Look inside Birkenhead’s secret Outsider Art palace

Ron’s Place was created in secret over 30 years

Behind the facade of this unassuming Victorian villa in the heart of Birkenhead, Merseyside, lies a hidden treasure trove of creativity and passion that was hidden for decades.

This is Ron’s Place, a conventional flat transformed by Ron Gittins into a dazzling shrine of art, drawing from the wellsprings of ancient civilisations and classical beauty. The home, now under the stewardship of the Wirral Arts and Culture Community Land Trust, is a beacon of ‘Outsider Art’, the first in the UK to be given Grade II designation by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) on the advice of Historic England.

Gittins was no ordinary inhabitant of Birkenhead. Known for his profound creativity and complex character, he embarked on a remarkable 30-year journey to convert his rental flat into a classical villa, veiling every inch of its interior with murals, sculptures, and artistic expressions reflecting his fascinations with ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome, and romantic themes.

This feat, which remained a deeply personal endeavour until his passing in 2019, unveiled a hidden world of creativity and passion upon its discovery by his family.

Gittins was as much a performer as he was an artist. His life was a series of bold expressions, from utilising a dead trout for an artwork to enacting dramatic displays in public, showcasing a man fully immersed in his artistic and theatrical pursuits. In his sartorial splendour, he could often be spotted in attire that wouldn’t look amiss in a Shakespearean drama or a Renaissance fair.

Ron’s Place is the spatial embodiment of Gittins’ eccentric spirit. Its preservation is a collaborative mission, with the Wirral Arts and Culture Community Land Trust at the helm, striving to maintain it as a source of inspiration and appreciation for the public. Along with conserving the physical space, the team is leveraging Ron’s story and artistic legacy to empower the wider community, emphasising the value of diversity and unconventional expression in art.

The legacy of Ron Gittins and his fantastical creation underscores the power of art to transform spaces, lives, and communities. More than just a home, Ron’s Place is a defiant rally against the mundane and a reminder of the joy that can be found in living and creating without restraint.

Credit: Historic England Archive 2024
Credit: Historic England Archive 2024
Credit: Historic England Archive 2024

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