Whitaker Wright

  The website devoted to the life and times of the world's most notorious swindler



Whitaker Wright by Harry Furniss pen and ink, 1880s-1900s. NPG 3534 © National Portrait Gallery, London
Few people have led such an extraordinary life as Whitaker Wright (1846-1904). Few have died in such sensational circumstances. He began his career as an impoverished Methodist preacher in the North Country. Swapping God for Mammon, he went to America and made millions prospecting for gold and silver in the Rockies. Losing the lot, he returned to England in disgrace, leaving behind a trail of angry investors. Australian gold was his new route to riches, and within five years he was Britain’s wealthiest man. He became friends with the Prince of Wales and the Kaiser, bought Gladstone’s mansion in Park Lane, acquired a French mistress, and built the ultimate folly — a glass underwater smoking room beneath a Surrey lake. On the last trading day of the 19th century, his empire went bust, ruining thousands of people. He fled to New York with his niece, but Scotland Yard caught up with him and brought him back to London. At the end of what the press dubbed ‘the most dramatic trial of modern times’ there was a shocking twist to his remarkable story…Read more...


NEWS

The Wrights had never seen anything like it before and will never see it again

Derek Wright reflects on how his great-great-uncle came out of the blue and remained inscrutable even to his immediate family. Read about the one-off that was Whitaker Wright here

Dancing the night away — underwater!

Britain’s foremost authority on follies, architectural historian Gwyn Headley, was given access to Whitaker Wright’s famous underwater hideaway in Surrey while carrying out research for his National Trust Book of Follies in the 1980s. Read Gwyn’s vivid description of his sub-aqueous adventure here

How Whitaker Wright inspired my first novel

Author Salema Nazzal explains how the exploits of Whitaker Wright inspired her to write her first novel The Folly Under the Lake in 2015. Read the article here

Whitaker Wright's kid brother — a bright spark in Canada

One of Whitaker Wright’s younger brothers made a name for himself as a pioneer in the field of electricity. He has been described as a ‘genius’ and a ‘man of unique vision.’ Read about his life here

       


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PRAISE FOR ULTIMATE FOLLY

Henry Macrory has found a glorious subject and tells Wright’s extraordinary story in vivid, exciting prose.
Dominic Sandbrook, author, historian and TV presenter
One of my reads of the year. Absolutely superb. A page-turner from start to finish.
George Osborne, editor, London Evening Standard
       
      
Whitaker Wright

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