Report - The Witley Wonder, December 2012.

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Staff member
Nov 24, 2008

The Witley Wonder - 2012


I have had a fascination with this place over the past few years, having read the many articles/threads already out there and thinking one day I should go and see this..

It's one of those places that end up being pushed aside as 'other' things seem come and go despite the overwhelming intrigue the place offers

Admittedly Witley Park seems to have had a fair few visitors recently and once again my interest returned, so I decided to get my arse in gear before this fine folly is no longer!

Props to Spungletrumpet who jumped on board the adventure along with our good friend explorer 200, we managed to brave the baltic conditions and I finally got around to seeing this spectacle first hand :)

No mankinis were involved this time around unlike his previous visit with Styru & Urbanity :eek:

However lack of sleep, hallucinations a meteor shower and mooching about rather drenched made for a spectacular and memorable evening of lulz

The Estate


Witley Park (formerly Lea Park) has had many royal connections and dates back from before the Norman Conquest, when it was owned by Earl Godwin

Following the Norman conquest the grounds passed to Gilbert, son of Richer (Richerius) de Aquila

They passed through various branches of his family, then to the Earls of Pembroke, before reverting to the King before being given to Peter of Savoy in 1241

The ownership since passed through many different and illustrious owners, including Kings, Queens, Earls, Lords and Baronets

In 1613 the manor was sold to Henry Bell of Rake, who settled it on his great-nephew Anthony Smith the younger

It stayed in the Smith family until it passed by marriage in 1763 to the Carteret Web family who eventually sold it to Mr Whitaker Wright in 1890

Whitaker Wright


Considered a Midas-like figure in the 1890s he developed the large house at Witley Park and also ensured that its name would become infamous

Wright was a colourful character who moved to America in 1866 aged 21 and made a fortune in mining

However he lost it all aged 31, returned to England in 1889 and promptly set to work creating a second fortune

He did this by using his mining knowledge to push a series of Australian and Canadian mining companies on the London market, and by the early 1890s, he was a millionaire again

As befits a man of such wealth he required a country estate so in 1890 he paid £250,000 (approx. £12m - 2006 value) for the Lea Park estate near Witley and the adjacent South Park Farm estate of the Earl of Derby

Eventually the financial dealings which had provided the funds for this grand building programme dramatically dried up with the collapse of Wright's London and Globe Financial Corporation in December 1900

This collapse caused other companies in his group to fail, bankrupting many people

A series of trials in 1904 culminated in his being sentenced to seven years imprisonment for fraud

After sentencing was allowed a private meeting with his lawyers, he gave his watch to one of them saying that "I will not need this where I am going"

And after requesting a whisky and cigar, swallowed a cyanide apsule he had smuggled into court

Following Wright's dramatic exit his estate was eventually sold off

The Folly


It was built at a cost of nearly £500,000 in total (approx. £24m - 2006 value)

At a time when Britain’s millionaires were outdoing each other with ultimately pointless but noticeable towers on a hill some distance but with-in eyesight of their main residences

Follies served to signify wealth, eccentricity and character whereas most were visible the under-water rooms at Witley Park could only be seen from within, not only were they invisible they also served some purpose

How often Whitaker Wright and his pals popped down for a game of billiards and a look at his carp is unknown but it is it’s lack of visibility that makes this place ever the more intriguing

The Underwater feature beneath the lake was listed in a publication about Victorian follies as an 'underwater ballroom', although generally accepted that it was a billiard/smoking room and a place for him to admire his carp
The only obvious marker these days is the statue of Neptune which stands on top giving the illusion of walking on water










The Lone Ranger

Safety is paramount!
Staff member
I didn't know of this place until recently, it does just look like a stunning place to spend some time and effort to access, good effort :thumb

The pics aren't bad either, like the one of the person sat in the tunnel :)


Super Moderator
Staff member
Oct 3, 2008
Deep in the Forest.
Great night out mate..
I thought you told me all your photos were shit? :rolleyes:

Hats off to you for your unnerving insomniac paranoia though.. :D
All I ended up with were a few 'arty' shots.. I just wish I had a lens that was wide enough to properly capture the place.

Even so, I've been grinning like a tired zombie all day!



Mr Muscle
Regular User
Feb 27, 2012
Nice one Ojay! Likewise my interest in this place has picked up recently so I shall brave the icy waters soon. Glad I got a new Winter wetty now :)


28DL Regular User
Regular User
Nov 19, 2009
Very nice, not to sure if i fancy been under water though...cracking shots too.


28DL Full Member
Oct 27, 2006
Need to get my arse over here to see this. It not that far from me either.....

@The126 - you still got your dinghy?

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