George and Pattie Harrison move into Friar Park

On this day George and Pattie Harrison moved out of Kinfauns, their bungalow in Esher, Surrey.

George and Pattie Harrison, 1970

Their new home was Friar Park, an imposing Victorian mansion in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire. Its numerous rooms included a ballroom and library, plus towers and parapets.

The neo-gothic mansion had been purchased by the Harrisons for £140,000 in January 1970. Friar Park was set in 35 acres of gardens which included an underground boating lake and a 20ft replica of the Matterhorn mountain.

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Friar Park became Harrison’s main residence until the end of his life. In 1972 he installed a 16-track recording studio, which became known as FPSHOT – Friar Park Studio, Henley-on-Thames.

In 1889 the house was bought by Sir Frank Crisp (1843-1919), an eccentric lawyer and horticulturalist who lived there until his death. It was sold at auction to Sir Percival David, but following his divorce was donated to be used by nuns from the Salesians of Don Bosco order.

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By the late 1960s the mansion was in a state of disrepair and due for demolition, and Harrison needed to undertake extensive renovations to make it a home. The gardens had been used as a local dump, and were overgrown with ivy and brambles.

In the first few months the Harrison and their guests lived with no heating, furniture or beds. They slept in sleeping bags in the grand hall, with a constant fire burning in the huge fireplace.

The Harrisons were joined by their friends Terry Doran and Chris O’Dell, who helped them make the building inhabitable. Despite the conditions, the residents found it an enchanting place to live in and explore, and gradually it became a welcoming home for their many visitors.

Last updated: 11 September 2023
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