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13 November 2014

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You are in: Hampshire > Places > Places Features > Peterson's Tower

Petersons's Tower, Sway © Mike Watson

Petersons's Tower, Sway © Mike Watson

Peterson's Tower

There are a variety of eccentric monuments dotted across Hampshire, built by rich eccentrics to show off and stamp their mark. We take a look at Peterson's Tower which is believed to be the oldest concrete building in the UK.

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

Not meant for living or working in, they were built for fun - often on hills for maximum impact. Follies were frivolous constructions built at great expense to show off to neighbours and visitors.

Ann Tout from Fareham is a member of the Folly Fellowship and got into follies at a young age: "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."

One of the most famous follies in Hampshire is Sway Tower in the New Forest, or to give it its proper name, Peterson's Tower. 

19th century skyscraper

The enormous structure which stands at 66 metres (218 feet) high with 13 storeys, was one of the first concrete high-rise buildings. At the time of construction it was the tallest concrete structure in the world.

Peterson's Tower, Sway

Peterson's Tower, Sway

Its concrete walls are two foot thick with a trek up almost 400 steps to the top where there are unrivalled views of the Forest and across the Solent to the Needles.

It was built by Andrew Peterson who made his fortune as a judge in India.  When he retired he moved to the New Forest and decided to build a monument to himself, and prove that it was possible to build something tall with un-reinforced concrete.

New Forest landmark

"He was supposed to have had help from Sir Christopher Wren through a medium called Mary Ann Girling, but as Sir Christopher Wren didn't use concrete we don't know how useful this contact would have been!" explains Ann.

The tower took five years to build and was completed in 1885.  Before he set to work on the tower, Peterson built a prototype - a smaller 50 foot concrete tower which still sits 150 metres north of the main tower.

Peterson's Tower is privately owned - there is no public access, the best view is from Flexford Lane.

last updated: 17/01/2009 at 11:51
created: 07/01/2009

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