Insight & Analysis

Home secretly turned into ‘fantasy world’ given listed status

Published: May 2024

A rented apartment which was secretly converted into a ‘fantasy world’ by its tenant has been given Grade II listed status.

Fantasy world with castles

The ground-floor residence of the semi-detached house in Oxton, Merseyside in the United Kingdom was secretly decorated by artist Ron Gittins, who lived there for over 30 years.

He created fireplaces in the shapes of a minotaur and a lion, sculpted a Roman altar in his kitchen and also painted the walls with floor to ceiling Greek, Egyptian and marine themed murals.

Mr Gittins allowed very few people inside his home and after his death in 2019, his niece, Jan Williams made it her mission to save the flat, which has become known as “Ron’s Place”.

She said: “He had created his own fantasy world in a rented flat. You hear of people whose landlords won’t return the deposits because they’ve left a blu-tack mark on the wall, and he had created a whole minotaur fireplace!”

Mr Gittins’ work has now become the first example of ‘Outsider Art’ – a term used for work done by those who don’t have conventional training – to be granted Grade II listing by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

Mr Gittin’s niece said she and her fellow volunteers initially applied to have the property listed to “ward off evil” and to put off property developers. But a generous donation meant the group (the Wirral Arts and Culture Community Land Trust) was able to purchase the home at auction and are now hoping to inspire other artists.

Artist Ms Williams said: “We have always had the idea of a holistic house of art. I’m sure that’s what Ron would have wanted, and having the listing gives us a lot more credibility.”

Listing team leader north at Historic England, Sarah Charlesworth concluded: “Ron’s Place is a testament to the unique artistic achievements and vision of Ron Gittins over four decades. The extent to which Ron’s creations have inspired action from people in the local area to raise funds to purchase the building and secure the survival of his legacy demonstrates the value of this remarkable project and why it has earned its place on the National Heritage List for England.”

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