King Alfred's Tower looks more like something one would expect to see in a fantasy Walt Disney movie than what one would actually see in real life. But King Alfred's Tower is not fantasy, it is a "folly" in England's stunning Somerset region on the border with Wiltshire. Today King Alfred's Tower belongs to the British National Trust and is a protected building in England.
It is part of one of the most stunning estates in England. England has many stunning estates that everyone should visit - including the UNESCO-listed Blenheim Palace - said to be Britain's Greatest Palace.
Background of The "Folly" King Alfred's Tower
The tower was built by Henry Hoare II (a banker) in the 1760s to commemorate the end of the Seven Years' War against France and the accession of King George III.
For historical context, the part of the Seven Year's War that spilled over into North America is known as the French and Indian Wars where the British defeated the French and took over their colony of New France including Quebec.
- Seven Year's War: When The British Took What Would Become Canada From The French
- Folly: An Extravagant Building That Serves No Purpose
The location he chose was near Egbert's Stone, where legend has it that Alfred the Great, King of Wessex, rallied the Anglo-Saxons in 878 and defeated the Danish Vikings at the Battle of Edington (Wessex was the last kingdom in England that had not fallen to the Vikings).
- Significance of The Location: Where Alfred The Great Rallied The Anglo-Saxons To Battle Against The Vikings
There are several inscriptions around the surrounding Stourhead estate. The one on the tower is on a stone tablet and reads:
ALFRED THE GREATAD 879 on this SummitErected his StandardAgainst Danish InvadersTo him We owe The Origin of JuriesThe Establishment of a MilitiaThe Creation of a Naval ForceALFRED The Light of a Benighted AgeWas a Philosopher and a ChristianThe Father of his PeopleThe Founder of the EnglishMONARCHY and LIBERTY
One doesn't need to go to Europe to learn about the Vikings, one can even learn more about the Vikings in Canada (and even Greenland). In Newfoundland, one can see the short-lived Viking settlement at L'Anse aux Meadows. It is now known that the Vikings were there exactly 1,000 years ago.
The Design And What To Expect Visiting King Alfred's Tower
The tower is in a triangular shape and is hollow in the center - inside is a statue of King Alfred together with a dedication inscription. There are round projections in each of the three corners of these one has a spiral staircase leading to the top. One enters from the southeast face of the tower through a gothic-arched entrance door.
- Height: 161 Feet or 49 Meters
- Material: Brick
- Built: Started In 1769 or 1770 and Finished in 1772
- Number of Steps: 205 Steps
The tower was damaged by a plane in 1944 and restored in the 1980s.
In recent times a mess has been placed on the top of the tower to stop birds from entering the hollow center of the building. At the top is a brick tower with Chilmark stone dressings that is surmounted by an embattled parapet.
- Car Park: There Is A Car Park Nearby
- Closed: As Of The Time of Writing (March 2022) Alfred's Tower is Closed To The Public
- Admission Fee: See The Stourhead Listing On The National Trust
While there, consider going for a hike in the English countryside. It is located at the start of the 28-mile or 45-kilometer long Leland Trail that runs from King Alfred's Tower to Ham Hill Country Park.
The Fabulous Estate of Stourhead
King Alfred's Tower is located on the memorable Stourhead Estate and so is part of a much larger attraction. The Stourhead estate is a 1,072-hectare (2,650-acre) estate and is one of England's most famous gardens in the English landscape garden style, farmland, and woodland.
- National Trust: Stourhead Had Been Part-Owned By The National Trust Since 1946
The 2005 movie, Pride and Prejudice, (starring Keira Knightly and Mathew Macfadyen) was partly filmed here so the Jane Austin fans out there may recognize this estate. The garden's classic Temple of Apollo is the site where Mr. Darcy makes his first proposal to Miss Elizabeth Bennet in the pouring rain.
Here one can tour and not only relive adaptations of Jane Austin's greatest works but also see some of the most classic English gardens.
Opening Hours (Note Hours Vary Seasonally - Hours For March Shown):
- Garden and car park: 9:00 am - 4:00 pm
- House: Guided tours (Per Their Website)
- Restaurant: 9:30 am - 4:30 pm
- Shop: 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
- Price: Adult £19.80 ($26 USD)