London has its fair share of spectacular buildings, but there is no better example of Gothic Revival architecture than the Tower House. Just west of the Design Museum, next to Holland Park, lies a late-Victorian townhouse built by William Burges. It’s easily one of the most recognisable structures on Melbury Road as it looks like a mini Gothic castle.
Burges was an architect and artist who worked on The Great Exhibition, as well as designing a range of prominent buildings such as Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral in Cork. He designed the Tower House between 1875 and 1881 in a Gothic French style as he was obsessed with the Middle Ages and Pre-Raphaelite aesthetics. His social circle even consisted of members of the brotherhood, including Leighton and Rossetti.
Although not open to the public, it’s worth a stroll past to see the magnificent Grade I listed architecture for yourself. The cylindrical tower protrudes at the front of the house in a red-brick, which is complemented by ornate stained-glass windows. Burges only lived in the house for 3 years, dying in his Mermaid Room under an embellished frieze of fish swimming in the ocean.
The current tenant of the house is none other than Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page, who bought the house in 1972, outbidding David Bowie. The house is beautifully adorned, with the principal rooms having themes such as time, love and literature. After entering the building, guests are welcomed with an impressive mosaic floor featuring the fight between Theseus and the Minotaur. The theme of time is evident within the hall, with the sun and moon painted on huge frescoes and stained glass windows depicting the seasons.
The theme of the Drawing Room and Library is love and this was once the place where Burges entertained other famous artists and poets. A medieval cupid is painted on the ceiling and a zodiac-themed table rests in the centre. A spiral staircase travels up the tower, revealing several striking rooms. The Butterfly Room, for example, relies on heavily embellished gold and red decor with a ceiling of butterflies and frieze of wildflowers.
Most of the original furniture is now displayed in the Victoria and Albert Museum and The Higgins Art Gallery & Museum, including The Great Bookcase and the Golden Bed. Before Page, the house belonged to actor Richard Harris. Harris reportedly said the house was haunted by ghosts of children who belonged to an orphanage that once occupied the site.
Aubaine Kensington is a 10-minute walk from The Tower House, so it’s an ideal location if you’re looking for something to eat after your visit. Or, why not visit Bayswater, London, while you’re in the area?
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