Contractors appointed for £3.9m Beckford’s Tower project

Beckford’s Tower © Tom Burrows

Beckford Tower Trust (BTT) has announced it has appointed Bath-based contractors Emery Brothers Ltd to begin work on Beckford’s Tower, an historic building currently on the “Heritage at Risk” register. These essential capital works – sponsored by grants from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Historic England amongst other funders – will help to preserve and maintain this unique heritage attraction for the future.

Emery Brothers Ltd are a Bath-based, family-run building contractor with 75 years’ trading experience with domestic and commercial clients. Emery’s have established experience in restoration work, regularly working on historic buildings including the major refurbishment of Grade I Listed Bath Abbey as part of the ‘Footprint’ project. Emery Brothers previously conducted the sensitive restoration of Beckford Tower’s golden lantern, so has existing knowledge of the building’s special conservation requirements.

Emery’s appointment follows the appointments of Architects Thomas Ford & Partners, and digital interpretation specialists ZubrCurio and Calvium. Repair work and refurbishments will begin this month and be completed by early 2024, with the Tower reopening to the public in March 2024.

Claire Dixon, Director of Museums at the BPT and the lead for the Beckford Tower project said: “As a local firm with experience of historic restoration work and existing knowledge of Beckford’s Tower and its conservation needs, Emery’s are the ideal candidates to take this exciting project work forward. This appointment enables us to launch the final phase of the project, which is now fully funded thanks to generous support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Historic England, Art Fund and various other public and private funders.”

Felix Emery, Contract Manager for Emery Bros. Ltd said “We are delighted to have been awarded the contract for the works at Beckford’s Tower and look forward to playing our part in restoring another Bath landmark and securing its future for another generation.”

Built between 1826 and 1827, Beckford’s Tower was intended to house the collections of books, furniture and art of writer and collector William Beckford (1760-1844). Having sold the Gothic Revival Fonthill Abbey in 1822, William Beckford relocated to Bath and began the construction of his Tower on Lansdown Hill. Riding out from his townhouse in Lansdown Crescent every morning before breakfast, Beckford enjoyed the quiet and solitude of the Tower and the glorious views from the Belvedere at the top.

Now owned and run by Bath Preservation Trust, the iconic landmark is a Grade I listed building and is the only museum in the world dedicated to Beckford’s life and work. In 2019, the Tower was added to Historic England’s national Register of Heritage at Risk.

The “Our Tower: Reconnecting Beckford’s Tower and Landscape for all” project will transform the museum, open up the landscape, provide accessible experiences and also provide digital resources alongside a new learning programme and opportunities for volunteering and community engagement. Beckford’s wealth was secured from his ownership of plantations and enslaved people and the project will enable better interpretation of Beckford’s story based on wider exploration of his connections with the Transatlantic Slave Trade.