High above Newby Bridge in Cumbria (formerly Lancashire) stands Finsthwaite Tower. When first built it was a prominent landmark on a bare hill, and commanded an extensive prospect of sea, lake and mountains. The tower was built by James King of Finsthwaite House as an ornament to the landscape, and as a monument to naval prowess. And to start 2022 with some really good news, after decades of decay the tower has a new owner, and a new lease of life.
Queen Victoria bought the Balmoral estate in 1848, and it later became the place where the Queen sought solace after Prince Albert’s early death, 160 years ago in December 1861. There were soon plans for monuments to the late Prince Consort, including the famous Albert Memorial in Hyde Park, but at Balmoral a huge hilltop pyramid was under construction only a few months after Albert’s death.
Sir Charles Barry is usually remembered as the architect of grand Victorian edifices like the Palace of Westminster, and for remodelling country houses such as Trentham in Staffordshire and Harewood in Yorkshire. But he was also happy to take on smaller projects, and in 1845 this elegant obelisk was erected to his design in a distant corner of the Bowood estate of the Marquess of Lansdowne.
High above the valley of the River Towy stands a sturdy, and seemingly invincible, tower. It was built to commemorate Admiral Lord Nelson, but within a century it was falling into decay, and it only narrowly escaped conversion into a cowshed.
On Sunday 18 June 1815 the British and Prussian armies, commanded respectively by the Duke of Wellington and Field Marshal von Blücher, won the Battle of Waterloo. There were immediate demands for monuments across Britain to celebrate this great victory, but none were so quick to respond as William Kerr, the 6th Marquis of Lothian, and his family. By the end of June funds had been raised to erect ‘a monument on the summit of Penielheugh’, a lofty hill on the Marquis’s Monteviot estate.
The 11th Earl of Buchan, seldom mentioned without the qualifier ‘eccentric’, bought the Dryburgh estate towards the end of the 18th century. He built a new house and improved the grounds, creating a landscape which featured as its centrepiece that ultimate in garden ornaments: a ruined abbey. Further embellishments included this pretty rotunda on a hillock overlooking the Tweed, and a ‘colossal statue’.
High on Stanton Moor in Derbyshire stands an austere square tower. It was built sometime after 1832 by the local landowner, William Pole Thornhill (1807-1876), to commemorate Earl Grey, the politician who successfully fought for the reform of Parliament in the early 19th century.
The arrival of an updated volume in the Buildings of England series is always a cause for celebration. Better known simply as ‘Pevsners’, after Sir Nikolaus Pevsner (1902-1983), the author of the earliest volumes, the books are regularly revised. The latest volume to be painstakingly brought up to date covers the county of Wiltshire, and is the work of Julian Orbach. The first edition of the Wiltshire volume appeared in 1963, and was close to Pevsner’s heart, as he had a home in Clyffe Pypard where he and his family spent much of their time: his dedication calls Wiltshire ‘the county of the cottage’.
On the edge of Alnwick, in Northumberland, stood Swansfield House, an elegant villa that in the late 18th century was home to Henry Collingwood Selby (1748-1839), agent to the 1st Duke and Duchess of Northumberland of Alnwick Castle. Following the lead of his monument-building patrons, he embellished his small estate with a tower, a column, and a curious gothic structure.
High above the little village of Bardsea, near Ulverston, stands this curious structure. With stunning views of Conishead Priory and its landscape, and a sweeping vista over Morecambe Bay, the monument was well described in 1817 as a ‘Monumental Edifice’.