Beckford's Tower

Beckford's Tower, originally known as Lansdown Tower, is an architectural folly built in neo-classical style on Lansdown Hill, just outside Bath, Somerset, England.

Standing 120 feet (37 m) high, the tower was completed in 1827 for local resident William Beckford to a design by Henry Goodridge. Beckford, who wished that he had built it forty feet higher, but admitted that "such as it is, it is a famous landmark for drunken farmers on their way home from market", used the tower as both a library and a retreat, located at the end of pleasure gardens called Beckford's Ride which ran from his house in Lansdown Crescent up to the Tower at the top of Lansdown Hill; he made it his habit to ride up to the tower, view the progress of gardens and works, and walk down to breakfast.

Beckford's own choice of the best of works of art, virtu, books and prints and rich furnishings from Fonthill Abbey, which he had sold in 1822, were rehoused in his double adjoining houses in Bath and at the Tower. One long narrow room there was fitted out as an "Oratory", where all the paintings were of devotional subjects and a marble Virgin and Child was bathed in light from a hidden skylight.

The most striking feature of the tower is the topmost gilded lantern, based on the peripteral temple at Tivoli and the Tower of the Winds at Athens, reached by a spiral staircase and offering excellent views over the surrounding countryside, but not open to the public. With a strong spyglass, Beckford could make out shipping in the Bristol Channel.

Today, the tower is home to a museum collection displaying furniture originally made for the Tower, alongside paintings, prints and objects illustrating William Beckford’s life as a writer, collector and patron of the arts. Visitors can follow in Beckford’s footsteps and climb the spiral staircase to the beautifully restored belvedere below the lantern and experience the spectacular panoramic view of western Bath. On a clear day, it is possible to see King Alfred's Tower at Stourhead, the White Horses at Westbury and Cherhill, the Forest of Dean and South Wales.

The tower was given by Beckford's daughter to the parish of Lansdown, together with the adjoining burial ground. It was declared redundant and sold in 1971, the then rector of Lansdown remarking that the tower was of little architectural interest.

The tower is now owned by the Bath Preservation Trust and managed by the Beckford Tower Trust. The Tower is also available to rent as a holiday home through the Landmark Trust. It has been designated by English Heritage as a grade I listed building.

A Victorian cemetery (no longer used for interments) now occupies that part of what was once Beckford's Ride that is closest to the tower.