Following a meticulous restoration, a new improved Beckford’s Tower is to re-open in spring 2024. The Grade I listed, neo-classical Tower, built for William Beckford in 1826, is set in a Victorian cemetery in Lansdown, on the northern outskirts of Bath – a World Heritage city. Although it has been open to the public since the 1970s, it was deemed a building ‘at risk’ in 2019. The National Lottery Heritage Fund and Historic England stepped in to assist a sensitive programme of works, taking two years to consolidate the tower, redesign interiors and create an enhanced ‘visitor experience’: exhibition spaces, a grotto tunnel (I’m excited), landscaped grounds, digital interpretation and museum displays which enliven Beckford’s ‘complex creative life’.
William Beckford was a wealthy, bisexual writer, musician and slave owner. He built the tower as a retreat – somewhere to house his art collection and library; a place, perhaps, for reflection and solace: the scandal of his homosexuality led to a period of exile and he (one of the richest men in Georgian England) spent much of his life as a social outcast.
His collection of period furniture, art and rare books will be reinstated when the museum re-opens; visitors will once again spiral up 154 steps to the top of this 150-foot monolith and take in magnificent views of Bath and the surrounding countryside. William Beckford’s personal story – the scandal, his exile, his involvement with the transatlantic slave trade – will be appropriately represented.
Photographs courtesy of Beckford’s Tower & Museum.
More on Beckford’s Tower in our Bath Architecture Tour – coming soon! For now, go to Visit Bath.