The English Civil War is reckoned to have begun in August 1642, when King Charles I raised an army, and to have ended in 1651, with the flight of his son, King Charles II, to France.
So it lasted nine years in all. This may seem like a very long time, but it has now been overtaken by the English Rock Property War of the early 21st century, which has been going on for ten years with little sign of a ceasefire.
Historians date the start of this particular war to 2013, when the brash pop star Robbie Williams, then aged 38, bought a 46-bedroom mansion in Holland Park that had previously belonged to the brash film director Michael Winner.
Having acquired his big property for £17.5 million, Williams set about making it even bigger, to the tune of 3,600 sq ft, submitting plans for an underground swimming pool, sports suite, car park and recording studio. This sort of thing is known in architectural circles as a Basement Complex, and in psychiatric circles as a Superiority Complex.
Battle commenced when Williams’s neighbour, ageing rock star Jimmy Page, then 69, entered a complaint against these works, saying that a proposed new window would ‘have significant impact on the amenity of the house and its garden’.
Pop star Robbie Williams bought a 46-bedroom mansion in Holland Park that had previously belonged to the brash film director Michael Winner
Battle commenced when Williams’s neighbour, ageing rock star Jimmy Page, then 69, entered a complaint against these works, saying that a proposed new window would ‘have significant impact on the amenity of the house and its garden’
The year 2015 was notable for a series of skirmishes, with victory proclaimed by both sides. ‘Jimmy Page Wins Planning Dispute with Robbie Williams’ ran a headline in March 2015. ‘Robbie Williams Wins Planning Battle with Jimmy Page’ ran another headline, four months later.
In November of the following year, Williams accused Page of spying on him. ‘Jimmy has been sitting in his car outside our house, four hours at a time. He’s recording the workmen to see if they’re making too much noise. The builders came in and he was asleep in his garden waiting. It’s like a mental illness,’ he said.
Six months later, Williams was obliged to withdraw these remarks and offer ‘sincere apologies’ for ‘any hurt caused’ to Jimmy Page.
Around the same time, Page notched up a further victory, after Williams’s builders were fined £3,000 for ‘intermittent banging’.
For centuries, history students have learnt about such key events in the English Civil War as the Battle of Marston Moor (1644) and the Siege of Oxford (ended 1646). From this day forth, they will have to study The Battle of Intermittent Banging (2017) and The Battle of The Giant Shed (also 2017), in which Williams was obliged to withdraw from building a giant shed on stilts after local residents took up arms together, complaining that it would block the light from their gardens.
In October 2017, after three years of sustained fighting, Williams finally lost The Great Summerhouse Battle, after his local council denied him permission to build ‘a relaxation space away from the main house’.
However, the war was far from over. In March 2019, Williams was granted permission to expand downwards, but Page staged a counter-attack and gained a concession which meant that Williams’s band of builders could employ only hand-held tools for the excavation, making the whole thing virtually impossible.
For a time, Williams talked of retreating to Switzerland.
In a spirit of reconciliation, Page offered peace talks and invited Williams for a cup of tea. He then accused Williams of refusing his offer, but Williams’s team said he was busy preparing to sing his greatest hits in Las Vegas.
Pity the poor Rock War students of 2123, having to swot up all these battles and their dates! And their work is still not over.
In May 2022, Williams lost the Battle of the Robinia Tree. He had asked permission to cut back his 80ft tall tree, pointing out that it was ‘touching the adjacent street lamp’ and destroying his garden wall. But the council said no, arguing that ‘foliage growing against street furniture does not necessitate the removal of a tree’, and suggesting he rebuild his garden wall. Meanwhile, Page had been given permission to ‘reduce and shape’ a large bay tree.
Ten years on, Page is 79 and Williams is 48 — oddly enough, the same age as King Charles I when his head was chopped off. But the war continues and Williams looks no closer to victory.
First, his application to construct a two-storey trellis fence around his house to stop fans staring in came to nothing, and, only last week, the council said that before he could start any building work he had to apply for the deeds of his property to be changed.
Wherever it may take me
I know that life won’t break me
When I come to call, she won’t forsake me
I’m building basements instead.
Read more at DailyMail.co.uk