Hugo Burge

Born: April 6, 1972;

Died: May 10, 2023

Hugo Burge, who has died aged 51, was a successful dotcom entrepreneur turned artistic philanthropist, who used his fortune made via internet start-ups to buy Marchmont House, the 18th century Grade A-listed Palladian mansion in the village of Greenlaw in the Scottish Borders. Over eight years, Burge and his father restored and developed the house, which was originally built in 1750 by Hugh Hume-Campbell, the third Earl of Marchmont, with the aim of transforming it into a major centre for arts and crafts.

Once they made their dream a reality, Burge and his father styled their endeavour as A Home to Makers & Creators, with a programme that drew from talents both nationally and locally for a series of artists’ residencies. Burge also used Marchmont House as a venue for a series of arts-based events and conferences, utilising the house’s grandeur to put it on Scotland’s artistic map.

Burge did all this with a quiet determination and a passion to revitalise the Arts and Crafts movement that inspired him. This became a more creative counterpoint to his life in the fast moving hi-tech online world he had previously occupied. At various points Burge jokingly described himself as a recovering CEO and arts and crafts geek.

Burge also collected and commissioned work, with an array of sculptures set both inside the house and in its 390-acre grounds, which he transformed into a sculpture garden. This includes work by the likes of Eduardo Paolozzi, Antony Gormley, Barbara Hepworth and David Nash sitting alongside a series of new commissions.

Burge’s love affair with Marchmont House began when his father bought the Marchmont Estate in 1988. At the time, the house was being used as a Sue Ryder care home, which it remained until 2005. Burge and his father bought up the vacant property shortly afterwards, excited by the possibilities of rekindling its artistic legacy. This came latterly from its previous owners, the McEwen family, headed up by politician Sir John McEwen. McEwen’s son, Rory McEwen, was a folk singer and painter of huge significance, and hosted many artistic luminaries at the house. Recognising this, Burge hosted a celebration of McEwen’s work at Marchmont House in 2022.

With a mission to make the house a centre for artistic endeavour once more, Burge’s extensive renovations saw him convert the stables into studios and the garage into a workshop space. Through residencies, conferences and meetings, formal and informal, Burge filled Marchmont House with creative life. This included symposiums on contemporary Scottish sculpture and 19th century women mural painters, as well as the celebration of McEwen. Gathered together, all this activity might be regarded as a one vast social sculpture that brought some of the finest artistic talents of the age under one roof.

Hugo Aylesford Burge was born in London to Linda (nee Henry) and Oliver Burge, the founder of Aylesford International estate agents. His grandfather, James Burge QC was a lawyer in the 1963 Profumo scandal. Writer John Mortimer based his Rumpole of the Bailey character on him.

Burge’s parents split up when he was a child, and he lived with his mother in Fulham. He was educated at Bedales School, Hampshire, before studying geography at Sussex College, Cambridge. After qualifying as a company secretary, he spent four years in property investment. Following early adventures co-running a web design company, in 2000 Burge took out a loan to supplement his savings and invested in online flight booking website, Cheapflights, then run by its founder, former Harpers & Queen travel editor, John Hatt.

With banker David Soskin, Burge eventually bought Cheapflights and in 2003 moved to Boston, Massachusetts to oversee the setting up of the company’s American website. Again with Soskin, in 2006, Burge co-founded investment company, Howzat, which invested in various travel businesses, including Trivago.

In 2011, he became Cheapflights CEO. During his tenure, the company bought up Danish travel search engine, Momondo, with the Momondo Group becoming parent company. He later sold Momondo to the Priceline Group for £440 million before stepping down as CEO in 2017. Other dotcom interests included property based website,, travel social networking site, Where Are You Now –, and, a site designed for sharing travel experience and inspiration.

It was Marchmont House, however, that became Burge’s passion project. This saw him move out of London and set up home in a flat in the house as he developed his ideas. There were setbacks, first through the 2008 financial crash, while latterly the Covid induced pandemic reduced operations.

Burge’s determination knew no bounds, however. He believed passionately in both the transformative power of art, and in enabling living artists to make work that kept traditions alive. Crucially, Burge applied his accrued business acumen to his cause.

In 2018, Burge founded Marchmont Ventures, which was dedicated to investments that supported creativity in business, arts, crafts, heritage protection and land management in the long term. A year later, he founded Marchmont Makers Foundation, a charity set up to fund writers’ and artists’ residencies, as well as to support local schools and charities.

In 2018, Burge was inducted into the British Travel and Hospitality Hall of Fame. The same year, having already won the Georgian Group 2017 Architectural Award for Best Restoration of a Georgian interior, Burge and his father were joint recipients of the Historic Houses Sotheby’s Restoration Award.

Beyond these much-deserved accolades, Burge’s legacy comes in his transformation of Marchmont House into a living, breathing house of art. This was sired from Burge’s vision of an artistic community that he succeeded in making a reality, and which looks set to remain a vital force for creative good.

Burge is survived by his father, Oliver Burge.