At the height of his wealth and influence in the late 1890s, the financier – or, as Henry Macrory would have it, swindler – Whitaker Wright enjoyed the sort of opulence that would put a modern banker to shame. Not for him merely excavating a basement in Notting Hill. He had a house in Park Lane and a 220-foot yacht called the Sybarite with a crew of thirty-three and was in the process of building a mansion near Godalming with thirty-two bedrooms, eleven bathrooms, a ballroom, a velodrome and a small private hospital, all situated on a 9,000-acre estate. Even the stables had central heating. The pièce de résistance, built under one of his three artificial lakes, was a submerged, glass-domed smoking room.