Approaching the pretty little town of Market Bosworth from the east, the eye is caught by a richly-coloured red brick tower emerging from the trees. Approaching, it becomes apparent that the tower stands in the grounds of Bosworth Hall, now a hotel, and that the tower and a curious freestanding stone doorway are the surviving elements of a very attractive kitchen garden.
The ‘Pevsner’ (aka the Buildings of England) volume for Leicestershire, is of little help, merely mentioning a ‘three storey Italianate belvedere tower, presumably of the 1880s’. The Historic England listed building report also dates the walled garden to c.1885, but then goes on to mistakenly describe a ‘large clock tower’. Clearly further investigation is required.
Bosworth Hall was built in the late 17th century, and until the late 19th century was the home of the Dixie family. In 1789 the simple classical mansion was described as ‘the ugly seat of the Dixies’, by the prolific travel diarist the Hon. John Byng (later Viscount Torrington), a man of robust opinions. Judge for yourself…
In the early 1880s the house was put up for sale, and the eventual purchaser was Charles Norman Lindsay Tollemache Scott (1853-1938). Scott had recently married Lady Agnes Mary Manners Tollemache (1855-1912), heir presumptive of the Earl of Dysart (unusually, the title could pass down the female line). As a mark of respect for her status, and the substantial fortune she brought to their union, he had added her family name to his own. The couple immediately began a programme of building and renovation on the estate.
The kitchen garden to the east of the house was constructed in the middle of the 19th century, and by 1848 the walled enclosure was home to a range of glasshouses facing south. An exact date for the building of the tower has proved elusive: but presumably the work was contemporary with the remodelling of the range of glasshouses for the Tollemache Scotts from 1886. This work was undertaken by Messenger & Co. of Loughborough, a noted firm of ‘horticultural builders’ – that is glasshouse specialists. Work was largely complete in 1888, and the company’s final account was settled tardily in 1889: Scott’s cavalier excuse was simply that he had been too busy and ‘just at present I am doing nothing else but writing cheques’. No accounts for the building of the tower seem to have survived, but it was extant by the time the 25″ Ordnance Survey map was revised in 1901-02.
Lady Tollemache Scott busied herself with charities and committees, and her husband was a typical country squire – he served as a Justice of the Peace and as High Sheriff, and took a keen interest in the local hunt, the Atherstone, which held the first meet of each season at Bosworth. So was the tower a hunting stand, designed for watching the chase? When offered for sale in 1883 the sporting advantages of the estate were extolled, and in 1892 Tollemache Scott had 260 fallow deer in his 330 acres, and had recently introduced red deer. And the Folly Flâneuse can’t help but mention that Lady Agnes was the daughter of Lord Huntingtower.
The hunting connection seems to be reinforced by the statue high on the tower. It represents Diana, goddess of the hunt, and is a copy of the Diana de Gabies, excavated at Gabii near Rome in 1792, and now in the Louvre (thanks to the Flâneuse’s good friend the Sculpture Specialist for quickly identifying the statue).
But if the tower did have a connection to the hunt, it was secondary to its much more practical principal purpose. All is revealed on an excellent information board provided by the hotel, with the support of the Market Bosworth Society: the tower actually houses a huge water tank which served the mansion, and continues to serve the hotel today. Water was pumped into the tower from springs in the park, and then fed by gravity into the house. A large (undated) plan of the water supply to the hall survives, showing the pipes ‘from the water tower’ that serviced a wash house and WC, the kitchen offices, and the stables.
So the tower is far too functional be be a folly, but very definitely qualifies for these pages as a magnificent ornament to the Bosworth Park landscape. As well as being a distant eye-catcher when approaching the hall, it was also an object on a walk from the house. After crossing a small canal by a pretty iron bridge, one entered into the Wilderness, a ‘magnificent Avenue of Limes and Elms, under which is carpeted in the Spring with snowdrops, aconites and bluebells’, from where the tower was a conspicuous feature.
Lady Tollemache Scott died in 1912. Her husband retired to the Cotswolds, and their only child, Wenefryde, sold the estate a year later. It was back on the market in 1918, and the sales particulars record the extensive range of glasshouses in the Kitchen Garden, which was sheltered on the north side ‘by the Water Tower, Gardener’s Bothies, Engine House…etc’. The agent stressed the quality of the ensemble, which had been built ‘after the style of the house and makes an imposing addition to the kitchen garden’.
Sadly the glasshouses were demolished as unsafe in the late 20th century, but the stone doorway was reprieved and now stands marooned in the kitchen garden enclosure.
As an added treat, a walk in the woodland behind the walled garden reveals a trail leading to a lovely little monument to a dog called Smut.
Bosworth Hall was sold in 1913, and after further changes in ownership the estate was bought by Leicestershire City Council in 1931. The hall was put to use as a hospital, and the wider estate became a Country Park. In the 1980s the hall was sold and converted into a hotel. The grade II listed walled garden and water tower await restoration and a purpose.
For more on Market Bosworth visit the impressive website of the Market Bosworth Society, whose help with this post is gratefully acknowledged https://marketbosworthsociety.com
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