George Harrison’s Historic House “Friar Park” – New Book

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always had an interest in the homes of the Beatles. Not a snooping, voyeuristic interest – but more of an architectural one because they (especially John and George) have lived in some very interesting buildings over the years.

That’s why our interest was sparked when we got a press release this week from a company called The Campfire Network advertising a new book. In coordination with “Ye Friends of Friar Park,” Campfire has just announced the publication of the second book in a series which celebrates the history and architecture of residences which at some point were homes of one or more of the Beatles. (Their first book in the series was The Dakota Scrapbook, published last year).

Now comes Friar Park: A Pictorial History, a collection of vintage, rare, and original photographs and illustrations telling the story of George Harrison’s spectacular and unusual home – Friar Park – from the time Sir Frank Crisp began purchasing land in the medieval town of Henley-on-Thames in the late 1800s, all the way to the time it was purchased by Harrison.Friar_Park

Carefully selected images offer a rare and unique glimpse of the property’s extraordinary gardens, mansion home, lodges, and assorted structures, lakes, and secret underground caves, as well as other architectural and horticultural treasures and wonders on the grounds of Friar Park. Here are some of the pages and images from the book:Friar Park. A Pictorial History Pages_3Friar Park. A Pictorial History Pages_4Friar Park. A Pictorial History Pages_6Friar Park. A Pictorial History Pages_7

Campfire’s Marketing Director Kelly Cardinal says: “Beatles fans, architects, historians, and anyone interested in grand homes and beautiful gardens have long-admired Friar Park from afar, with little more than the occasional description or photos that have appeared here and there. Now, for the first time, is a publication that includes the largest collection of photos and information about Friar Park that has ever been gathered together in one place before. It has generated quite a bit of excitement.”

The pictures and information in the book were found during the development of a forthcoming film documentary about the home.

Friar Park: A Pictorial History is now available from Amazon, as is a companion volume called Friar Park: 1919 Estate Auction Cataloguea recreation of the official auction catalogue for the house when it was sold following the passing of original owner Sir Frank Crisp. Upon his death his family instructed auctioneers to sell the entire estate, including all the grounds, the boathouse on Henley-on-Thames, and three grand residential sites. The sale took place on Saturday, August 9th, 1919 and this book is a scholastic and educational study of an architecturally and historically significant English country house.

If you are interested in this sort of thing, “The Story of Tittenhurst Park” – the English stately home owned by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, will be released in 2015.

And the same company has also published The Dakota Apartments: Vintage Articles.

(Each of the links above are to Amazon pages with a “Look Inside” function so that you can have a bit more of a sticky beak at these very interesting books).

There are also two YouTube clips promoting Friar Park: A Pictorial History:

Tittenhurst Park

Stumbled upon an interesting article on the BBC website about John Lennon’s former home Tittenhurst Park near Ascot, Berkshire in England. It reminded me how much it has formed a part of the imagery surrounding record covers in my collection, and probably in yours. These albums, along with videos and publicity shots taken at Tittenhurst, have gone into the collective consciousness. Fans will know of this mansion house because although Lennon and Yoko Ono only lived there for around two years it featured in many a photo session, song video and documentary about John Lennon and the Beatles. There were in fact a huge number of photographs taken there – probably the most famous being the front and rear cover images for the Beatles best-of album known variously as The Beatles Again/Hey Jude (released in 1970 in the USA), and as Hey Jude (released in 1979 in the UK): This image, also taken at the house, was used for the rear cover: The next most famous images from Tittenhurst Park (which by the way is on London Road at a place called Sunningdale – one blogger has dedicated an entire blog to the house) came about when Lennon recorded his Imagine album there in 1971. When the song ‘Imagine’ was released as a single it was accompanied by this now legendary video which begins with John and Yoko walking through the fog-filled extensive grounds of Tittenhurst, and ends in an all-white main room inside the house:

There’s also a fantastic scene from Gimme Some Truth, the documentary on the making of the Imagine album, where John talks to a young man who turns up at the house and invites him in for breakfast. And of course the cover photograph for Plastic Ono Band (1970) was also taken in the grounds of the manor – beside the man-made lake the Lennon’s had constructed on the property:

There’s a fairly comprehensive article about Tittenhurst Park in Wikipedia. John subsequently sold the property to Ringo Starr. Lennon biographer Philip Norman wrote:

“Ringo had…recently bought Tittenhurst Park, in the same obliging spirit that a Liverpool pal might take over some old banger of a car. John hated the thought that his rolling parklands and lake had gone forever, and drew comfort from Ringo’s promise that a bedroom would always be kept for him there.” (“John Lennon – The Life”. Harper Collins, 2008)

Sadly the events of 1980 meant that was no longer a requirement. The house and grounds were again sold in 1988 to present owner, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emitrates and ruler of Abu Dhabi. On Friday, August 22, 1969 the Beatles final photo session as a band was at Tittenhurst. The dream was over.

(See also “John Lennon’s Rolls Royce“, and the Kenwood site which goes into great detail about the house Lennon owned prior to purchasing Tittenhurst Park)