Ron’s Place Becomes First Outsider Art with Listed Status in England

An artist secretly filled his rental flat with immersive art. It was added to the National Heritage List after a campaign to preserve it.

Apr 5, 2024By Emily Snow, MA History of Art, BA Art History & Curatorial Studies
Ron’s Place in Birkenhead, England, via Historic England Archive


An outwardly ordinary rental flat near Liverpool has been granted Grade II listed status in England thanks to hidden treasures piled within—and laden upon—its walls. Secretly transformed over the course of three decades by Ron Gittins (1939–2019), the otherworldly abode known as Ron’s Place was only discovered after the self-taught artist’s death. This week, it became the first-ever example of Outsider Art to be recognized by England’s National Heritage List for its cultural significance.


Minotaurs, Murals, and More

Minotaur fireplace at Ron’s Place in Birkenhead, England, via Historic England Archive


When Ron Gittins moved into his Birkenhead flat in 1986, his rental agreement allowed him to decorate the interior as he wished. Over the course of his tenancy, Gittins refused entry to most visitors, including his landlord and maintenance workers. It was only 33 years later, after Gittins passed away in 2019 at age 79, that his astonishing renovations were finally revealed to the public—and to his landlord.


Obsessed with the art and culture of Ancient Greece, Rome, and Egypt, Gittins collected anything that could inspire or be physically repurposed in his art, from reference books to empty jars. After towering piles of ephemera were painstakingly sorted and cleared away from Ron’s Place, colorful floor-to-ceiling murals and intricate carvings could be seen throughout the flat. Gittins had also sculpted a massive concrete fireplace in the shape of a minotaur and constructed a Roman altar in his kitchen.

The Campaign to Save Ron’s Place

Photograph of the artist Ron Gittins, via Ron’s Place


The semi-detached house containing Ron Gittins’ flat was put up for auction in 2022, prompting a wide-reaching campaign to save Ron’s Place. The group, which included musician and radio host Jarvis Cocker, aimed to stop developers from destroying Gittins’ work. In 2023, an anonymous benefactor donated enough money for the campaign to purchase and preserve Ron’s Place, which now hosts local art and mental health awareness programs.

Sarah Charlesworth from Historic England told BBC News, “The extent to which Ron’s creations have inspired action from people in the local area to raise funds to purchase the building and secure the survival of his legacy demonstrates the value of this remarkable project and why it has earned its place on the National Heritage List for England.”

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What Is Outsider Art?

Painted murals at Ron’s Place in Birkenhead, England, via Historic England Archive


A spokesperson for Historic England described Ron’s Place to BBC News as an “exemplar of large-scale Outsider Art in England.” Outsider Art refers to art created by individuals without any formal training or involvement in the mainstream art world. The term was coined by art critic Roger Cardinal in 1972 and has since become a recognized and marketable category of art despite existing “outside” the boundaries of the art establishment. Outsider Art is used to describe the creative output of people with mental illnesses, folk artists, children, and individuals who are reclusive or otherwise on the fringes of society.

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By Emily SnowMA History of Art, BA Art History & Curatorial StudiesEmily Snow is a contributing writer and art historian based in Amsterdam. She earned an MA in art history from the Courtauld Institute of Art and loves knitting, her calico cat, and everything Victorian.