DENMAN is a lovely Grade II listed country house built at the beginning of the 19th century in 17 acres of beautiful grounds in the village of Marcham, about eight miles from Oxford. It was bought and developed with money raised by WI members and opened in 1948 as a residential educational college. Over the years it has been extended and now caters for WI members and non-members, men and women.
An enormous variety of courses are on offer –about 700 each year with ever-widening subject matter. Experience days or short stays for small groups can be organised and day visits for WIs can be arranged for any day of the week. Within the main house there are several elegant public rooms which are wonderful places to relax and chat with new-found friends. The Lady Denman dining room offers excellent food and can cater for all diets. Profits from the bar ensure that the carpets are regularly renewed!
All of the en-suite bedrooms are maintained by Federations and some by individuals or WIs, with home-made furnishings adding variety and charm. The Surrey Room in the main house has twin beds and “the cabin” housing another single, offering unrivalled views over the gardens and to the lake. Much of the accommodation is in “cottages” which have been built more recently within the grounds. Two rooms are especially adapted for the less mobile or those coming with a carer.
There is a “faberdashery” emporium, full of wonderful and ever-changing surprises – the stock consists of donations of fabric, yarn, patterns, card-making essentials and all sorts of craft items. No stay is complete without a browse here. The substantial profits are used to provide up-to-date equipment and extras for the teaching studios.
The Teaching Centre includes a large room used for courses, lectures and demonstrations as well as lunches for celebrity day visits, art and fabric studios, while the wonderfully equipped Cookery School has gas and electric ovens and hobs (even an Aga) ensuring that a wide variety of culinary skills can be acquired and nurtured.
Bursaries towards the cost of Denman courses are offered by the Federation every year, and are drawn at the Autumn Federation Meeting in October. There is also a “Denman Dip” (£1 in an envelope) draw at the Annual Council Meeting in March. Some WIs and groups offer their own bursaries.
Denman itself also offers a variety of bursaries – full details can be found on the website – plus the Agnes Salter travel fund which assists members from further away with travel expenses. Buying a raffle ticket on every visit adds to this fund.
Both members and non-members can attend courses as Denman and these can be found in the brochure produced by Denman about three times a year or on the Denman website. If you wish to attend a Denman course you should book through Denman and the Cancellation Policy applies. We do arrange group bookings for Surrey members – see below – and these should be booked through the Federation.
Surrey at Denman weekend
Surrey Federation hosts a Denman Weekend, when we take over the whole college, usually in July each year with six different courses to choose from. Details of the following year’s courses are released after the current year’s weekend.
In 2020, the Federation would have been at Denman from Friday, 10 July to Sunday, 12 July. Regretfully this has had to be cancelled.
Surrey at Denman Experience
We also host a one-night Denman Experience for those with less time to spare in alternate years in March.
A visit to Denman, the jewel in the crown of the WI, is a unique and never to be forgotten experience. You can safely go on your own and know you will be among friends.
Surrey’s Denman Ambassador is Lesley Earl. If you have any queries then please complete our Contact Us form to discuss these with her.