Battle of Britain museum at Bentley Priory under threat amid downturn

The Grade II* country house in Stanmore, Middlesex, closed in May last year and its operations were moved to nearby RAF Northolt.

Perched on a hill commanding views across the whole of London to the South Downs beyond, the building is revered as the nerve centre of the Battle of Britain.

It is seen as the spiritual home of "the Few" – the World War II fighter pilots who fought off the German aerial invasion in 1940 against all the odds.

VSM Estates, a developer, had planned to sell the site for conversion into apartments and a museum by 2010.

Its deal with a housebuilder however, has now collapsed and the museum's trustees say the building will be moth-balled until the middle of next year.

There is a real risk that the last remaining pilots who fought in the battle will not be alive to see the opening of the museum.

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