In 1830, on the eastern side of Kimmeridge Bay on the Isle of Purbeck, a round-shaped Tuscan style tower was built by Reverend John Richards Clavell of Smedmore House. The tower served as an observatory and it is also known as Clavell Folly or the Kimmeridge Tower.
The tower is located on top of Hen Cliff which is around 100 meters above sea level. The tower itself stands at 11 meters high and it is made of mortared selected stone and the windows are outlined by brickwork. The tower has a total of four floors, the ground floor is surrounded by Tuscan columns from the outside and on the inside, it houses a cozy living space including a fireplace that adds to the romantic atmosphere that oozes from the tower. The first, second and third floors are made of wood and the roof has a stone parapet with stunning views or the sea, cliffs, and countryside.
The tower’s appeal and intrigue are not only evident today. We can see this in a number of poetic and artistic works that owe their inspiration to this beautiful solitary tower. Thomas Hardy, the famous novelist, was known to take his true love, Eliza Nicholls, to Clavell Tower. For those who are familiar with his Wessex Poems, you will recognize an illustration of this tower. The Black Tower, the 1975 award-winning novel by P.D James, was also inspired by Calvell Tower.
The tower, which is now owned by the Landmark Trust, faced a serious problem of land and cliff erosion back into the early 2000s. The quickly deteriorating foundation that the tower was built upon, was disappearing inch by inch and it seemed like the tower was destined to crumble down into the sea it had looked over and observed for centuries. Luckily, Landmark Trust intervened and the tower was moved 25 meters landwards, a safe distance from the crumbling cliff it lay upon.
Calvell Tower Renovation
The moving process was started on the 5th of September 2006 and it cost nearly £900,000 to complete. The painstaking procedure of removing, numbering, photographing and reassembling the 16,272 stones which make up the tower took approximately two years to be completed. The whole renovation made use of 2.4 km of new pipes and cables, 10 tons of render on the walls and about 100 tons of sand and 1,300 bags of lime.
The renovation was done in a way to make the tower available for holidaymakers to rent out, so if you’re looking to spend a quiet weekend in an almost 200-year-old castle, look no further. The tower can be reached via a steep coastal path (approx. 250 meters) that can only be accessed on foot. There is a one-car parking space at the bottom of the cliff where you can leave your car. It is advised to carry your belongings in rucksacks rather than suitcases and to wear sturdy footwear such as walking boots. It is also advised to carry with you at least two light torches for the trek up. Since the walk to the tower from the carpark is a very steep, exposed coastal path with numerous steep and slippery steps, it is not recommended for people with respiratory or cardiovascular problems.
Visiting Calvell Tower
If you’re planning on visiting in the colder months, you do not need to worry about feeling cold as the property is well heated with electric night storage heaters, underfloor heating, and two gas fires. The kitchen is fully equipped with plates, cutlery, fridge, microwave and electric cooker which guests can use to prepare their meals. Keep in mind the tower is completely isolated so your best option is to purchase ingredients and prepare homemade meals for yourself to enjoy in this wonderful property. If you’d like to stay away from cooking on your break, the Landmark Trust recommends Greyboat Lumleys who can arrange for an expert and well-trained staff that would be available to cater for one evening on your entire holiday.
The price to stay in the Clavell Tower may differ slightly according to the season you decide to visit; however, the price is generally around £60 per person per night. If you’re looking for a unique and epic short break retreat, Clavell Tower is definitely worth a try.