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Music

Inside the mysterious country mansion that David Gilmour abandoned

Musing on the legacy of Pink Floyd, your mind usually lands on the image of prog-rock pioneers and not haunted mansions. However, during the 1980s it seems as if Floyd frontman and guitarist David Gilmour had a run-in with the spookier side of life. In 1980, Gilmour purchased Hook End Manor in South Oxfordshire, an 11-bedroom, million-pound mansion, but his acquisition would not be the dream home he had envisaged.

The manor was built by the Bishop of Reading in 1580, with multiple extensions being added over the years since. Coming with 25 acres of land, it is six miles from Reading, and has enjoyed an extensive list of notable owners in its long history, including Sir Charles Clore, one of post-war Britain’s most successful businessmen and former owner of Selfridges. 

Alvin Lee, the frontman and guitarist of British rockers Ten Years After, bought the house in 1972, and he constructed a recording studio on the grounds of the dairy, which he named Space Productions. Interestingly, the studio utilised some materials from the old dairy, including its timber. 

David Gilmour then purchased the house in 1980 and used the studio to record some of Pink Floyd’s music. He even stored the giant inflatable pig from the cover of Animals in one of the outbuildings, showing that it was, at first, a useful property to own. However, he suddenly sold the house in 1987 to Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley of West Side Productions, the company behind huge names such as Morrissey and Madness.

It’s a mystery why David Gilmour moved out of the property. Photos and footage that emerged in 2017 showed that the house has remained untouched since Gilmour moved out. The pool table has been left mid-game, rooms have wallpaper half torn down, and the only thing that remained in the studio is an old piano. Eerily, the dining room houses a table with seating for ten guests with plates sitting waiting to be used.

The YouTube channel Exploring with Fighters uploaded a video exploring Hook End Manor. It seems as if the residents just upped sticks and left, with the house stuck in 1987 when Gilmour left. Whilst this might be a strange picture of a time long since passed, the most chilling potential indicator of why Gilmour left is found in the basement.

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A headstone for a seven-year-old called ‘Little Jack’ is propped against the wall in the basement, dating back to April 1909. In the Exploring with Fighters episode, the explorers immediately ran out of the house in fright upon seeing the headstone. This makes us wonder, was this what caused Gilmour to leave the house so abruptly?

Of their experience of the house, the explorers told Get Reading: “It was quite eerie, the pool and snooker tables with games set up were definitely a bit spooky.” They appended: “It was very interesting experience looking around there, like it was a whole life frozen in time.”

In the mid-’90s, Trevor Horn of The Buggles acquired the house, and he renamed the studio Sarm West Studios. His stay didn’t end in happiness either. His wife, Jill Sinclair, was accidentally shot by their son Aaron when he was practising with his air rifle, not realising his mother was near. She suffered irreversible brain damage and fell into a coma. Due to such a traumatic event, Horn sold the house in 2007. Mark White then bought the house that year and set up a production company that used the studio commercially, but things didn’t go well for them either, and they folded in 2014. It is said that the studio has been used in the years since, although the house remained neglected for a few years.

The house is now undergoing a renovation, so the future looks very bright for Hook End Manor. A property steeped in mystery and trauma, we’d love to ask David Gilmour why he actually decided to leave Hook End on such a whim. 

Take a look around Hook End Manor below.