Sometimes known as the Kimmeridge Tower or the Clavell Folly, Clavell Tower was built as an observatory in 1830 by the Reverend John Richards-Clavell of Smedmore House. Historians are still uncertain as to exactly why it was built following an Italianate design and what exactly it was that Reverend Clavell wanted to observe. At the Time it was known as the Tower (temple) of the Winds – a common enough name for follies built in private estates around England.
Located at the top of Hen Cliff it overlooks the hamlet of Kimmeridge bay and the magnificent Jurassic coastline of Dorset, so popular with smugglers of French alcohol during the 17th and 18th centuries. In fact, a nearby cove was named renamed Brandy Bay as so much of this tipple was brought ashore.
Clavell Tower is owned and managed by the Landmark Trust and is available to rent as a holiday residence. As such, access to the interior of the building is restricted to those staying there. However, there are many paths that pass nearby and the walk is well worthwhile to have the opportunity to see a remarkable Italianate tower rising from the cliffs of England.
The tower was originally erected closer to the cliffs but coastal erosion made it vulnerable to collapse. In 2008 it was carefully dismantled and each stone exactly recorded. It was then rebuilt 25 metres (82 ft) further inland at an estimated cost of £900,000.
Clavell Tower is largely made from Purbeck stone and mortar although the windows are framed in brick. A Tuscan colonnade encircles the ground floor and is accessed by a short set of ornamental stairs. The building rises to 11 metres (35 ft) and there are four levels which have been converted for convenient modern living. Evidence of ground floor fireplaces suggest that the tower was originally able to be used even during winter. The 360 degree views from the cliffs and the tower itself are said to be some of the finest in all Britain.
It has been central to many literary works and creative authors. Thomas Hardy (1840 – 1928), the famous English novelist, often took his first love Eliza Nicholl to Clavell Tower and even included a sketch of it in his collection: Wessex Poems. Baroness P. D. James visited it after a fire had largely destroyed it in the 1930’s and was inspired to write her award winning novel ‘The Black Tower’ in 1975. It has featured in a television series about the life of Roy Marsden (as Adam Dalgliesh) and was used as a backdrop for lead singer Paul Weller in the 1985 music video “Boy Who Cried Wolf” by the Style Council. The petrochemical company, Shell, even commissioned Paul Nash (1889-1946) one of the 20th centuries most exceptional landscape artists to paint it for them and then featured it in one of their motoring guides.
Camping and Caravanning Club Site
Dorset, England, BH20 5PQ
+44 (0)1929 480 280
- Address: South West Coast Path, Wareham, Dorset BH20, UK
- GPS: 50.60792416857725,-2.131180096295111
- Phone: 0044 (0) 1628 825920
- Part of UK: England
- Sat Nav Postcode: BH20 5PF
- Entrance Fees: Charges Apply (to rent the tower as accomodation)
- Disabled Access: Poor
- Visibility from Road: Poor
- Image Credits: Panglossian