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Check Out This Abandoned Mansion’s Underwater Ballroom

Check Out This Abandoned Mansion’s Underwater Ballroom

Witley Park, the outrageously lavish estate built by mining magnate Whitaker Wright in 1890, deserves its own episode on MTV Cribs: Victorian Edition. Proving that obscenely wealthy people have always been fond of splashing cash on vanity projects (see also: Michael Jackson’s Neverland, and everything Donald Trump has ever done), Wright turned his Surrey estate into a personal playground, including a theatre, observatory, private hospital, velodrome, 50-horse stable, and 32-bedroom Tudor mansion packed to the rafters with fine art and rare curiosities from around the globe.


The crown jewel, however, is definitely the underwater ballroom Wright had built 12 metres below the surface of one of his three (!) man-made lakes.

(Photo: Large Pig/Flickr)

An underwater tunnel leads from a small hut built on the banks of the lake to the ballroom, where a magnificent domed glass-and-iron ceiling would have bathed party-goers in a green, watery light and allowed them to watch fish swimming by.

(Photo: Large Pig/Flickr)

A statue of Neptune stands on the top of the dome, above the surface, and contains a pipe apparently designed for letting cigar smoke out of the ballroom below.


It turned out that Wright was a master swindler, and had made his fortune through outright fraud, convincing investors that their money was being used to dig mines in Western Australia while he funnelled it into maintaining his high-flying lifestyle. When his scheme finally collapsed, Wright went bankrupt and attempted to flee to the USA, but was extradited and tried in 1904. Just minutes after being sentenced, he washed down a cyanide pill with whiskey in the courthouse bathroom and met his end.

Witley Park itself has hardly fared better than its original owner – the mansion burned down in 1952, and although the ballroom (obviously) survived the fire, it’s now a shadow of its former glory looking more like a leaky, decrepit steampunk fantasy than a place to hold an elegant soirée.

(Photo: Large Pig/Flickr)

The ballroom is now privately owned and unavailable for viewing by the public, but don’t worry – when you finally win the lottery, use the inspiration to build an underwater party-space of your very own.

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