28 July 2019

The Underwater Billiard Room of Witley Park

Whitaker Wright was a very rich man. He had made his fortune in the mining industry and so when it came to the creation of a billiard room on his new estate perhaps it was only fitting to build it underground. Not only that, this eccentric millionaire decided to build it underwater too. With windows.

Now locked and sealed from the general public this amazing glass and iron dome sits underneath the lake of Wright’s ruined estate in the county of Surrey in England.  Known locally as the ballroom under the lake its original function was, urban legend aside, as a billiard room.

Looking at the lake, no one would guess that 40 feet underneath the statue of Neptune lies a labyrinth of tunnels some of which lead to the billiard room.  Whitaker Wright may have been an eccentric but he certainly knew how to waste his money.

A picture springs immediately to the mind of Wright in his best dinner suit waving a cigar while showing his magnificent folly to a gaggle of Victorian gentlemen – as fish swim nonchalantly past. It must have felt a great social coup to be invited inside this underwater talking point. A contemporary magazine called it a gorgeous vulgarity — a magnificent burlesque of business.

Yet Wright was not to enjoy his underwater games room for long. He was found guilty of fraud in 1905 and infamously took his own life in the courtroom by swallowing cyanide. The estate itself is something of a magnificent ruin but the billiard room is now firmly locked and alarmed.

All photos unless otherwise stated are by Flickr user LargePig. You can visit his website, URB-EX, here. Kuriositas would also like to thanks Flickr Users Richard James and slaterspeed, aka Adam Slater. You can visit his blog, Reality Trip, by clicking here. Each picture above links back to the source photograph which are copyright their respective photographers.