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13 November 2014

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You are in: Dorset > Places > Places features > Horton's Tower

Horton Tower - photo Neil Hanson

Horton Tower - photo Neil Hanson

Horton's Tower

Said to have once been the tallest non-religious building in Britain, Horton's Tower near Chalbury Common is a classic example of a folly - monuments built by rich eccentrics with no obvious purpose.

At 140 feet high (43 metres), as a folly it doesn't come much taller.

A folly is a building built mainly for decoration - an eye-catcher for the rich to admire from their property. They were hugely popular in the 18th and 19th centuries.

This one was built in 1750 by architect and Lord of Horton Manor, Humphrey Sturt, who was also an MP for Dorset (1745 - 1786).

Also known as Sturt's folly, the reasons for its original construction remain unclear, but one theory suggests its owner planned to use the tower as an observatory, stargazing in the night sky.

Other reasons point to it as place where Sturt could observe hunting, high up the tower with views for miles around.

Horton Tower - photo by Neil Hanson

It's a grand and gothic five storey red brick tower, but over the years it had fallen into a state of disrepair and had become not much more than a shell.

At one time, visitors to the tower could enter it at its base and look through to the tower's top, as all of the floors had long since fallen away.

In recent years, the tower has found a new purpose as a place to house mobile phone signal masts - fixed discreetly to its sides, near the top of the tower - with mobile phone company Vodafone undertaking some restoration work after they received planning permission to attach the masts (see photo below).

Horton Tower - close up of phone masts (photo by Neil Hanson)

Anne Tout from The Follies Fellowship, a local group interested in follies around the south, says: "It's probably better to have a folly preserved for some use than to let it crumble away."

Anne has been appearing regularly on BBC Radio Solent's Jon Cuthill programme talking about various local follies.

Anne is a member of the Folly Fellowship and Horton's Tower was one of the first, and most memorable, follies she ever saw.

She says: "My father used to take me round looking for these buildings because he was amazed that someone had the money to spare to put these beautiful buildings up."

Listen to her interview with Jon about Horton's Tower and follow the links below for features on other follies around Hampshire and Dorset.

last updated: 28/01/2009 at 14:08
created: 28/01/2009

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