On one of my cycle rides around Dorset during my university years I stumbled upon a most unusual thing.
As I peddled along one of the Dorset lanes I spotted a tall tower atop one of the nearby hills. I cycled in a large loop around it, trying to figure out how to get closer. At one point stopping to chat to some builders working outside a house, they likewise had no idea and told me they had planned to investigate it once they finished working.
I continued on and eventually found a small lane that led in generally the right direction. The lane ended at a gate, which opened up into a large field and a lovely view of the tower.
The seven story tower was designed and built by Humphrey Stuart in 1750. He was an architect and politician who ran unopposed as the member of parliament for Dorset from 1761 to 1780 – these dates are a tad hazy, different online sources have different dates, all that is certain is that it was a very long time. According to a local legend he built the tower as a viewing platform to watch the local hunts when he was too old to ride. The building is a redbrick folly in gothic style.
Nowadays it is in use by Vodafone to house mobile phone signal masks, you can see them discreetly placed at the top. This does mean that Vodafone have taken responsibility for the upkeep of the folly which is a better alternative to letting it crumble into ruin. You can’t go in, but entrance to the field around it is allowed. You don’t quite realise how massive it is until you get up close. I cropped the above photo and applied a black and white filter to get a photo that almost looks like a painting.
Also in the village of Horton is the church of St Wolfrida, an 18th century gothic church built on the site of the 10th century Horton Priory. I was so focused on the tower that I missed the church, but if you are in the area for an afternoon, it is definitely worth parking the car and having a stroll around the village and between the two buildings.