Sutton Place

Woking, near Guildford, Surrey

Built in 1525, for Sir Richard Weston (d.1541), King Henry VIII's Under-Treasurer of the Exchequer, whose son was executed on the cooked-up charge of committing adultery with Anne Boleyn. The ground on which the 72-room house stands and all of its future owners were said to have been cursed by King Edward the Confessor's wife, Edith, back in the 11th century. In 1900, it was leased to Lord Northcliffe who died insane and then eleven years later to the newly divorced Ava Astor, a "cold, hard, arrogant woman incapable of loving anybody". In 1919, it was bought by the Duke of Sutherland who sold it to the five-times divorced J. Paul Getty who lived here from 1959 until his death in 1976. The notoriously tight-fisted oil billionaire famously had a pay phone installed here to avoid friends running up his bill. In February, 2022, following Russia's callous invasion of Ukraine Sutton Place was seized by the British government as sanctions were placed on its owner of the last 19-years, Alisher Usmanov, a Russian oligarch intimately linked with Vladimir Putin both personally and professionally....

This house is best associated with...

Ava Lowle (Willing) Astor

Ava Lowle (Willing) Astor, Lady Ribblesdale

1868-1958

J. Paul Getty

Jean Paul Getty, Anglo-American Oil Magnate & Art Collector

1892-1976

Frederick Robinson Koch

of New York City; Art Collector & Founder of the Frederick R. Koch Foundation

1933-2020

In 1980, it was sold to Stanley J. Seeger who set up the Sutton Place Heritage Trust and opened it up for public events. In 1990, it became home to the American, Frederick R. Koch, who continued to lease it out for public events but was otherwise said not to have slept even one night here. In 2003, it was sold for £25 million to Russian oligarch Alisher Usmanov - said to be the richest man in Russia, if we ignore President Putin of course. 

Usmanov made his billions mining and selling plastic bags, and perhaps ironically during his tenure the best place to get a view of Sutton Place was from the old landfill/refuse site at Slyfield. Usmanov - who also owns Beechwood House in Highgate - owns a large share in a Russian internet group, invested heavily in Facebook, Arsenal and Everton football clubs, and co-owns Russia's second largest mobile phone operator. 

Usmanov has close ties with Vladimir Putin and his wife (a rhythmic gymnastics coach) is believed to have introduced Putin to his long-term partner and former gymnast, Alina. Following Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February, 2022, Usmanov was one of the first kleptocrats to be sanctioned by the British government, seeing his assets frozen and a ban on him entering the country. The Deputy Prime Minister, Dominic Raab, announced just days later that seized homes like this one would be used to house Ukrainian refugees.

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Contributed by Mark Meredith on 21/04/2019 and last updated on 23/04/2024.
Image Courtesy of foundin_a_attic, CC-BY-2.0

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