John Moore Paget (1791 – 1866) was responsible for building Cranmore Tower from 1862 to 1865. The Tower is a plain, massive stone structure 45 meters high, standing 320 meters above sea level, at the eastern extremity of the Mendip hills, and commanding a grand panorama of the neighboring counties. Mr Paget happily lived to witness the completion of the Tower in 1865.
Tom Henry Wyatt the same architect who designed the East Cranmore parish church did the design of the Tower for Mr Paget. Work commenced in 1863 with the marking out of the site. William Witcombe of Leigh-on-Mendip led a team of local Stone Masons to build the Tower. The original ironwork on the balconies was produced by Samson Lintern at Dean smithy (forge). Work finished in September 1865 and a ‘roof raising’ dinner was given for the workmen.
The Tower was mainly used as a scenic place for the family to take ‘teas’. They would drive up in a carriage from Cranmore Hall (now All Hallows School). A tower keeper’s cottage formerly existed off the bridle path to the east of the Tower, but fell into ruins and no longer exists. Large Rhododendron plants now cover the site where the cottage once stood.
EARLY REPAIRS TO THE TOWER:
Extensive repairs had to be carried out during later years of the 19th century as the structural integrity Tower had been built on bad foundations caused by ground shift. Mr Willcox of Leigh-on-Mendip undertook these repairs.
This survey report from the 2nd of July 1896, makes clear the severity of the issues with the Tower foundations, referring to the “dangerous state of the building”.
MORE RECENT HISTORY OF THE TOWER:
During the Second World War, the Tower was used by both the Home Guard and the Royal Corps of Signals and was therefore not technically open to the public. It had been the scene of village Sunday school picnics before this but was always in private ownership and though the Tower Keepers wife might on occasions sell a glass of lemonade and a bun to the passing walker there was never any consistent public access. This depended upon the lord of manor’s pleasure.
By the 1980’s the Tower had fallen into disrepair and was sold to Donald Beaton who undertook repairs. During the course of the repairs, the remains of a Roman fort with a hoard of coins were discovered adjacent to the tower.
Donald Beaton wished to open up a restaurant at the Tower, but after refusal by Mendip District Council, he put the Tower back on the market.
In 1988 it was sold again, this time to Nick Ridge who opened it to the public.
In 1991 the tower was then acquired at auction by its current owner. Further restorations were carried out, including the installation of a new timber staircase to allow access to the balconies at the top of the tower and a number of lime mortar repointing campaigns using local steeplejacks.