Excerpts from 1,500 word article which ends with driving directions and reservations information


By Pam Hobbs

Windsor, Berks: Coming upon the grey stone mansion at the end of a winding drive, I am reminded of the day I was first delivered to an all-girls school which looked remarkably like this. Thankfully my circumstances are different now. I don't have name-tags sewn on all my clothes, or a field hockey-stick poking from my luggage. I am infinitely more cheerful. And the food is bound to be better than remembered from my schooldays, since this is Oakley Court Hotel - acclaimed for its traditional English and French cuisine.

Actually, thoughts of this sumptuous hotel filled with chattering schoolgirls are not terribly far-fetched, because the sometimes hilarious Belles of St. Trinian's movies were filmed here back in the l950s. Now I know as much, I can see it all: Flash Harry played by George Cole waiting in those bushes beneath the windows to buy gin concocted in the school lab. Police spy-cum-gym mistress Ruby Gates (ably acted by comedienne Joyce Grenfell) eavesdropping on that broad oak staircase. Alistair Sim as the bumbling headmistress, so remarkably like the head of a progressive school in Scotland called St. Trinnean's, she apparently considered suing The Belles author Ronald Searle.

Over a period of fourteen years some 200 movies were filmed here. Most called for a sinister venue. Here, Peter Sellers and pals had great fun performing in the classic Murder by Death. The Rocky Horror Show was shot on this estate, and fans of that cult still arrive at the hotel in costume. For added effect, directors of the Dracula movies used candles to light the entire building.

A gracious country hotel since l98l, Oakley Court was built on this tranquil stretch of the Thames river in l859 by Sir Richard Hall Say, who is said to have designed it in the style of a chateau to comfort his homesick French wife.