Enfilade

Conserving Beckford’s Tower in Bath

Posted in on site by Editor on July 21, 2021

From the press release (via Art Daily) . . .

Henry Goodridge, Beckford’s Tower, 1827. The tower stand 154 feet tall.

Bath Preservation Trust has announced that architects Thomas Ford & Partners and quantity surveyors Stenning & Co have been appointed to lead the design work for the £3.3 million ‘Our Tower’ project. The plan, funded by Historic England and The National Lottery Heritage Fund, will address urgent repair and conservation works required to the almost 200-year-old Grade I listed Beckford’s Tower, which stands above the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Bath. Beckford’s Tower and Museum is the world’s only museum dedicated to William Beckford (1760–1844).

Beckford was a colourful and controversial character. At just 10-years old he inherited his father’s fortune, which included the Fonthill estate and several sugar plantations in Jamaica. His wealth gave him the freedom to pursue his interests in art, architecture, writing, and music. In 1782, Beckford undertook a Grand Tour that inspired his travel writing and passion for collecting, which continued throughout his life—especially when exiled to Europe for ten years following the exposure of his relationship with William Courtenay in 1784.

In 1826 Beckford commissioned an extraordinary landscape back home in Bath: a garden between his Lansdown Crescent home and the retreat now known as Beckford’s Tower, where he could escape from the city within the natural environment. The Tower was created to house his library and art collection, and every day he would ride up from his home, accompanied by his pack of spaniels. This expanse became known as Beckford’s Ride, a mile of interlinked gardens.

Beckford’s Tower stands in an exposed location, and—like many historic buildings—almost two centuries of exposure to weather, pollution, and the challenges of climate change threaten the fabric of the building. There is now an urgent need for repair and conservation, particularly to address water ingress at high level within the belvedere and lantern. Beckford’s Tower was added to the Historic England ‘Heritage at Risk’ Register in October 2019.

‘Our Tower’ will bring new parts of the tower into use, and upgrade services and visitor infrastructure. BPT will also use the project as an opportunity to develop the visitor experience, engage wider audiences, and reconnect the Tower with its lost landscape, through new experiences, interpretation, and access. A development grant awarded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund is also enabling Bath Preservation Trust to re-examine the way in which they share the story of William Beckford’s links to the transatlantic slave trade [a glimpse of that work is available here.]

The project is scheduled to complete in winter 2023.

London based conservation architects Thomas Ford & Partners are led by Clive England, who brings over 30 years’ experience to the project. Clive is Surveyor of the Fabric to Ely Cathedral, and Cathedral Architect to Sheffield Cathedral. Stenning & Co—who are located in Bath—are led by Quantity Surveyor Adrian Stenning. Experts and specialists in building conservation work, Adrian has worked extensively with organisations including the Landmark Trust and the National Trust.

BPT Capital Works Director Simon Butler said: “We are delighted to welcome Thomas Ford & Partners and Stenning & Co to the project. Both bring huge conservation experience to this nationally important building, and we look forward to securing an exciting new future for this Bath landmark.”

Clive England said: “We are delighted to be involved with BPT’s ‘Our Tower’ project. Beckford’s Tower is a unique building, in a spectacular setting, with a fascinating history—exactly the type of project that every conservation architect dreams about!”

Adrian Stenning said: “I am very pleased to continue my relationship with the Bath Preservation Trust and in particular Beckford’s Tower with which I have been involved for over 20 years. I look forward to this opportunity to not just repair the Tower, but to also open up and show its story for a wider audience.”

Securing the Design team is just the start of this project, with urgent fundraising now needed to ensure vital conservation work to the building and landscape takes place, to ensure today’s visitors and future generations can continue to explore and enjoy this iconic Bath landmark.

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