‘Imagine’ the Legendary History of Tittenhurst Park

Situated within the charming landscapes of Berkshire lies Tittenhurst Park, a Grade II listed Georgian country house with a history as rich and fascinating as its surroundings.

 

Spanning 72-acres of lush greenery off London Road at Beggar’s Bush near Ascot and over the parish border into Sunningdale, this magnificent estate has been a haven for creativity, music, and politics over the years.

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Yoko Ono and Lennon in March 1969. Credit: Joost Evers / Anefo from the Dutch National Archives commons.wikimedia.org/ (CC0 1.0).

Dating back to 1737, Tittenhurst Park was originally owned by Thomas Holloway, founder of Royal Holloway in London. However, it was in the late 1960s that the estate became synonymous with musical greatness when it became the home of legendary musician John Lennon and his wife, Yoko Ono.

In the summer of 1969, Lennon acquired Tittenhurst Park, drawn to its resemblance to Calderstones House in Liverpool where he spent time as a child. The mansion, purchased for £145,000, became a haven for creativity and collaboration. Lennon’s generosity extended to members of the Radha Krishna Temple, who found temporary refuge in the former servants’ quarters of the estate before moving to their London temple.

Renovations at Tittenhurst Park were extensive, with Lennon investing double the purchase price into transforming the estate which included a “man-made lake” which was visible from their bedroom window, dug without planning permission. The mansion became the backdrop for historic events, including the last-ever Beatles photoshoot in August 1969 where the photos were later in 1970 used for the front and back covers of their Hey Jude album (a collection of single sides). Also in 1970, in the wake of The Beatles’ break-up, Lennon enlisted Eddie Veale to construct Ascot Sound Studios within the estate grounds. This bespoke recording studio, became the creative sanctuary where Lennon and Ono crafted much of their solo work in 1971. The matching cover photos of the couple’s twin Plastic Ono Band albums were taken at Tittenhurst by the pair, and portions of the Imagine film-length video were also filmed in the grounds. The interior was also used as the background for the film that was used to promote the single “Imagine”, with Ono seen opening the window shutters as Lennon plays a white grand piano.

After Lennon’s departure, Tittenhurst Park saw a new chapter under the ownership of Beatles drummer Ringo Starr. Starr and his family resided there until the late 1980s, during which time the estate continued to be a hub for musical creativity. Notably, Judas Priest’s iconic “British Steel” album was recorded within its walls.

Following Starr’s tenure, Tittenhurst Park underwent a transformation when it was acquired by Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the ruler of Abu Dhabi. Under his ownership, the estate saw further renovations, though some historical recordings and artwork were lost in the process.

Today, Tittenhurst Park remains a symbol of heritage and grandeur. It is understood the home remains in the Al Nahyan family and is used on occasions when the members are attending events like Royal Ascot.

While its halls may no longer echo with the melodies of music legends, the estate’s storied past continues to captivate and inspire all who walk its grounds. As we reflect on the illustrious history of Tittenhurst Park, we’re reminded of the enduring legacy of creativity, collaboration, and cultural significance that has graced its halls over the centuries.

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