Oldway Mansion was built as a private residence for Isaac Singer, the founder of the Singer Sewing Machine Company and rebuilt by his son Paris Singer in the style of the Palace of Versailles. Singer’s work changed history developing a machine that could produce continuous stitching of up to 900 stitches per minute and revolutionised the manufacturing industry which had previously seen women hand sew garments. The worldwide success of his innovative creations plus his shrewd business acumen, which included pioneering the first hire purchase scheme allowing his customers to pay for goods by instalments, set new marketing and business practices.
During the first world war the mansion was used as the American Women’s War Hospital with Rolls Royce ambulances transporting 7,000 soldiers who were treated here and nursed back to health. Queen Mary visited the hospital in November 1914. The American Women’s War Relief Committee which included Lady Churchill and Nancy Astor, the first female member of parliament, raised funds to support the hospital’s efforts. When the war ended the Singer family used the mansion as a holiday home. In 1927 it became the Torbay Country Club, and was later requisitioned by the Royal Air Force in 1939 and used as an initial Air Training Wing during the second world war by housing RAF cadets training to be aircrew.
Oldway Mansion has been used as a film location on several occasions. During the spring of 2004, it doubled as Buckingham Palace for the filming of Churchill: The Hollywood Years, starring Christian Slater and Neve Campbell