Beckford’s Tower added to ‘At Risk’ list.

A much-loved and historic Bath landmark has been added to this year’s ‘Heritage at Risk Register’ by Historic England.

At the same time a fundraising appeal has been launched to support its repair and long term future.

Beckford’s Tower – originally designed for the wealthy and eccentric writer William Beckford in 1825-26 – joins 47 other sites from the South West to be put on this ‘danger list’ of historic sites at risk of being lost forever


In its annual report Historic England explains why the Grade 1 listed, 120 foot high tower has now had to be included.

‘Beckford’s Tower is a much-loved landmark in Bath. Standing at 120ft and enjoying panoramic views over the city, the early 19th century tower is exposed to increasingly severe weather and water is getting into the building.

It was built in 1827 for writer William Beckford (1760-1844) the author of the Gothic novel Vathek. Designed to house Beckford’s collection of art, books and furniture, the tower was also a retreat, an observatory, and a vantage point from which to view the city of Bath.

Beckford was finally laid to rest here when the grounds were consecrated for burials. Lansdown Cemetery, this integral part of Beckford’s estate in Bath, is now a registered historic park and garden.’

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‘It is also being placed on the Heritage at Risk Register this year as some of its principal features, including the Grotto Tunnel, are in poor condition.

The Bath Preservation Trust acquired Beckford’s Tower in 1993 and carried out extensive repairs, opening the building to the public in 2001. The Trust is now preparing for another phase of major repairs and fundraising is underway.’

I caught up with Caroline Kay – who is the Chief Executive of Bath Preservation Trust – and asked whether she was devastated to hear that one of the ‘jewels’ in the Trust’s crown was now on a danger list.


Historic England reveals the historic sites most at risk of being lost forever as a result of neglect, decay or inappropriate development by publishing the annual Heritage at Risk Register 2019.

The register provides a snapshot of the health of England’s most valued historic places, and those most at risk of being lost.

Over the last year 62 historic buildings and sites have been saved. Imaginative uses have been found for empty buildings, providing new homes, shops, offices and cultural venues for the local community to enjoy.

Monuments in our landscapes have been lovingly cared for, often by dedicated teams of volunteers. Communities up and down the country have celebrated the things that make their conservation areas special and saved valued historic places for future generations.

Rebecca Barrett, Regional Director at Historic England South West, said: “The message is clear – investing in and celebrating our heritage pays. It helps to transform the places where we live, work and visit, creating successful and distinctive places for us and for future generations to enjoy. But there’s more work to do

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“Historic England’s experience shows that with the right partners, imaginative thinking and robust business planning, we can be confident in finding creative solutions for these complex sites.”

Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register gives an annual snapshot of the condition of some of the region’s most important historic buildings, sites, monuments and places.

Across the region 62 sites have been removed from the Register because their future has been secured, often by community intervention, while 48 sites have been added to the Register because of concerns about their condition including 149 places of worship.

Over the past year, Historic England has offered £1.5m in grants to help some of the region’s best loved and most important historic sites.

The Heritage at Risk Register 2019 reveals that in the South West, 195 Grade I and II* buildings, 1,048 scheduled monuments, 149 places of worship, 17 registered parks and gardens and 26 conservation areas are at risk of neglect, decay or inappropriate change. There are 1,435 assets on the Register in Region, 20 fewer than in 2018.

For more information about Beckford’s Tower and Museum go to


  1. I would happily pay to go up the tower (in warm clothing!) on a crisp January day to see the views when trees are not in leaf.

  2. There is an insidious economy of the truth in the phrase ‘wealthy and eccentric’. It is important to acknowledge that Beckford’s wealth was entirely derived from slave-ownership, the fortune he inherited from his father was vast and derived from the labour of captured and enslaved people on the sugar plantations of Jamaica. Much of the wealth that funded the development of Georgian Bath can be traced back directly to slave-ownership.

    That is not to say that the building should not be restored or that we should not be able to enjoy the view or admire the fine architecture of Georgian Bath. But it is important to remember where the money came from and to consider the other painful, difficult and shameful legacies of slave-ownership: the Grenfell Tower fire, the Windrush scandal, the murder of Stephen Lawrence and all the many manifestations of institutional racism.

    Beckford’s Tower stands on the skyline of Bath as a silent manifestation of slave generated wealth, perpetuating the ‘dead silence’ on slavery Jane Austen referred to in Mansfield Park. It would be something if the Tower restored could champion the breaking of that silence by telling the story of the source of Beckford’s wealth and the legacies of slave-ownership. It was this wealth that enabled him to become an eccentric art collector and early orientalist, rather than die an outcast in the workhouse.

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