Harry Hyams, the late property developer behind London’s Centre Point Tower, left £450 million of his £487 million estate to the British public in his will. One of the largest charitable gifts in English legal history, Hyams’ gift guarantees several important works of art, some previously unseen, a permanent home in the UK.
Hyams, who passed away in December 2015, amassed one of Britain’s finest private collections of art and antique cars over his lifetime. Now the Capricorn Foundation, a charity set up by Hyams in 2010, will embark on a project to prepare Hyams’ Wiltshire country home, Ramsbury Manor, to house and display the treasure chest of priceless wares. While these preparations are underway, the charity is expected to loan objects from the collection to museums and galleries across the UK.
Not only will Hyams’ bequest ensure public access to several important works by artists including Sir Edward Burne-Jones, Sir John Everett Millais and J. M. W. Turner, it will also safeguard them from potential foreign buyers. Some items in the collection, such as portraits by the 18th century artist George Stubbs ,have never before been seen by the public.
In 2006, Ramsbury Manor was targeted by a gang of thieves who stole millions of pounds worth of art in what is thought to be Britain’s largest ever domestic burglary. The perpetrators were later apprehended and the police were able to recover some of the stolen items but several remain missing.
An office boy in a real estate agency at age 17 and a millionaire by the end of his twenties, Hyams was a shrewd businessman who made his fortune developing office space in 1960s and 1970s London. With the Centre Point office tower he left an indelible mark on the West End skyline.
The rest of the estate has been left to the executors to make gifts to third parties in accordance with Mr Hyams’s wishes.