King Al­fred's Folly

This fa­mous Wilt­shire land­mark has re­cently un­der­gone ex­ten­sive re­pairs. But no scaf­fold­ing was al­lowed!

Timeless Travels Magazine - - CONTENTS -

King Al­fred’s Tower is a 49 me­tre (160 ft) folly lo­cated about two miles from Stour­head’s Pal­la­dian house and fa­mous 18th cen­tury land­scape gar­den in Wilt­shire, Eng­land. It was built on the site where it was be­lieved King Al­fred had ral­lied his troops be­fore a bat­tle against Dan­ish in­vaders in 879 CE. The tower was de­signed by Henry Fl­itcroft in about 1772 for Henry Hoare II who laid out the land­scape gar­dens at Stour­head and was de­signed to com­mem­o­rate the ac­ces­sion of Ge­orge III. From the top of the tower, vis­i­tors are re­warded with spec­tac­u­lar far reach­ing views over the three coun­ties of Dorset, Wilt­shire and Som­er­set.

Al­fred was the first West Saxon king to claim king­ship over all An­glo-Sax­ons, and is only one of two kings to be given the ep­i­thet ‘the Great’. It is said that he had a rep­u­ta­tion as a mer­ci­ful man who made im­prove­ments to his le­gal and mil­i­tary sys­tems and was con­cerned with the wel­fare of his sub­jects. The bat­tle against the Danes for which he ral­lied his fol­low­ers at Stour­head was an im­por­tant one in which he man­aged a de­ci­sive vic­tory, push­ing the Danes back to East Anglia.

The tower is a tri­an­gu­lar shaped struc­ture with three cir­cu­lar side tow­ers, one of which is a stair tur­ret which has 205 steps to the top, where there is a plat­form with a crenel­lated para­pet. The stair­case is il­lu­mi­nated by ten small open­ings which ad­mit a lit­tle day­light. The cen­tre of the tower is hol­low and its to­tal girth is c.51 me­tres (168 ft) which means that the tower’s cir­cum­fer­ence and height are nearly the same.

Main­te­nance work was badly needed on the tower and the work was part of a pro­ject to re­pair the 14 build­ings, fea­tures and struc­tures around the grounds at Stour­head. Last year The Na­tional Trust was given £96,000 by Viri­dor Cred­its En­vi­ron­men­tal Com­pany af­ter they were shown the huge pub­lic sup­port for the build­ing on the Stour­head Face­book page. There had been other sup­port lo­cally, in­clud­ing a gen­er­ous do­na­tion from the Mack­in­tosh Foun­da­tion which was cham­pi­oned by lo­cal res­i­dent Sir Cameron Mack­in­tosh.

Work on the tower in­cluded re­plac­ing the roofs of two of the tow­ers on the cor­ners of the tri­an­gu­lar sec­tion tower, as well as the walk­way around the top of the tower which needed to be re­paired. Some of the brick­work needed re­point­ing and the statue of King Al­fred above the door­way also had some mi­nor re­pairs and con­ser­va­tion work.

It has said that when orig­i­nally built, the tower stood at the union of the bound­aries of the coun­ties of Som­er­set, Wilt­shire, and Dorset, with one cor­ner of the tri­an­gu­lar base in each county. In more re­cent times the Dorset bound­ary was moved so that the tower now just strad­dles the Wilt­shire-Som­er­set bor­der. Work to the tower has now been com­pleted and it will re­open on 5th March 2016.

Kind Al­fred’s Tower is part of the Stour­head Es­tate. Its gar­dens are open 9 am - 5 pm Novem­ber - March and 9 am - 6 pm April - Oc­to­ber. The House is open un­til 13 Nov and also 26 Nov – 21 Dec. See www.na­tion­al­trust.org.uk/stour­head for more in­for­ma­tion. Left, clock­wise: King Al­fred’s Tower in the Spring with wild or­chids (Im­age: © Na­tional Trust/Tam Holmes);

Go­ing over the edge no scaf­fold­ing al­lowed! (Im­age: © Na­tional Trust/ SWNS)

The Tem­ple of Apollo re­flected in the lake in Stour­head gar­dens (Im­age: © Na­tional Trust Im­ages/Clive Ni­chols)

Re­pair work on the tower (Im­age: © Na­tional Trust/Neil Munns)

Clean­ing up King Al­fred (Im­age: © Na­tional Trust/Neil Munns)

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