King Alfred's Tower

Coordinates: 51°06′53″N 2°21′54″W / 51.1148273°N 2.3650446°W / 51.1148273; -2.3650446
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Alfred's Tower
Alfred's Tower
Alfred's Tower, August 2006
King Alfred's Tower is located in Somerset
King Alfred's Tower
Location within Somerset
General information
Town or cityBrewham, Somerset
Coordinates51°06′53″N 2°21′54″W / 51.1148273°N 2.3650446°W / 51.1148273; -2.3650446
Construction started1769
ClientHenry Hoare
Height49 metres (161 ft)
Design and construction
Architect(s)Henry Flitcroft

Alfred's Tower is a folly in Somerset,[1][2] England, on the edge of the border with Wiltshire, on the Stourhead estate. The tower stands on Kingsettle Hill and belongs to the National Trust. It is designated as a Grade I listed building.

Henry Hoare II planned the tower in the 1760s to commemorate the end of the Seven Years' War against France and the accession of King George III, and it was erected near the site of Egbert's Stone, where it is believed that Alfred the Great, King of Wessex, rallied the Anglo-Saxons in 878 before the Battle of Edington. The tower was damaged by an aeroplane in 1944 and restored in the 1980s.

The 49-metre-high (161 ft) triangular tower has a hollow centre and is climbed by means of a spiral staircase in one of the corner projections. It has a statue of King Alfred and a dedication inscription.


The tower stands near the site of 'Egbert's Stone', where it was said that Alfred the Great, King of Wessex, rallied the Saxons in May 878 before the important Battle of Edington (historically known as the battle of Ethandun[3][4]), where the Danish army, led by Guthrum the Old, was defeated.[5][6] It is the start of the Leland Trail, a 28-mile (45 km) footpath which runs south-west to Ham Hill Country Park.[7]


The project to build the tower was conceived in 1762 by the banker Henry Hoare II (1705–1785).[8] The tower was intended to commemorate the end of the Seven Years' War against France and the accession of King George III.[9]

Alfred's Tower is a monument to the genius of English landscape, many of whose loveliest haunts it commands, and to a man who certainly deserves to be remembered as among the great benefactors of the English scene.

— Christopher Hussey, Country Life, 11 June 1938.[10]

In 1765, Henry Flitcroft, a Palladian architect, designed the tower.[6] Building began in 1769 or early 1770, and was completed in 1772 at a cost estimated to be between £5,000 and £6,000.[9] There may have been some delay due to difficulty in obtaining the bricks.[11] In addition to the commemorative function, the tower was also intended to serve as an eye-catcher for those touring the parkland of the Stourhead Estate.[12][13] In April 1770, when the tower was just 15 feet (4.7 m) high, Hoare is quoted as saying: "I hope it will be finished in as happy Times to this Isle as Alfred finished his Life of Glory in then I shall depart in peace."[14]

The tower was damaged in 1944 when a Noorduyn Norseman aeroplane crashed into it in fog, damaging the uppermost 10 metres (33 ft);[15] one source states that all five on board were killed.[16] It was designated as a Grade I listed building in 1961.[8] Restoration work in 1986 included the use of a Wessex helicopter to lower a 300-kilogram (660 lb) piece of masonry onto the top. The statue of King Alfred was also restored at this time, including the replacement of his missing right forearm.[9]


The turret above the stair-tower at the top of the tower

The triangular tower is over 40 metres (131 ft) high with a girth of 51 metres (167 ft). Each of the three corners of the triangular structure has a round projection.[8] The centre of the tower is hollow, and to stop birds from entering the space a mesh has been added at roof level. The viewing platform, which has a crenellated parapet and offers a view over the surrounding countryside, is reached by a 205-step spiral staircase at the corner furthest from the entrance.[6] The brick tower has Chilmark stone dressings and is surmounted by an embattled parapet.[17][18]

The south-east face of the tower has a Gothic-arched entrance door, a statue of King Alfred, and a stone panel bearing an inscription (see below). This is the face that most visitors see first when walking from Stourhead garden or from the nearby car park.

Plaque 8m above the entrance


Statue of King Alfred above the entrance

Around the Stourhead estate are several inscriptions. The plaque of the inscription is in poor condition and needs restoration. It was drafted in 1762 and installed in 1772.[19] The stone tablet above the door on the east face of the tower reads:

AD 879 on this Summit
Erected his Standard
Against Danish Invaders
To him We owe The Origin of Juries
The Establishment of a Militia
The Creation of a Naval Force
ALFRED The Light of a Benighted Age
Was a Philosopher and a Christian
The Father of his People
The Founder of the English

In popular culture[edit]

The tower is mentioned in Thomas Hardy's poem "Channel Firing" (written in April 1914) as a place "far inland".[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Alfred's Tower – Where Is It?". Retrieved 14 September 2021.
  2. ^ "Streetmap coordinates".
  3. ^ Lavelle, Ryan (2010). Alfred's Wars Sources and Interpretations of Anglo-Saxon Warfare in the Viking Age. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydel Press. pp. 308–314. ISBN 978-1-84383-569-1.
  4. ^ Asser (1983). "Life of King Alfred". In Keynes, Simon; Lapidge, Michael (eds.). Alfred the Great: Asser's Life of King Alfred & Other Contemporary Sources. Penguin Classics. ISBN 978-0-14-044409-4. pp. 176 – 177 and fn. 90 p. 323
  5. ^ Tobias, R.C. (Autumn 1967). "The Year's Work in Victorian Poetry: 1966". Victorian Poetry. 5 (3): 200. JSTOR 40001410.
  6. ^ a b c "King Alfred's Tower". King Alfred's Tower. Retrieved 25 November 2012.
  7. ^ "Leland Trail". Walking Pages. Retrieved 17 May 2014.
  8. ^ a b c Historic England. "Alfred's Tower (1175610)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 1 April 2008.
  9. ^ a b c Holt, Jonathan (2007). Somerset Follies. Bath: Akeman Press. pp. 46–47. ISBN 978-0-9546138-7-7.
  10. ^ Hussey, Christopher (11 June 1938). "The Gardens at Stourhead, Wiltshire. The Seat of Sir Henry Hoare". Country Life.
  11. ^ Woodbridge, Kenneth (March 1965). "Henry Hoare's Paradise". The Art Bulletin. 47 (1): 109. doi:10.1080/00043079.1965.10788815. JSTOR 3048235.
  12. ^ "Stourhead park (part), Alfred's Tower, Brewham". Somerset Historic Environment Record. Somerset County Council. Retrieved 15 May 2014.
  13. ^ Kelsall, Malcolm (1983). "The Iconography of Stourhead". Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes. 46: 133–143. doi:10.2307/751117. JSTOR 751117.
  14. ^ Lapidge, Michael (2000). Anglo-Saxon England. Cambridge University Press. p. 322. ISBN 978-0-521-65203-2.
  15. ^ "King Alfred's Tower". Atlas Obscura. Retrieved 26 December 2013.
  16. ^ "Additional information". Archived from the original on 23 October 2021 – via Internet Archive.
  17. ^ "Alfred's Tower, Kingsettle Hill (South side), Brewham". Somerset Historic Environment Record. Somerset County Council. Retrieved 15 May 2014.
  18. ^ "Alfred's Tower, Brewham". Somerset Historic Environment Record. Somerset County Council. Retrieved 15 May 2014.
  19. ^ Turner, James (March 1979). "The Structure of Henry Hoare's Stourhead". The Art Bulletin. 61 (1): 68–77. doi:10.2307/3049865. JSTOR 3049865.
  20. ^ Hardy, Thomas. "Channel Firing". Poetry Foundation. Retrieved 18 March 2020.

External links[edit]