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Historic England awards £100,000 to Beckford’s Tower

15th May 2023 3 min read
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Bath Preservation Trust (BPT) is delighted to announce that it has secured £100k of vital partnership funding from Historic England, which will help to preserve and maintain the unique heritage attraction.

Built between 1826 and 1827, the iconic structure was intended to house the collections of books, furniture and art of writer and collector William Beckford (1760-1844). Having sold the Gothic Revival Fonthill Abbey in 1822, William Beckford relocated to Bath and began the construction of his eponymous folly Tower. Riding out to the Tower from his townhouse in Bath’s Lansdown Crescent every morning before breakfast, Beckford enjoyed its quietude and the glorious views from the Belvedere at the top.

Now owned and run by BPT the iconic landmark is a Grade I listed building and is the only museum in the world dedicated to his life and work. In 2019, the Tower was added to Historic England’s national Register of Heritage at Risk.

This funding forms part of Our Tower: Reconnecting Beckford’s Tower and Landscape for all, a much larger £3.9m National Lottery Heritage Fund-supported project that will transform the museum, open up the landscape, provide accessible experiences and also provide digital resources alongside a new learning programme and opportunities for volunteering and community engagement. Beckford’s wealth was secured through owning plantations and exploiting enslaved people. The project will enable better interpretation of Beckford’s story based on wider exploration of his connections with slavery.

In seeking support for the project BPT has been successful in its bid to secure additional funding from Historic England. Claire Dixon, Director of Museums at BPT and the lead for the Beckford Tower project explains: “This is fantastic news and being able to demonstrate significant support from Historic England will contribute very positively to the project outcomes. I am also really grateful that this grant demonstrates a partnership that goes beyond financial support, providing confidence through collaboration, to adopt the best solutions to repair and conserve this important building. This latest grant is in addition to £10k that Historic England has previously provided to support our Development Phase and enables us to move confidently into the final phase of the project, that is now fully funded.”

Historic England’s grant will be invested in the repair of the Tower and address the cause of water penetration that has caused so much damage over the years. Repair work including replacement of damaged wooden panels in the Lantern begins this month and will be complete by the end of the year. Working with Lead Architect Clive England from Thomas Ford & Partners, a team from Historic England and local conservation officer, BPT has created a solution that is effective and sensitive to this Grade I listed building that sits in a World Heritage Site.

Rebecca Barrett, Regional Director at Historic England said: “Beckford’s Tower is an extraordinary and unique landmark, a distinctive feature in Bath’s cityscape. At 120 ft, the Tower has been exposed to the effects of increasingly severe weather over many decades, which has led to the weakening of its structure. We’re proud to support BPT in carrying out the repairs this beautiful landmark now urgently needs, and in exploring how it can be made more energy efficient for the future.”

Alongside the repairs, BPT is looking at investment in infrastructure and interventions that will improve the efficiency of the building, reduce its carbon footprint and demonstrate best practice for those looking to address these issues in historic buildings.

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