Nuneham House, a Grade II listed 18th-century Palladian villa overlooking the River Thames near Oxford, has hosted more than 300,000 guests from all walks of life since opening as the Global Retreat Centre (GRC) in 1993. With its 65 bedrooms and 50 acres of Grade 1 listed gardens, it provides an idyllic setting for helping individuals access a spiritual perspective of themselves and the world.
A 125-year lease on the house and grounds was acquired by the Brahma Kumaris (UK) charity. The property had been empty for nearly four years when it was purchased and was in an extremely run-down condition. A team of volunteers took part in restoring its main features to their former glory and it opened in June 1993 as a facility where people could take part in residential and day retreats, lectures, seminars and courses.
Leaders from the worlds of politics, business, science and religion, as well as environmentalists and educators, prison governors and social workers and social work managers, architects and health workers, have been among groups supported by retreats tailored to their professional needs.
The grounds, including a woodland walk designed by Capability Brown, have also been beautifully restored and in recent years hosted a festival called Peace in the Park, enjoyed by many thousands of young people and families as well as visitors looking for a meditation experience, or guidance on personal growth
It was a huge leap of faith on the part of Dadi Janki, one of the founding sisters of the India-based BK movement, who inspired the trustees and volunteers of the charity to acquire the property. She came to the UK in 1974 and remained based in London for 40 years, spearheading a spiritual renaissance that has now reached more than 120 countries. Although now aged 103, and back in India as the head of the Brahma Kumaris, she continues to inspire the programme of renovation and renewal of GRC.
The retreat centre’s existing 25 years of service was made possible by a team comprised entirely of volunteers, supported by many from around the UK and abroad. Although no charges were made to guests, most contributed of their own accord, so that others would receive similar benefit to themselves.
In view of the age of the building and the essential maintenance required, the trustees of the UK charity decided to undertake extensive refurbishment to bring it up to modern day standards at a cost in excess of £5 million. This work will enable the centre to continue to offer its invaluable services to the UK and the wider world.