In the first half of the 19th century villages and hamlets on the Lancashire coast, overlooking Morecambe Bay, grew rapidly as holiday destinations. The prosperous middle class of Manchester, and the surrounding manufacturing towns, was keen to escape the noise and dirt of urban life and took houses on the coast where the air was clear. Henry Paul Fleetwood, a prosperous Preston banker, saw the potential of Silverdale, north of Carnforth, and erected this tower on his estate there as a belvedere and summerhouse.
The 1817 Warton with Lindeth Enclosure Act allocated most of the land at Lindeth to John Jackson, a yeoman farmer. In 1829 he sold a substantial portion to Fleetwood, who set about improving the estate. By 1836 Fleetwood was offering his seaside property to let for the ‘summer season’. As well as the ancient farmhouse there was a ‘large and commodious house for Visitors’ which was ‘much resorted to’ for its ‘commanding views of Morecambe Bay’ and for the fashionable sea bathing.
The Lindeth Tower, aka The Gibraltar Tower, is variously described as dating from 1826 or 1842. The first date can be discounted as the folly is not shown on an 1829 plan, but it is marked as ‘Tower’ on the 1st edition Ordnance Survey map which was surveyed in 1845. The date of 1842 is given on a plaque above the door, although some caution is needed as the plaque is modern, added when the tower was restored in the 1960s.
Even more confusing is a description of the tower by one of its most famous residents, the novelist Elizabeth Gaskell, who spent many summers in Silverdale in the 1840s and 1850s.
Mrs Gaskell is known to have spent a month at Gibraltar Farm in July 1843 so the tower was at most little over a decade old, or if built in 1842, the mortar was barely dry. It is often noted that she described Lindeth Tower as an ‘old square tower or Peel – a remnant of the Border towers’. She can’t possibly have believed that, so perhaps Mrs Gaskell’s comments have been misconstrued, and she was not referring to the folly tower at all, but to the building called the ‘ancient farmhouse’. This stood alongside the modern house where Mrs Gaskell stayed. Lindeth Tower was the name confusingly given to both the new house and the folly; an 1869 guide to Grange over Sands mentions the folly as ‘Lindeth Tower, belonging to the farm of the same name.’
Or perhaps the imaginative Mrs Gaskell was just in romantic mood as she wrote her latest novel in the parlour on the upper floor, and created a fictional history for the simple tower?
Enough conjecture! Sometimes The Folly Flâneuse’s mind wanders as much as her legs. The facts are that the folly known as The Lindeth Tower is three stories high with a rooftop viewing platform and a very pretty studded door. The house is now known as Tower House.
H.P. Fleetwood, whose principal seat was Woodfold Park, near Blackburn, offered the Gibraltar estate for sale in 1849. The ‘romantically situated Marine Residence’ was to be sold by auction and the sales particulars, as full of hyperbole then as they are today, suggested that the view of ‘Mountain, Vale and Sea’ from the ‘Prospect Tower’ would ‘alone repay the fatigues of a long pilgrimage.’ Fleetwood retired to Brighton around that date and died at his house there in 1855.
The tower is in pristine condition thanks to the efforts of Anne Margaret Horsley, who restored it in 1966, and later owners. It was once a landmark but is now somewhat lost in trees. These at least offer some privacy from the visiting Gaskell groupies and Brontë buffs (for much of Mrs Gaskell’s research for her life of Charlotte Brontë took place in Silverdale), as well as the odd flâneuse keen to see the tower. Happily you can see the folly from the passing road without needing to intrude on the modern-day tourists who are lucky enough to be staying, as Lindeth Tower is still much resorted to as a holiday home https://www.lindethtower.co.uk