The Watch

Hadlow Tower

Tonbridge, Kent, England, United Kingdom

1998 World Monuments Watch

From a distance, the 170-foot-tall Hadlow Tower appears as a slender skyscraper rising from the flat Kent landscape. But within the center of Tonbridge, it presents itself as a dramatic example of the Gothic Revival that was so popular in the first half of the 19th century. Inspired by William Beckford's Fonthill Abbey, the octagonal tower by George Leadwell Taylor has gable projections on the four main sides. By the early 1990s, the fabric had deteriorated to the point at which all decoration and the magnificent pinnacled lantern crowning the tower had to be removed. The tower is a regional landmark and epitomizes the bravado of neo-Gothic architects. Structurally, the tower is strong, though stucco wall surfaces require extensive conservation and repair. Hadlow Tower is a private house but the owner cannot afford to make necessary repairs and so its future depends on its being taken over by a public body or preservation trust.

Since the Watch

Following the owner’s refusal to repair the building, the decision was made for the Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council to acquire the tower through compulsory purchase. After years of deliberations, the council took possession of the building in January 2011 for £1, its fair market value given the cost of repairs. The tower was then transferred to a historic buildings preservation trust with the help of a local action group. Between 2011 and 2013, the site underwent a £4 million restoration, partially funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and English Heritage. Missing architectural elements were replicated, including a lantern that was removed in the 1990s. Hadlow Tower is now available as a holiday let, and an exhibition space on the ground floor allows the formerly private Grade I listed building to be visited by the public. The site has been shortlisted for an award from English Heritage for the Best Craftsmanship Employed on a Heritage Rescue. July 2013

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