Beckford Tower


From RCS Newsletter No 44 spring 2001


The immensely wealthy William Beckford, 1760 ‑ 1840, demolished his father's house Fonthill Abbey in Wiltshire, known for its Georgian elegance, and built a new Gothick structure with a tower of astounding height, 930 feet. He was forced to sell the property in 1822 and settled in Bath, where he already had plans for another tower. There is a story that Beckford could just see his first tower from the second, the two being just over twenty-five miles apart. The Lansdown tower was a‑building when the Fonthill tower collapsed in 1825.


Beckford bought two houses in Lansdown Crescent and linked them W** bridge at first floor level. The tower on the top of Lansdown was to be a retreat, and to house part of his remarkable collection of paintings, later dispersed.


The Tower has been thoroughly restored since 1997 with funds from the Bath Preservation Trust, the Heritage Lottery Fund and other benefactors. The process included a complete structural overhaul of ‘the gilded lantern' on top of the Tower, which is visible from miles away. The Bath Preservation Trust has received a special commendation for this work in the 2001 Civic Trust Awards.


An exhibition about Beckford's remarkable life may be seen in the tower. He and his retinue included mounted stewards and Perro the Dwarf, must have caused quite a stir in the streets of respectable nineteenth‑century Bath.


The tower is 130 feet tall and provides spectacular views after one has climbed the 154 steps. It re‑opens on Easter weekend, 14th April, and is open 10am5pm Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holiday Mondays until the end of October, adults £2.50, children and concessions £2.


The Landmark Trust has opened an apartment for holiday lets on the ground floor. If you have too many guests for your place in the Royal Crescent, they could be 'farmed out' to another exceptional location. The telephone number for bookings is 01628‑825925.