Saturday, 19 October 2013



Buildings come in all shapes and sizes and this page is about

some curious towers and their story.




Wainhouse  Tower


A huge tower, 253 feet tall, dominates the scene on the southern outskirts of Halifax in West Yorkshire overlooking the Calder Valley.   This amazing construction was apparently built as a chimney to disperse smoke from the dyeworks belonging to Edward Wainhouse back in the late 19th century.   The strange thing was that the dyeworks were down in the valley whilst the chimney was high on the hillside above, and it was intended that the two would be connected by a flue.   For some reason the connection was never made and the chimney actually ended up as a rather ornate tower.    The brick built chimney was in fact encased in stone and an internal spiral staircase of 400 steps lead up to a very ornamental observation tower on top.  Offering spectacular views over the town and the surrounding countryside, the tower is only occasionally open to the public.

So why did Wainhouse spend £15,000 to build such an ornate chimney?  One can speculate but local legend has it that ‘Spite  Tower’, as it was called locally, was never intended to be a chimney in the first place, but that Wainhouse had it built as the result of a feud with his neighbours, the Edwards family.    It is said that the Edwards’ suspected Wainhouse of being a peeping tom and erected a huge wall between their properties.   The tower of course gave Wainhouse back his view over his neighbours property.
Wainhouse Tower
Factory Chimneys


Two unique chimneys were built in  the 19th century at Tower Works, Holbeck, Leeds, a pin-comb manufacturing business. The first was built in 1864, based on the great Lamberti Tower in Verona. The second chimney was built in 1899, a copy of Giotto’s 14th c marble bell tower at Florence Cathedral and was built to form part of a dust extraction plant.

The works and the two chimneys have been renovated and preserved.






Peterson’s  Tower

A huge tower, over 200 feet high, dominates the skyline on the edge of the New Forest at Sway in Hampshire.   It is a ‘folly’ which was built of concrete by an eccentric barrister who declared that he wished to be buried within the tower and that a light should be shone from the top of the tower.   On his travels in India, Andrew Thomas Turton Peterson developed an interest in concrete and used it to make improvements to his estate in Hampshire.   As a rich man he was concerned for the plight of the unemployed in the area and he employed 40 men to build his tower.   Work started in 1879 but the tower of 13 storeys, the first major building in Britain to be built from concrete,  was not completed until 1885.   When Mr Peterson died in 1906, his ashes were placed on a concrete table within the tower, but his requested light was denied by Trinity House as a potential danger to shipping.

Peterson's Tower
 Photograph - © Copyright Mike Smith and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
Sway Tower is 66 metres (200 ft) tall and is a Grade II listed building. It is also known as "Peterson's Folly". Built by Andrew Thomas Turton Peterson on his private estate from 1879–1885. It is constructed entirely out of concrete, with only the windows having iron supports. It remains the tallest non-reinforced concrete structure in the world.

Unfortunately I have lost my own phbotograph and I am grateful to Mike to be able to use his photograph.
Bettison’s  folly
A very fine castellated brick tower can be seen just off Willows Drive at Hornsea in East Yorkshire.   Standing some 50 feet high, it was built in 1844 by a local man by the name of Bettison from ‘treacle bricks’ being overfired to distortion at the local brickworks, giving it a very attractive appearance.  It is said that Bettison,  a Hull newspaper proprietor built the tower in the grounds of his house, now demolished, so that his servants could spot his carriage returning home on the Hull Road, to enable them to have his dinner on the table when he walked in!   In seems inevitable that the tower became known locally as Bettison’s Folly.
Bettison's Tower
Dalyell’s Folly
In the early 19th century, Sir James Dalyell was the incumbent of The House of Binns overlooking the River Forth in Scotland.   After a convivial dinner at the mansion in 1826, one of Sir James’ friends suggested a wager – who could come up with the most fruitless way of spending £100, quite a sum of money in those days.  Sir James won the wager by suggesting the building of a tower on a nearby hill to overlook his neighbours land.   The Hope family, newly rich from banking, paid the £100, of which Sir James spent only £29 on building the tower which still dominates the area.
In 1930, the 4th Baronet built a windmill on the top of the tower to generate electricity and it was said that as the tower was no longer useless, the original wager was invalid.
A symbol added to the tower is said to depict Sir James being chased round Hell by Lord Duddington trying to get his money back from the wager.
Dalyell's Folly


The   Farmers’  Folly

Dukes of Northumberland have occupied Alnwick Castle since the 14th century.  During a period of agricultural depression in the early 19th century, the benevolent Duke found that he was able to make a reduction in the rents paid by his tenant farmers to make their lives more comfortable.   The tenants were so grateful that they collectively erected the Percy Tenantry Column at the entrance to Alnwick in 1816.   This very fine column,  83 feet high,  is topped with a Percy lion with its straight, stiff tail.   Apparently the Duke was so astonished that his tenants could afford such an expense, that he promptly put the rents up again!


King Alfred’s Tower
King Alfred’s Tower on the Stourhead Estate in Wiltshire is a spectacular triangular folly, built to commemorate this legendary Saxon King, who fought the Danes and won an outstanding victory with his small army to keep England free. The tower was built in 1762, by Henry Hoare 11, the owner of Stourhead, on the exact spot where Alfred is believed to have raised his standard in AD878.  The tower also marks the accession of George 111 and peace with France after the end of the Seven Years War.
The 205 steps inside the tower lead to a viewing platform which gives spectacular views over Wilstshire, Somerset and Dorset at 1000ft above sea level. Now in the care of The National Trust.
King Alfred's Tower


Culloden  Tower

A very fine tower can be seen on high ground just to the west of Richmond in North Yorkshire.   The so called  Culloden  Tower  was erected by  John Yorke to commemorate his son who fought at the Battle of Culloden in 1746.   The inside of the building is sumptuously decorated in rococo style, and is now a holiday cottage.

Culloden Tower




The  Tatton  Sykes  Memorial

High on the Yorkshire Wolds on Garton Hill in East Yorkshire, a huge construction can be seen towering over the pretty estate village of Sledmere, looking like a huge space rocket ready to take off.   It is simply a very fine memorial tower to Sir Tatton Sykes of Sledmere House, who died in 1863.   From the mid 18th century the Sykes family had transformed the uncultivated and barren wolds into fertile land, and were a much loved family.  
The memorial, in the shape of a huge Gothic spire, is 120 feet high and has a small chapel in the base and the ornate carvings around it depict Sir Tatton and the farming scene.  An inscription which extends around the four side reads :
‘ Erected to the memory of Sir Tatton Sykes, Baronet

by those who loved him as a friend and honoured him as a landlord'





Sykes Memorial Tower

Bristol High Cross


The much moved Bristol High Cross was erected in 1373 at the junction of High Street, Broad Street, Wine Street and Corn Street in the centre of Bristol. Niches contained statues of various British monarch’s. Originally guilded and coloured, it was repaired and altered in 1633 when it was repainted vermilion, blue and gold.  In 1733, because it was an obstruction in the busy streets it was move to College Green and then in 1763 it was moved into obscurity to a corner of land owned by the cathedral.  In 1768, the Dean of Bristol gave the cross to his friend Henry Hoare of Stourhead where it became part of the landscaping of Stourhead Gardens.  It still stands proudly there on  a mound at the head of the lake.

A truncated replica of the cross, made in 1851, stands in Berkley Square, Bristol.


Bristol High Cross

Banbury Cross

BANBURY is a lovely old town on the edge of the Costwolds in  Northern Oxfordshire.

Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross to see a fine lady on a white horse is a nursery rhyme familiar to all children. The cross was erected to celebrate the marriage of Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter in 1859 on the site of a previously destroyed cross. It is not certain who the fine lady was but she is now depicted on her horse, alongside the cross, as the Queen of May, symbolizing that season.

Banbury Cross

It is not certain who the fine lady was but she is now depicted on her horse, alongside the cross, as the Queen of May, symbolizing that season.





Eleanor Cross

The fine 13th century stone cross at Geddington south of Corby, is one of only three of the  surviving Eleanor  Crosses.   Queen Eleanor was the wife of King Edward 1 and when she died at Harby in Lincolnshire on 28th November 1290, her body was taken to Westminster Abbey for burial.   In memory of his wife, Edward ordered that elaborate stone crosses be erected at points where the cortege rested on its journey.   Of the crosses erected at Lincoln, Grantham, Stamford, Geddington, Hardingstone, Stony Stratford, Woburn, Dunstable, St Albans, Waltham Abbey and Charing, only those at Geddington, Hardingstone and Waltham Abbey have survived.
Eleanor Cross


The Martyrs’ Memorial
This Gothic spire in the centre of Oxford was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott and commemorates the Martyrs Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley & Thomas Cranmer who were burned at the stake in 1555-6 because of their adherence to the Protestant Church of England during the reign of Roman Catholic Mary Tudor. It was erected in 1841-3, by public subscription, close to the place of the execution in Broad Street, where a cross set into the roadway marks the exact spot.  It has been likened to the spire of a sunken of a sunken cathedral and there is an urban legend which says that generations of Oxford students have duped tourists into believing that there is in fact a church beneath the spire, offering tours at a price, and then directing their victims to nearby stairs which in fact lead to public toilets.



The Martyr's Memorial

  1. The execution site


There is a curious brick built chimney standing alongside the Custom House at Falmouth in Cornwall.  It was once a furnace to burn contraband tobacco and it famously known as  The King’s Pipe.
The King's Pipe 




The Abbot’s kitchen


In the grounds of Glastonbury Abbey in Somerset is a curious circular chapel like building with a tower topped by a spire.  The tower is in fact a chimney, for this medieval building, built in 1435, was the Abbot’s kitchen with four fireplaces.

 The Abbot's kitchen

Big Ben


No article about towers would be complete without the inclusion of the iconic clock tower at the north end of the Palace of Westminster, officially St Stephen’s Tower but affectionately known as ‘Big Ben’.  Big Ben is in fact the nickname for the Great Bell of the clock and is thought to have derived its name from Sir Benjamin Hall who over saw its installation. On the other hand it may have been named after British Heavyweight Boxing Champion, Benjamin Caunt.

The tower is the third tallest free-standing clock tower in the world and holds the largest four faced chiming clock in the world. It was raised as part of the design for the new Palace by Charles Barry and was completed in 1858, after the old Palace of Westminster was largely destroyed by fire. It has become one of the most prominent symbols of both London and England. The tower was designed in the Gothic Revival style by Augustus Pugin and is 316 feet (96.3m) high.  The bottom 200 feet of the tower is constructed of brickwork with a sand coloured limestone cladding, whilst the remainder is framed in a spire of cast iron. It sits on a square raft of concrete almost 10 feet thick 13 feet below ground level. Due to changes in the ground conditions over the years the tower leans 8.66 inches at the clock dials.

The clock dials are set in an iron frame 23 feet in diameter which supports 312 pieces of opal glass with gilded surrounds, and the faces are illuminated at night.  At the base of each dial in gilt letters is the latin inscription:  DOMINE SALVAM FAC REGINAM NOSTRAM VICTORIAM PRIMAM, meaning ‘ O Lord, keep safe our Queen Victoria the First.’ 
The tower was renamed  ‘The Queen Elizabeth Tower’ in 2012 to honour of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.   A special light above the clock faces is illuminated when parliament is in session.

The chimes of Big Ben were first broadcast by the BBC in 1923, a tradition which continues to this day.


Big Ben

Big Ben


Blackpool Tower

This is another  iconic building which was inspired by the Eiffel Tower in Paris, which was
opened in 1894. A Grade 1 listed building, it rises 518 feet 9 inches (158.12 metres).
The base contains a number of attractions including the famous tower ballroom


Blackpool Tower


Jumbo is a massive Victorian water tower which dominates the centre of Colchester in Essex. At 141 feet high and built in 1883, it was made of one and a quarter million bricks, 369 tons of stone and 142 tons of iron to support a 230,000 gallon tank. 157 steps inside the central pier lead to a cupola 116 feet above the ground. It was named after Jumbo, a six and half ton African elephant which was a popular feature of London Zoo at that time.  

In fact, in 1882 Jumbo the elephant was purchased by American Phineas Taylor Barnum for his circus and the removal of the elephant caused a great outcry to no avail and Jumbo was duly shipped to America to become a star attraction there.

The Grade 11 listed water tower was decommissioned in 1987 and still stands proudly near the Balkerne Gate displaying its fine elephant weather vane. Despite changing hands on several occasions, proposed redevelopment of the tower has so far failed.





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