Friday, February 1, 2008

Broadway Tower, Worcestershire

Broadway Tower is on top of a hill on the borders of Worcestershire and Gloucestershire on a site that had long been used for lighting beacons. The hill is almost 1000 feet above sea level, so any fire lit there, or any light glimmering from a building, can be seen for miles. The story goes that the wife of George William, 6th Earl of Coventry, wanted a beacon she could see from her house in Worcester, and her husband decided on this site and chose James Wyatt as the architect.

Wyatt was known for his work in the Gothic style, but was a versatile designer – for this building of 1797–1800 turned his hand to a kind of Romanesque revival, with round-headed windows and castle-like turrets. The tower can certainly be seen for miles around, and people who like to make lists of such things argue about the dozen or more counties you are supposed to be able to see on a clear day from the top of the tower. There were of course even more before the local government reorganization of the 1970s.

People talk about buildings like Broadway Tower as ‘follies’. But, all these apparently eccentric towers, sham castles, grottoes, and so on were originally built for a purpose and when we know the purpose the buildings seem less bizarre. Broadway Tower was built to be seen, to be admired, and to admire the view from. Not so outrageous, really.

1 comment:

Eric Hayman said...

Just imagine a mobile mast or a high voltage electricity line pylon in the same place!

Had CPRE been around when the tower was being built, just what would its NIMBY members have said?

Today we accept what is already in the landscape (well, most of the time), but put up a new house in any rural area, and the heavens come crashing down on the builder.

Beauty in the eye of the beholder?