park Authority successfully argued that the 375-pupil Durand Academy was too big and its impact on the landscape would be "inappropriate." In 2019 the school sold Wispers.

  • Architect: Richard Norman Shaw

    Date: 1874-76
    Designed: Tudor style House for Alexander Scrimgeour

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  • House Listed: Grade II

    Park Listed: Not Listed

  • Past Seat / Home of: Alexander Scrimgeour, late 19th century. Mary Russell, Duchess of Bedford, 1928-37.

    Current Ownership Type: Unknown

    Primary Current Ownership Use: Unknown

  • House Open to Public: No

    Historic Houses Member: No

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