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The study retreat of a true English eccentric

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This odd structure is just a little way out of the city centre, on Lansdown Hill. It was named after a man called William Thomas Beckford, who lived in the Georgian era. His grandfather was an extremely wealthy businessman, who set up vast sugar plantations in Jamaica. The family also owned various lands and houses in Britain, as well as an absolute fortune in cash. Beckford inherited all this when he was just 10 years old. Some thought of him as the richest person in Europe.
Unsurprisingly, this meant that his life was very different to most people's. He was educated by a series of expensive teachers, including Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart! It was perhaps this unusual childhood that turned Beckford into something of an eccentric. He was shunned by the English upper classes, who accused him of being bisexual. Society cast him out completely after he allegedly tried to seduce the Earl of Devon.
Nevertheless, Beckford seemed happy as an outsider. He began to ping-pong around Europe, satisfying his various interests in writing, art and architecture.

Beckfords Tower
Photo andypowe11
The tower was built in 1827, after his return to England. By this time Beckford had built up an incredible collection of books, art and furnishings, and he needed somewhere to keep it all. He wanted a place where he could be alone, free to potter idly about with his possessions. To suit this purpose, he could've built something modest, hidden away from public society. However, Beckford didn't really do subtlety. So instead, he built a gigantic tower on top of a hill to be visible for miles around. Its unusual design features an octagonal lantern at the summit, which was based on other famous structures in Italy.
The tower is 37 metres tall. Upon its completion, Beckford decided that he should have built it a lot higher. He consoled himself by admitting that the tower was at least "a famous landmark for drunken farmers on their way home from market"!
Today, the building's first floor is a museum, devoted to the life of this English eccentric. It tells the various stories of his travels, and displays part of his vast collection.

Climbing to the top
Photo MrsMinifig
The tower's summit is also open to the public. There are 154 steps to the top but, if you conquer them all, you'll be rewarded with one of the most striking views in the county. Beckford arrogantly described it as "the best prospect in Europe" but, when the city's honey-coloured houses and jagged church spires are spread out beneath you, it can be hard to disagree.
From here, you can see down onto the graveyard that surrounds the tower. This area used to be a garden, but it was redone in Victorian times. If you search carefully, you'll find the tomb of a certain William Thomas Beckford. This was his favourite place in the world, so it's somewhat appropriate that he'll be spending the rest of history here.
Visitor Information
Beckford's Tower is open Saturday to Sunday (and Bank Holidays Mondays), April to October, 10.30am to 5pm. Entry costs around £3 for adults, £1.50 child. The Beckford Tower is at Lansdown Road, Bath BA1 9BH. Tel: 01225 460705

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