The back of Oakley Court Hotel is a familiar sight for Rocky Horror Picture Show fans. — Photo courtesy of © Steve Larese
If you know how to do the “Time Warp,” chances are you’re already familiar with the Oakley Court Hotel in Windsor, England. It doubled as Frank-N-Furter’s castle in Richard O'Brien's 1975 horror-movie send up The Rocky Horror Picture Show, as well as the set for many classic Hammer Film Productions. But before fame on the silver screen, Oakley Court was a posh English estate. Today it’s a luxury hotel, and you can sleep where Dracula prowled and Transylvanians partied.
The Drawing Room at Oakley Court Hotel is where the "Time Warp" dance was filmed in the Rocky Horror Picture Show. — Photo courtesy of © Steve Larese
The manor retains its famous gothic exterior and English manners along a half-mile bank of the River Thames. After extensive renovation beginning in the 1980s and a recent sale in 2014, Oakley Court Hotel harkens back to its charm as a regal English manor. Guests luxuriate in 118 modern rooms with wainscoting, wingback chairs, regal curtains and plush king-sized beds. The lobby and sitting rooms glow with wooden paneling, leather furniture and fireplaces with elaborately wooden or stone-carved Victorian mantels. Outside, guests may stroll the path along the Thames and herb gardens, and enjoy the gym, sauna, pool, and French-inspired restaurant. Its 35 manicured acres include a 9-hole golf course, tennis courts, croquet lawn and not one, but two helipads.
Gargoyles abound at Oakley Court. This one can be seen in The Rocky Horror Picture Show when Brad and Janet arrive at the castle. — Photo courtesy of © Steve Larese
Oakley Court was built in 1859 for magistrate Richard Hall Say and his wife, Ellen, says Oakley Court historian Jake Roche. Originally called Water Oakley Manor, the property was typical of a high-class country estate with its gothic gargoyles, tower and stepped stonework. Originally the home had six reception rooms, 14 bedrooms, two nurseries, four bathrooms and accommodations for 16 servants. Its 35 acres also housed stables for 14 horses and later motor houses for cars. Leslie Ward (the “Spy” artist for Vanity Fair), Prince Imperial Louis Napoleon, Prince Edward VII and actress Lillie Langtry were all guests at Oakley. More recently, Queen Elizabeth II's 2009 visit here for the annual Swan Upping is still a point of pride.
The exterior of Oakley Court Hotel has changed very little from its completion in 1859. — Photo courtesy of © Steve Larese
The estate passed through the family until the last know private owner, Ernest Olivier, died in 1965. With no clear ownership, Oakley began to fall into disrepair, making a perfect set for horror films. But Oakley Court started being used in movies years before Olivier’s death. Olivier was often away traveling, and in 1949 Hammer Film Productions rented his estate and filmed five movies there.
In 1958 Peter Cushing filmed the critically acclaimed Dracula at Oakley, and he starred again in 1960’s The Brides of Dracula. Hammer Films would purchase nearby Down Place as its permanent studio, but still used Oakley’s photogenic exterior in establishing shots for its gothic horror films. After Oakley was abandoned, Hammer Films used the dilapidated interior for many of its classic horror films, including The Plague of Zombies (1966). Amicus Productions filmed Theatre of Blood starring Vincent Price at Oakley in 1973. The property became so run down that Susan Sarandon caught pneumonia there while filming The Rocky Horror Picture Show as parts of the roof had fallen in, and she was often scantily dressed for the movie.
The original rooms of the manor are now sitting rooms and the bar. — Photo courtesy of © Steve Larese
For Rocky Horror enthusiasts, there are annual costume gatherings at Oakley. The exterior is still instantly recognizable, and although the interior has been refurbished, areas where scenes were shot are still identifiable. The front door and banister where Riff Raft greets Brad and Janet can be seen, and the famous Time Warp dance sequence took place in the back Drawing Room, where the entry doors, fireplaces and other details can be spotted.
Windsor Castle is a quick cab ride from Oakley Court Hotel. — Photo courtesy of © Steve Larese
Oakley Court Hotel is less than four miles from the charming city of Windsor and Windsor Castle, where you can tour the Queen’s weekend getaway, watch the changing of the guard and explore items and art spanning England’s royal history. Rooms at the Oakley Court Hotel begin at $200.