An historic cliff top tower immortalised by authors Thomas Hardy and PD James has reopened after it was moved and rebuilt brick by brick to stop it falling into the sea. Clavell Tower was perched perilously close to the cliff edge at Kimmeridge Bay and was at risk because of coastal erosion.
The project took 18 months, at a cost of £898,000, to relocate the historic four-storey monument. Its 16,272 stones were numbered, recorded and transferred to a new site further inland where it was rebuilt using as much original material as possible.
The Landmark Trust officially reopened the Grade II listed tower on Friday. Peter Pearce, director at the trust, said: “This is an exciting day for the Landmark Trust and for Kimmeridge Bay. The tower’s future is secure and it can now resume its role as sentinel on this stretch of coastline, its familiar silhouette will continue to welcome the many thousands of people.”
The monument was built by the Rev. John Richards Clavell of Smedmore in 1830 as an observatory and folly, with four storeys, including a basement, and a distinctive Tuscan colonnade. It was used by coastguards in the late 19th and early 20th centuries but fell into disuse, becoming derelict after it was damaged by fire in the 1930s.
The Landmark Trust, launched an emergency appeal in 2004 to raise money to save the monument. It secured a £436,700 Heritage Lottery Fund grant, raised other funds and obtained planning permission and listed building consent to carry out the work.
The restored building will finance its own upkeep as The Landmark Trust plans to let it out for holidays from September this year. It will also be available to visit by appointment and on public open days.
Adrian Tinniswood, chairman of the Heritage Lottery Fund’s South West committee, added: “The Clavell Tower defines the local landscape and coastline. We are proud to have helped to save this iconic building.”