Hadlow Tower- the Grade I listed gothic revival folly in Kent- is complete and holiday guests will be able to stay there from May onwards. This historic landmark offers luxury holiday accommodation for six and joins the Vivat Trust’s portfolio of historic holiday properties. Accommodation starts on the first floor of the tower and includes a kitchen and octagonal dining room, a sitting room with wood burning stove, a twin bedroom and separate bathroom, and a double height master bedroom with a bed ringed in by columns and a bathroom suspended above on an inserted floor. A lift suitable for wheelchair users offers access to the first three floors, including direct access to a double bedroom and wet room.
The ground floor of Hadlow Tower will provide exhibition space where the history of the building and its significance will be explained. This space will be opened to the public on a regular basis and access to the viewing platform at the top of the lantern will be offered on Thursdays between May and September. The exhibition is an initiative organised by the SAVE Hadlow Tower Action Group.
The campaign to save this building- identified by English Heritage as a longstanding building at risk-and provide it with a sustainable new use, has been on-going for a number of years. In 1998 it joined the WMF’s List of the 100 Most Endangered Sites in the World. And following confirmation of a compulsory purchase order in March 2008, Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council took the building into their ownership and subsequently entered into a back to back agreement with the Vivat Trust with the trust becoming the owners in February 2011.
Inspired by Beckford’s Fonthill Abbey, the Tower was built in 1838, as part of Hadlow Castle, by Walter Barton May who inherited the building project from his father. Built of brick and clad in a roman cement render, the exterior of the tower was originally richly adorned with intricate gothic revival ornamentation made from pre-cast roman cement. Roman cement was developed in Kent in the 1780s. Whilst the tradition of using this material has fallen out of use in this country, it has continued on the continent. Materials for this project were imported from France.
In 1951 the tower was saved from demolition by the portrait painter, Bernard Hailstone, while the rest of the castle was dismantled. Following years of neglect, storm damage and controlled down-takings, the tower became an unadorned stump.