The century-old remains of the windowed billiard room an eccentric millionaire built — underwater

Nineteenth-century company promoter James Whitaker Wright is probably best known as a financial swindler whose corporate house of cards led to a panic in the London stock exchange at the turn of the twentieth century. But one of Wright's legacies is architectural, rather than financial. In 1890, he purchased and began developing the Lea Park estate (later named Witley Park), building, among other things, an underwater billiard room.

Photo by urban explorer LargePig.

According to Lost Heritage, Wright hired 600 laborers at a cost of £500,000 (approximately £24 million in 2006 money) to landscape the 1,400-acre estate. He had three man-made lakes constructed, and, beneath one of them, an underwater billiard room, its dome covered in windows.

Wright was convicted of fraud in 1904, after which he committed suicide by cyanide capsule. (Wright's downfall is said to have influenced H.G. Wells' novels Tono-Bungay and The World of William Clissold.) Witley Park mansion burned down in 1952, but Wright's billiard room still stands, albeit empty. A spiral staircase leads down from a small island in the lake and into a long hallway toward the room. Although you can't see much out of those windows, you can imagine that, at one point, it was quite a view.

Today, the billiard room is locked and alarmed, making it definitively off-limits to would-be explorers. Fortunately, Flickr user LargePig has a gorgeous gallery of photos from Witley Park, which you can also see on his website, URB-EX.

Witley Park [URB-EX via Kuriositas]