Watkins' TowerEdit profile
Watkin's Tower was a partially completed building in London, England, UK. It was marketed as the "Great Tower of London".Names
Numerous names were given to the tower during its planning, construction and legacy. These include Watkin's Tower,Watkin's Folly, the Wembley Park Tower, the Wembley Tower, the Metropolitan Tower, and the London Stump.History
Inspired by the construction of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, Sir Edward Watkin (a British Member of Parliament and chairman of the Metropolitan Railway) proposed the construction of a taller tower in Wembley Park, London, that would be the centrepiece of a pleasure park just 12 minutes from Baker Street station. Watkin invited Gustave Eiffel himself to design the tower, but the Frenchman declined – replying that if he designed the tower, the French people "would not think me so good a Frenchman as I hope I am."Design and construction
An architectural competition was held in 1890, and numerous designs were submitted. Proposals included a £1m tower inspired by the Tower of Pisa, a structure with "a captive parachute to hold four persons", and a tower with a spiral railway climbing its exterior. One design included a 1/12-scale model of the Great Pyramid of Giza, envisioned as a "colony of aerial vegetarians, who would grow their own food in hanging gardens".
The winning entry, submitted by Stewart, MacLaren and Dunn, was a metal tower on eight legs. The proposed tower was 358 metres (1,175 ft) – 45.8 metres (150 ft) taller than the Eiffel Tower, which was 312.2 metres (1,024 ft) at the time. It had two observation decks – each with restaurants, theatres, dancing rooms, exhibitions, and Turkish baths. The design was modified to a four-legged design that looked very similar to the Eiffel Tower. The Metropolitan Tower Construction Company was established to build the tower and the foundations were laid in 1892. The main building work commenced the following year.Opening and demolition
The park opened to the public in 1896, though construction of the tower had not surpassed the first stage at approximately 47 metres (154 ft). At this time, work was behind schedule as Watkin retired through ill health and the structure's foundations were unsteady. This was caused by the reduction in the number of the tower's legs; the increased pressure on each leg caused subsidence.
Over the next few years, the construction company experienced problems financing the project and went into voluntary liquidation in 1899. Work stopped, and the tower was never completed. Watkin died in 1901, and with halted construction, the "unsafe" site was closed to the public the following year. The company turned to house building to recoup its losses and demolished the completed section of the tower using dynamite in 1904 to 1907.
The original Wembley Stadium was built for the 1923 British Empire Exhibition on the site of the tower, covering its foundations. When the stadium was rebuilt in 2000, the lowering of the level of the pitch resulted in the concrete foundations of the tower being rediscovered on the stadium site.Legacy
Watkin's Folly was not the last attempt to build a notable British tower. In the North West of England, the Blackpool Tower (1894), New Brighton Tower (1896) and Morecambe Tower (1898) were also built, although only the Blackpool Tower remains standing.
The story of Watkin's Tower is recounted briefly in the 1973 BBC documentary by Sir John Betjeman, Metro-land, which also shows some of the unsuccessful designs for the tower.