The Tower House - Ownership

Ownership

The house descended to Burges's brother in law, Richard Popplewell Pulan, and was subsequently owned by Colonel T. H. Minshall DSO, father of Merlin Minshall and author of What to Do with Germany and Future Germany during the 1920s. Minshall sold his lease on the house to E.R.B. Graham and his wife in 1933. Poet John Betjeman later befriended the Grahams and Betjeman was given the remaining two year lease on Tower House upon Mrs Grahams death in 1962. Betjeman felt he could not afford the financial implications of taking over the house permanently, with his potential liability for £10,000 of renovations upon the expiration of the lease. Between 1962 and 1966 the house was unoccupied and damaged by vandals. In addition the years following Burges' death saw some of his decorations painted over. Restoration began in 1966 with the aid of grants from the Greater London Council and the Ministry of Housing and Local Government.

The Irish actor Richard Harris paid £75,000 for the Tower House in 1970, after discovering that the American entertainer Liberace had bought the house but not yet put down a deposit. After finding out from the Evening Standard that Tower House was for sale, he gave the estate agent a cheque for the property by quarter past nine the next day. Harris described his purchase of the house as the "biggest gift I've ever given myself". He had first visited Tower House when he was 24, when he awoke in its garden. He would subsequently go back to the overgrown garden to sleep. Harris later found out that the current owners might sell Tower House to developers, and applied to a preservation society to declare the house a historic building. After coveting Tower House, Harris claimed that the owners antipathy toward him after this act led to the them favouring Liberace over himself as its prospective purchaser.

The British entertainer Danny La Rue visited Tower House with Liberace, recounting in his autobiography that "...Lee insisted on taking me to a house that he was thinking of buying...It was a strange building and had eerie murals painted on the ceiling...I was very uncomfortable and sensed evil". La Rue recounts an alleged paranormal experience he had at Tower House, and recalls feeling relived when Liberace failed to buy the property. La Rue later met Richard Harris who told him that he had bought children's toys for the 'little bastards' inhabiting Tower House, who then left Harris alone. Harris later claimed that the house was haunted by an eight year old boy.

Harris employed the original decorators, Campbell Smith & Company Ltd. to carry out extensive restoration work on the interior. As the Tower House was unfinished upon Burges's death, it was possible to restore the interior using his original drawings from the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Tower House is presently owned by Jimmy Page, guitarist of Led Zeppelin and an avid enthusiast of Burges and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. It is not open to the public. Page bought the house in 1972 from Harris for £350,000. In an interview Page commented that "I was still finding things 20 years after being there - a little beetle on the wall or something like that, it's Burges' attention to detail that is so fascinating."

Recent photographs of Tower House have been published in curator Matthew Williams' 2007 book William Burges and the 2012 book Great Houses of London by James Stourton and photographer Fritz von der Schulenburg.

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