A local’s guide to Farnborough

PUBLISHED: 13:05 15 January 2020 | UPDATED: 13:05 15 January 2020

Baronial Farnborough Hill was the home of the Empress Eug�nie, wife of Napoleon III, and became her court in exile; today it is the home to a successful independent Roman Catholic school for girls

Baronial Farnborough Hill was the home of the Empress Eug�nie, wife of Napoleon III, and became her court in exile; today it is the home to a successful independent Roman Catholic school for girls

Farnborough Hill

From the abbey to aviation – Farnborough’s hidden gems revealed

A listed airship hangar frame on Farnborough's business park soars cathedral-like (alternative)A listed airship hangar frame on Farnborough's business park soars cathedral-like (alternative)

Farnborough appears conventionally suburban. However, all is not what it seems. This is the birthplace of British aviation and the resting place of the last French Emperor. Its extraordinary heritage can be seen on its business park where the frame of an airship hangar is a striking landmark. Meanwhile Farnborough's French connection is hidden in the town centre. Beyond high gates lies a small farm maintained by a Benedictine community, a flamboyant chapel decorated with 100 gargoyles and the Imperial crypt where Napoleon III, Empress Eugénie and their son, the Imperial Prince, are interred. Utterly unexpected.

Our Farnborough

John Stokes, 
Farnborough Airport

Born and brought up in the local area, John lives a stone's throw of Farnborough Airport where he has worked for ten years. Farnborough Airport holds a notable place in the history of British aviation, home of the UK's first powered flight in 1908 and where Sir Frank Whittle tested the first British jet engine. It has also hosted the world's leading airshow, Farnborough International Airshow, since 1948. Once the headquarters of the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE), it has become Europe's leading business aviation airport and, since 2018, the first carbon neutral business aviation airport in the world.

Farnborough’s French Connection. St Michaels’ Abbey with monastery, chapel and imperial crypt. The chapel has an ornate edifice of Bath and Portland stone, its design is reminiscent of the Loire Valley and it is decorated with 100 gargoylesFarnborough’s French Connection. St Michaels’ Abbey with monastery, chapel and imperial crypt. The chapel has an ornate edifice of Bath and Portland stone, its design is reminiscent of the Loire Valley and it is decorated with 100 gargoyles

John's local life

"Farnborough feels up and coming with substantial investment being put into the town."

A secret: "A small railway line once connected Farnborough Airport to the railway network. Some of the track was discovered during the ground works for the new Gulfstream Aircraft Service Centre (opening 2020). The original steam train is now in service as a tourist attraction on the Isle of Wight and the track was given to a local historical society."

Café: "Rushmoor Café in North Camp - a full fry-up and coffee have set us up many a time for a day on the golf course."

Restaurant: "The Gurkha Palace. It's always busy, offers great service and is good value for money."

Best evening out: "Film under the stars in the grounds of Aviator Hotel: good retro film, blanket and flask of hot chocolate."

Overnight stay: "Aviator Hotel. We stayed in a room on the fourth floor with a fantastic view across to Farnborough Airport. Not your usual outlook from a hotel window."

Fitness class: "Nuffield Health 
Club. Spinning certainly gets the heart pounding."

Barber: "Hair Razors in North Camp: walk in, reasonable price, and hot towel to finish."

Local event: "Farnborough International Airshow, held bi-annually at the airport. I remember going there as a young child. I talk to crews from all over the world and they all ask when it's on [the next is scheduled for July 2020], and talk about their experiences."

Local attraction: "The FAST Museum. The volunteers who guide you around are so passionate. I've been on a ghost hunt there at night and, yes, it is haunted."

Alexandra Neil, headteacher, Farnborough Hill

Farnborough Hill is an independent school for girls housed in a magnificent listed building, built in 1860 and bought in 1880 by the exiled Empress Eugénie, widow of Emperor Napoleon III of France, who lived there until her death in 1920.

The school was established in 1889 by the Institute of Christian Education, moving to Farnborough Hill in 1927 with Adrian Gilbert Scott commissioned to design additional buildings including the chapel. The school is now under lay management. In November the institute announced it would be closing its community in Farnborough this year. The school and its ethos will remain: marrying traditional values of compassion, respect and team spirit with the forward-thinking qualities of tolerance, energy 
and ambition.

Alexandra's local life

"The best thing about Farnborough is the amount of green space for such a bustling town. I love being outdoors, preferably with my dogs, and I don't have to go far to find countryside."

A secret: "Apparently there is a secret passageway between St Michael's Abbey and Farnborough Hill. Although I am yet to discover it!"

Something special: "Queen Victoria was a regular visitor here as she was a close friend of the Empress."

Favourite restaurant: "Kingfisher on the Quay - the beautiful lakeside setting is calming; on a warm summer evening you could be anywhere in the world."

Local attraction: "St Michael's Abbey - I am a history teacher and the abbey is full of history. It was built by the Empress - an incredibly strong woman and one who I think could be an inspiration to young women today."

Claire Long, 
Sherborne Windows

Claire and her husband Chris lived in Sherborne Road in North Camp when they opened their first showroom in Farnborough in the early 1990s, hence the company name. This showroom specialises in windows and doors Including ranges suitable for period properties within conservation areas. They have another showroom in Windlesham displaying glazed extensions.

Claire's local life

"Farnborough has many smaller businesses which are unique to the area and offer a personal service, it gives Farnborough a real sense of community."

Favourite shop: "Sinclair Trophies has traded for over 40 years in North Camp and have provided us with many a trophy over the years for our awards evening as well as tokens of appreciation."

Walk: "As a dog owner I'm always looking for a lovely walk. Southwood Woodland is 80 acres of cared-for woodland; a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of town."

Gym: "Village Hotel has an amazing gym with great classes even for a novice like me. Afterwards there's a pool and jacuzzi to relax in."

Pub: "The Swan, next to FAST Museum. We supplied and fitted all the windows and doors when it was renovated."

Night out: "Village Hotel offers a variety of themed evenings, from soul nights to chick flicks parties."

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