Monday, January 24

First, a pickled shark. The next step for Damien Hirst, his ‘white elephant’ manor | Damien Hirst

When Damien Hirst bought a historic mansion in the Cotswolds, he had big plans. Toddington Manor, which collapsed in the 19th century, bought for £ 3 million in 2005 by the world’s richest artist, will regain its former glory, become his family home and make a spectacular gallery for his collection of personal art.

But, 17 years after its purchase, the property remains uninhabited and covered in scaffolding and tarps. The locals have described it as “monstrosity”, “white spot” and “a plague in the field”.

The frustrated local residents of Toddington, 10 miles east of Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire, are now taking matters into their own hands. This week, the parish council is meeting to come up with a plan that it hopes will force Hirst to finally fulfill his promise to restore the property.

“We want to see what can be done, if anything can be done,” said Toddington Parish Council President Nigel Parker. “It is one of the biggest monstrosities in the area. People are sick of it. Damien Hirst has owned this property for 17 years, but it is still lined with scaffolding and tarp, and as far as we know there is no restoration in sight. “

Hirst rose to fame in 1992 when his pickled tiger shark turned out to be the centerpiece of the acclaimed Young British Artists exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery. A sliced ​​cow and calf, and a pickled sheep followed in rapid succession, but Hirst’s twin obsession with death and publicity was perhaps best attested with his controversial 2007 platinum cast of a diamond-encrusted human skull. , which he claims was sold for £ 50 million.

Hirst’s work, and the prices for which it was sold, became synonymous with the new wealth of the late 1990s and 2000s. This reached a climax in September 2008 with the sale of more than 200 of his artworks at Sotheby’s for a total of $ 200 million, the same day that Lehman Brothers collapsed, sparking a global financial crisis.

Hirst bought the sprawling Gloucestershire estate, which bankrupted the family that built it, for £ 3 million, and locals said it was meant to be his family’s home and a spectacular gallery for his personal art collection.

But in the wake of her 2012 split from longtime partner Maia Norman, the mother of her three children, the project has stalled and locals complain that they have been kept in the dark.

The property is on the Historic England “at risk” register and the heritage organization said it intended to work with the Tewkesbury city council “to encourage the owner” to move forward with the restoration.

Toddington Manor in Gloucestershire is still awaiting restoration after it was bought for £ 3 million in 2005
Toddington Manor in Gloucestershire is still awaiting restoration after it was bought for £ 3 million in 2005. Photograph: Colin Underhill / Alamy

Malle Hague, who lives near the mansion, said: “I wish I did well. It would be nice if it could at least camouflage this white spot. He’s an artist, he could paint it.

“It is a plague in the field. This is an area of ​​exceptional natural beauty, but it can be seen for miles. At the beginning he did a great job, but now it has lasted too long ”.

Completed in 1840, Toddington Manor took 21 years to build. It was built by Charles Hanbury-Tracy MP, later Lord Sudeley, and the scale of the business would eventually bankrupt his family in 1893.

Comprised of a quadrangle and surrounded by cloisters, the house has a grand entrance hall, grand staircase, a 40-foot-long oak-paneled dining room, and two bookcases, with intricate stone and wood carvings.

It is one of the earliest examples of what became known as Victorian Gothic, and when Sudeley helped select Charles Barry to rebuild the Houses of Parliament, the architect allegedly took Toddington as one of his models.

Councilor John Evetts, chairman of the Tewkesbury council planning committee, said: “It has been a very long time since you bought it. I am told that Hirst has never applied for a building permit.

“As chairman of the local planning committee, as far as I know, he has never spoken to us. I work in restoration and conservation and I think it could cost Damien Hirst 50 million pounds to restore and still not be finished.

“The talk of the town is that when he [split with his partner] lost interest in this project. As far as I know, no more planning approaches have been made and no more permits granted. It seems that he has abandoned it or has become bored with it. It is the largest white elephant I have ever seen. In fact, ‘insanity’ would be a good word. “

Bert Alvis, a local farmer and parish councilor, complained that his repeated inquiries with the farm management company have failed to elicit illicit responses.

“I have asked the agent, who manages the farm, and they have no idea. We heard that he was going to use it as a private home and private gallery for his collection, ”he said. “But after the accident, everything stopped. It’s strange: nobody says anything to anybody. “

Hirst, who is reportedly worth £ 315 million, was revealed last year to have obtained £ 15 million in Covid loans and licensed staff at taxpayer expense. Although his main company, Prints and Editions, has £ 188 million worth of artwork, it has not made a profit since 2016, and Hirst has closed many of its companies in the last four years.

In 2018 it was revealed that Hirst was closing his high-profile restaurant in Ilfracombe, Devon, just a year after he closed his gallery in the city.

This was billed as part of a restructuring of his expanding Science Ltd empire, but also drew local criticism that the artist had left some properties vacant. Hirst has built a formidable portfolio of properties since exploding onto the British art scene. Toddington Manor, however, was meant to be his piece de resistance.

A spokesman for the Tewkesbury council said it was “pleased that there are intentions to repair it.” But he added that there is no current planning application listed and “we are not aware of any work that has been done.”

Parker, president of the parish council, said: “After the meeting, we can write to Damien Hirst and his representatives, or it could be that Tewkesbury does. But either way, it’s time for this to be resolved. “

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