Penny Rainbow – The author, is a local to the Elmbridge area and was born in nearby Walton-on-Thames. She has three children, Harriet, Rory and Charlotte. Penny left school at 16 to commence a city career at the Bank of England. One year later, Penny was seconded to the Panel on Take-overs and Mergers, at the Stock Exchange, before moving to Goldman Sachs and finally to Sanwa International. Since leaving the City, Penny has run her own property business. She has resided in Japan, Hong Kong and the South of France where, in 2001, she started to develop the research notes that she had gathered since 1993. Her enthusiasm for history led her to study 17th and 18th Century Decorative Arts at Sotheby’s in 1992, which coincided with the purchase of Wayneflete Tower. In 2012, Penny became a qualified guide lecturer at Hampton Court Palace, providing a further avenue for her to share her passion for English history.
The Tower required a major programme of restoration works, which commenced in 1992 and will no doubt continue throughout Penny’s lifetime. She acknowledges her position as the current custodian to be both a privilege and an honour: “I am proud to own a medieval building of such national importance and not a day goes by when I do not pinch myself in disbelief that the Tower is my home. The Tower stands as one of the finest architectural achievements in England and I hope that my book will assist in establishing the recognition and credit for its builder, William Wayneflete, which he fully deserves.”
Penny considers herself to be hugely privileged to own a property whose existence has spanned more than five hundred years of English history. She asserts: “Miraculously, Wayneflete Tower has survived the colourful episodes of past centuries and stands today in triumph as an ancient monument with a history. Undoubtedly, it will continue to outlive its residents and, whilst none of the past historical events will be repeated, nor hopefully will they now slip from memory into oblivion.”
Penny Rainbow – Lectures
Since publishing “A Complete History of The Tower of Esher – a William Wayneflete Landmark” in 2010, Penny Rainbow has been giving powerpoint presentations to local societies and groups, including Probus, University of the Third Age (U3A) and the Women’s Institute. The talks are specifically related to the Tower, its history and residents. The presentations are bespoke and can be tailored to suit an individual group’s requirements. Additionally, Penny also gives talks on William Kent and Lady Helen D’Abernon and as of 2014 Penny will happily consider bespoke tours and or talks at her home, Wayneflete Tower. Simply click on contact at the bottom of the page.
William Kent was an extraordinarily versatile designer, who is perhaps best remembered for his contribution to Neo-Palladian architecture, but he was also the originator of the Gothic Revival and the founder of romantic naturalistic landscape gardening in England. Kent led a revolution that saw architecture, interior design and the English landscape transformed and it started in Esher. Penny’s presentation on William Kent aims to firmly establish the architectural and historical significance of his commission for Henry Pelham at Esher.
Lady Helen D’Abernon was described by Lutyens as “a lovely Easter egg with nothing inside, terribly dilettante and altogether superficial,” whilst the Aga Khan described her as “the most beautiful woman I ever knew, utterly unspoilt, simple, selfless, gay, brave and kind.” Penny’s presentation challenges Lutyens’ impression of Lady Helen and establishes her double life, which is set primarily against the backdrop of the First World War.
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